Last week, #OWS student protesters at the University of California-Davis were grotesquely brutalized by police when a row of peacefully-seated students were repeatedly pepper-sprayed directly into their eyes and mouth (video below).
Outfitted in best-of-tech riot gear against the unarmed “occupiers,” Lt. John Pike of the UC Davis police approached the group of students and began attacking them with peppy spray, forcing them to cover their faces.
“What is wrong with you?” demanded one student. “You’re supposed to protect us!” yelled another.
Ten students were arrested and eleven were treated after being sprayed, including two who went to a hospital.
The students were trying to protect their 25-tent encampment as the police attempted to clear it. UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza told reporters: “The students had encircled the police officers.”
Yet, judging by the video (below) and photos, it seems a different story is told.
“This is what happens when authority is unaccountable and has lost any sense of human connection to a subject population,” wrote the Atlantic’s James Fallows, a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter.
Fallows compared photos of the event to those of civil rights protesters fire-hosed by Birmingham’s Sheriff Bull Connor in 1963.
“It doesn’t look good,” said David Klinger, a former Los Angeles police officer who now teaches criminal justice, specializing in the use of force, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Klinger stressed that he wasn’t familiar with the protocols of the campus cops – but he wondered why they didn’t try hauling them away first.
The very same day, occupiers in Portland, Oregon were similarly attacked by police – again, with pepper spray – with one protester sprayed point-blank in the face (pictured, above) for no apparent reason.
The protester – Elizabeth Nichols – described the incident during which a policewoman jabbed her in the ribs with a baton and then pressed it against her throat. Nichols yelled that she was being mistreated, when yet another office shot her with pepper spray.
“It felt like my face, ears and hands were on fire,” she said.
Nichols then dropped to the ground, and police yanked her into their ranks.
“She was dragged away by her hair and disappeared into the black of their uniforms,” [protester Laura] Seeton said.
Later, another police doused her burning face with water and she was booked into Multnomah County jail, saying “Next time you get pepper sprayed, keep your mouth shut.”
These brutalities are just the latest in a string of wrong-doings by local police officials who have been documented as using force far-beyond-necessary against occupiers of all ages.
Police forces fractured the skull of an Iraq War veteran in Oakland with a tear gas canister, campus police at Berkeley unleashed on peaceful protesters with batons, and officers in New York City arrested credentialed journalists trying in vain to cover the raid of Zuccotti Park.
But what is the media making of all this? While many networks and online outlets reported the stories with earnest regard to the occupiers’ plight (Arianna Huffington calls the attacks an “Assault on our Democracy”) Fox News leads the charge of downplaying the atrocities being committed against non-violent, patriotic Americans demonstrating their Constitutional rights.
Last night, in sadly-typical Fox News fashion, popular Right wing hosts Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly actually moved to defend the grossly excessive force being used against occupiers, specifically in the case of the UC Davis police officer’s use of pepper spray against nonviolent protesters.
“I don’t think we have the right to Monday-morning quarterback the police,” O’Reilly said, “particularly at a place like UC Davis, which is a fairly liberal campus.”
He didn’t explain why the abuse of violent force might be more necessary or justified against liberal students, non-violent and unarmed students as opposed to, say, if they were conservatives.
Kelly went even further in dismissing the suffering of students attacked by the pepper spray by speculating that the weapon in question is not that harmful because “it’s like a derivative of actual pepper. It’s a food product, essentially.”
Kelly goes on to suggest that the pepper spray was somehow diluted – without any proof of statement, of course, other than her opinion that the protesters did not fall to the ground screaming fast enough for her tastes.
However, as visible in the video, Lt. John Pike actually sprayed the seated-students directly in the face with military-grade pepper spray – which is far more concentrated than your neighborhood grocer’s jalapenos.
But it’s all semantics, right? We eat pepper, so apparently pepper spray in the face isn’t a problem. We drink water, so water-boarding is really just giving detainees a nice, cool drink. Trees emit CO2, so suffocating the planet with carbon gases is just how nature intended it.
Whatever helps to demean and demoralize the Occupy movement and treat the 99% as it has been for decades: as second-class citizens.
- Joe Ascanio
Based out of Greater New York, Joe Ascanio is a full time web designer, developer and marketing guy working in the online technology marketplace. OneWhiteDuck.com is a semi-personal blog devoted to opinionated rantings over current events, politics and pop culture as they relate to our modern-day society.