The Force is with them

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Class Warfare, Culture War, Disgusted in AZ, Lord of the Flies, Non-AZ, The Economy
Tags: , ,

OWS protesters on the University of California Berkeley Davis campus were sprayed with pepper spray.  The officers used industrialized pepper spray containers bigger than my hairspray can.  I’ve never seen such a thing before.

The Chief of Campus Police is shown in this video from ABC saying that the use of force was appropriate and necessary because the officers felt threatened by the students who had surrounded them.  There are several problems with this explanation.

First, why the large canister of pepper spray?  In NYC OWS protesters were sprayed with the tiny individual canisters and the crowds there were much larger, much more boisterous and standing up in a more threatening posture. I have to wonder why the officers came to the scene with such big canisters….its as if they planned to spray a large group of people before they arrived.  Not only that, it can’t be standard procedure to use those large canisters.  Watch the video.  Do you see the amount of spray that gets discharged?  Everyone there, including the other officers and people encircling the seated students would have been affected by such a diffusion of pepper spray (believe me, I know from first hand experience that stuff can hit you from several feet away even if you’re not the target).    So the idiots doing the spraying were not only hurting the students but probably also impairing the other officers.  Smart, real smart.

Second, on the video (and there are many different angles taken by many different bystanders) shows that the students being sprayed are completely passive and in vulnerable positions, sitting with linked arms.   This is a classic non-violence technique used since Ghandi first started protesting against injustice in South Africa about a century ago.  The officers know they’re not going to have any trouble with the string of students on the sidewalk.  And for that matter, anyone wanting to walk through that area could have walked around the sitting students to continue on their way.  So they weren’t blocking off the area from anyone.  There was no real justification to spray those seated on the ground.

Third, if the officers were threatened by the encircling crowd of students and bystanders, why did they not spray them instead.  If it was their intention to break free, then why not use the pepper spray on those who were hemming them in instead of the peaceful students at their feet?

Fourth, if the officers were truly threatened by the encircling crowd of students and bystanders why didn’t they have their batons drawn.  I believe I only saw one officer do so and the second he pulled out is baton, the crowd immediately moved back.  The crowd’s reaction was instantaneously more passive and retreating.   If the police wanted to leave and leave without being overwhelmed by the crowd, why didn’t they do what training dictates?  That is to form up into a tight circle facing outward (think Roman testudo formation) with drawn batons and the smaller pepper spray canisters at the ready, and use that as a wedge to move out of the crowd, asking people to let them through BEFORE using force.  The officers should know that threat of force and use of actual force are two different things and either can be used to great effect.  Since they’d already seen the crowds willingness to move back on the right side, they should have taken advantage of that and moved out of harms way IF they were really scared of the encircling crowed.

Finally, by attacking the passive students on the ground they pissed off the students encircling them.  Bystanders who were just watching became motivated to become participants, which is the exact opposite of what the police would want to happen.  In other words they increased the vulnerability of their position by provoking the surrounding crowd in a completely unnecessary way.  Why not get footage of the students protesting and then leave the circle IF they’re REALLY in danger.  Arrest the students later IF they actually violated any laws.  Why confront the students in this kind of situation?

As one protester victimized by the officers that day stated, “it was a show of power”.  She was absolutely correct.  This assessment of their actions has finally prompted University officials to put two officers and the chief of police on administrative leave.  No matter what happens to those officers, ultimately UC officials need to ensure that their officers take a refresher course on “the use of force” and how to handle “protesters and crowd control”.  And they need to follow that up periodically to reinforce it.

Oh, and one more thing….never bring an elephant gun to shoot a sparrow.  It kinda makes you look like a douche bag.

  1. alopecia says:

    (A minor correction: the pepper-spraying happened on the Davis campus, not the Berkeley campus, of UC. Berkeley is where campus cops tried to disperse a crowd with baton jabs. Different inappropriate use of force.)

    As I said at Bob’s place, the UCD PD wasn’t known for its professionalism when I was a student and it doesn’t seem to have improved since. The only thing that seems to have changed is that the campus cops now have riot gear, for reasons I truly don’t understand.

    No matter how hard they try to cultivate a swagger, these are glorified mall cops—if there were truly a riot, they’d cack themselves. Letting these under-trained and testosterone-poisoned bozos play dress-up in Darth Vader outfits, complete with advanced weaponry, is just asking for trouble. The city of Davis has a professional police force that is headquartered perhaps half a mile from the center of the campus (I’m too lazy to look at Google Maps right now); in case of real trouble, pick up a phone and call 9-1-1.

    Metaphorically, heads need to roll.


    • drangedinaz says:

      Alo, thanks for the correction. You’re right heads need to roll. And to your point about glorified security agents, you are also correct. It’s not true with all university’s but too many don’t get the best and brightest nor do they maintain anything like professional standards. And don’t get me started on the justice system at most colleges. The things handled by on campus “justice” courts is ridiculous and usually handled incorrectly. Don’t get me started!!!! 🙂

      • alopecia says:

        So we’re even in the correction department, I went and looked on Google Maps, and the Davis Police Department seems to have been moved since I was there and is now about a mile and a half by road from campus (with a 50-yard walk to the Quad, where the unpleasantness took place). Oops, as Rick Perry might say.

        Even assuming a university police department recruits from somewhere other than the bottom of the barrel and that it demands professionalism, why equip its officers with riot gear? That makes absolutely no sense to me, unless the campus is isolated, emphatically not the case with UC Davis. (I think that riot gear should be issued to an individual officer and be marked clearly with his/her badge number, and that obscuring identifying marks should be a firing offense and prima facie evidence of intent to commit a crime under color of authority. That comes from watching the LAPD’s police riot in McArthur Park a couple of years ago and the brass’s insistence that nothing could be done about abuses because individual officers couldn’t be identified for punishment.)

        I am not, I hasten to point out, anti-police. I simply wish the first response by officers and departments to any disturbance weren’t, “Oh, boy, open the toy chest! We get to bust heads!” Defusing a volatile situation is far more admirable than being macho and hurting someone. In the specific case under discussion, the administration should have sent someone (like, say, the chancellor) out to talk to the protesters rather than sending in the clowns; failing that, the campus cops should have had a quiet chat with the protesters instead of pretending to be facing an enemy army.

        I’ll stop before this turns into a long essay.

        • drangedinaz says:

          alo, you phrased it perfectly, “Oh, boy, open the toy chest! We get to bust heads!”…that’s exactly what was on the guy’s mind with the massive pepper spray….”by golly I haven’t got to use this on anyone yet…’s the day! Whoopeee!” Idiots….

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