Sunday, November 20, 2011


Chancellor Katehi should have known what happens when you send a militarized police force to deal with peaceful protesters:
But it is clear that the use of pepper spray was not so much chilling as routine for the police officers and also, again, that Chancellor Katehi ordered the police to clear the quad of protesters. Was she then surprised by what ensued?  Did she not see what happened at UC Berkeley only a week ago?  Based on even a passing familiarity with both recent and more distant history, the results should and could have been predicted; a reasonable person should have known to a first approximation how UC campus police might respond when facing nonviolent protesters, and, most important, a prudent administrator should have given strict instructions on how to handle such a situation.
Given that we've seen paramilitarized police forces brutalize demonstrators with pepper spray in New York, Seattle, Portland and elsewhere, that we've seen them fire tear gas and rubber bullets in Oakland, strike down nonviolent protestors at Berkeley with batons, no one should have been surprised with the appalling sadistic barbarism exhibited by the cops in Davis. The problem is systemic.

In fact, brutish cruelty isn't some defect, this thuggery is a very feature of police training:
Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department's use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a "compliance tool" that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters.

"When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them," Kelly said. "Bodies don't have handles on them."

After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of "active resistance" from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques.

"What I'm looking at is fairly standard police procedure," Kelly said.
Yes, we wouldn't want someone who's passively resisting arrest to get hurt by being lifted. Especially since “bodies don't have handles on them.” Clearly, the much more humane thing to do would be to spray them at point-blank range with pepper spray. And really, if they have the gall to “actively resist” by threatening an officer's safety and well-being curling into a ball to avoid being sprayed in the face, a baton strike is obviously warranted.

Keep in mind, the excerpt above isn't some rogue cop, it's the lieutenant who wrote the Baltimore PD's guidelines on using force. Clearly, the issue is structural. Lieutenant John Pike, for all his casual and callous disregard for the welfare of those student protesters, is a product of a system which trains officers to act in such a manner.

Glenn Greenwald connects the dots and explains how this sort of police brutality fits into a larger assault on dissent:
Pervasive police abuses and intimidation tactics applied to peaceful protesters — pepper-spray, assault rifles, tasers, tear gas and the rest — not only harm their victims but also the relationship of the citizenry to the government and the set of core political rights. Implanting fear of authorities in the heart of the citizenry is a far more effective means of tyranny than overtly denying rights. That’s exactly what incidents like this are intended to achieve. Overzealous prosecution of those who engage in peaceful political protest (which we’ve seen more and more of over the last several years) as well as rampant secrecy and the sprawling Surveillance State are the close cousins of excessive police force in both intent and effect: they are all about deterring meaningful challenges to those in power through the exercise of basic rights. Rights are so much more effectively destroyed by bullying a citizenry out of wanting to exercise them than any other means.

Greenwald also points to this video showing the power of “a wall of silent condemnation and shaming” of Chancellor Katehi:

Perhaps lost in all this is why the students at Davis were protesting. One of the pepper spray victims explains the motives of the protestors, in a must-read interview with Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing:
On Tuesday there was a rally organized by some faculty members in response to the brutality on the UC Berkeley campus, and in response to the proposed 81% tuition hike.

One of the reasons I am involved with #OWS, and advocating for an occupy movement on the UC campus, is to fight privatization and austerity in the UC system, and fight rising tuition costs. I think that citizens have the right to get an education regardless of economic condition. Most people are not going to get a job where they can afford to pay off student loans. But to exclude people from knowledge is unconscionable.

There actually was a time when Alabama didn't treat all immigrants like shit:
I’m waxing nostalgic because I miss the time when the sweet Southern air was, at least for this immigrant, not poisoned by fear, the malevolent phobia that haunts Dixie today. The new law is as much an ineffective solution to economic woes as a xenophobic reaction by an already bifurcated community to the arrival of new immigrants, be they Asians or Hispanics. As Charlie Chan might have asked, “What in the name of Confucius happened to Southern hospitality?”

Alabama isn't the only place with an inhumane policy towards immigrants.

The most powerful, thoughtful examination of the Penn State scandal I've read.

And finally, a public service announcement: freestyle walking can be very, very dangerous. Also, chew your mushrooms.

No comments:

Post a Comment