Monday, November 21, 2011

The Great UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident

"The function of a civil resistance is to provoke response and we will continue to provoke until they respond or change the law. They are not in control; we are." - Gandhi, the movie, 1982.

On Friday Nov. 18, University of California, Davis Campus Police, on orders from the campus president, moved in to break-up the Occupy camp site on The Quad. This followed the eviction of protesters from Mrak Hall on the 16th. In a General Assembly, Occupy voted to reconvene on The Quad within 24 hours of the eviction. While setting-up at their new digs, Campus Police warned they were violating campus regulations which would be enforced. UCD Aggie TV's Ani Ucar reports -

The pepper spraying incident has gone viral so that is the only thing people around the world know of the incident. Police brutality on peaceful demonstrators is the last thing the world sees and hears. But that's not what happened.

Part 1, in we learn: The altercation with campus police was intended as indicated by the bearded guy at :13 when he declared that "this will reflect poorly on every person from the administration that watches this happen"; that Campus Police officially warned the students and assorted they were in violation of California Penal Code 409 and to disperse three times before any action was taken; that 3 persons accosted Campus Police and were arrested long before any pepper spray was deployed.

Part 2, in which we learn: Protesters invite other students to come join the throng and surround the Campus Police; again protesters ignore another order to disperse while shouting, "Set them free" and "Whose university? Our university!" [note: UC Davis belongs to California to which student's pay money for the privilege of attending and can be revoked]; the officer-in-charge individually warns the arm-locked protesters on the walkway they will be subject to forced removal if they do not disperse and several people of the first group leaves the walkway and others take their place while the others chant "Cop off campus!" apparently ignorant these cops are the Campus Police Dept., the campus their job site; the OIC again warns the students at 12:44, the exchange ended in a bit of laughter.

Part 3, in which we learn: The protesters use the human megaphone to say, "I propose that you talk to us [ garbled and unclear] off the quad" ; again Campus Police warn the protesters they will be shot with pepper spray; sideline protesters tell the arm-locked to cover themselves knowing they are about to be sprayed with pepper.

4th Video, in which we learn the students were asked up close and personal if they knew they were about to pepper sprayed to which the protester cheerfully agreed, "Okay, just making sure, just making sure, you're shooting us for sitting here ... no, that's fine, that's fine. You're shooting me for..."; the sitting protesters cover "your eyes, cover your nose protect yourselves"; Campus Police make one last attempt to physically remove them, but meet resistance and further taunts of "Shame on you!" and a crazy woman wailing and screaming, "These are children!"

The students were warned they were in violation of California Penal Code 409. What it is and what it says:
California Penal Code Section 409:
Every person remaining present at the place of any riot, rout, or unlawful assembly, after the same has been lawfully warned to disperse, except public officers and persons assisting them in attempting to disperse the same, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
What is it that is llegal? How are riot, rout, or unlawful assembly defined?
California Penal Code Section 406:
Whenever two or more persons, assembled and acting together, make any attempt or advance toward the commission of an act which would be a riot if actually committed, such assembly is a rout.
California Penal Code Section 407:
Whenever two or more persons assemble together to do an unlawful act, or do a lawful act in a violent, boisterous, or tumultuous manner, such assembly is an unlawful assembly.
California Penal Code Section 408:
Every person who participates in any rout or unlawful assembly is guilty of a misdemeanor.
What happens to the official who does not respond?
California Penal Code Section 410
If a magistrate or officer, having notice of an unlawful or riotous assembly, mentioned in this Chapter, neglects to proceed to the place of assembly, or as near thereto as he can with safety, and to exercise the authority with which he is invested for suppressing the same and arresting the offenders, he is guilty of a misdemeanor.
The protesters got their provoked response. Whether the aftermath of public opinion is in their favor is still debatable; I have seen it go either way over the last half century, but I know it was just this kind of incident that turned public opinion to favor the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and the anti-Vietnam War demonstrators in the early 1970s. Authorities are in a Catch-22 in these situations; if they don't respond, the demonstrators escalate until non-response is no longer possible while any response is immediately forced into violence by the demonstrators who then cry police brutality, claim peaceful assembly and that is the last thing the public sees and hears.

Update: UCD student Elli Perason admits to Democracy Now! on tape that protesters deliberately provoked police.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.


Anonymous said...

Back when I was a cop I never had dthat much patience. I would have used the nuclear option much quicker. Don

Indigo Red said...

I know what you mean, Don. I recall from history when MacArthur was ordered to clear WWI veterans from Washington DC encampments; he did it none too gently and became a national hero instead of a disgrace. National Guards and Federal troops were used by Truman to end a national rail strike. Earlier Washington used troops to end the Whiskey Rebellion, Lincoln called upon troops fresh from the Gettysburg battle to put down the New York draft riots.

It all changed during the Civil Rights urban battles when LIFE magazine photographed dogs and fire hoses used on race demonstrators. The ill feelings engendered were transferred almost immediately to mostly white college anti-war protesters. It's no longer possible for authorities to do their duty, but is obligatory that they bear the brunt of verbal taunts and assaults. It is good for the protesters that the pepper spray option is available, otherwise the personal patience of the officers might run out in favor of a deadly sidearm. I don't think I could do what the Campus Police did.

Anonymous said...

There was no riot. It was a PROTEST. As you said yourself, the few people that showed violence towards the police were arrested well before this incident, and they did not incite other students to start attacking.

When a few students started chanting "F*ck the police," they were silenced by the majority of students.

This was meant to be a peaceful protest. Such a protest is not unlawful, it is a constitutional right. Therefore, by your own cited definitions, these students were violating no laws, and the police therefore did not have the right to forcefully disperse them.

I understand that the police may have been acting under orders, but the orders were unlawful. Even if you were able to make the case that the students legally needed to move (which they didn't), the punishment did not fit the crime. You don't shoot out someone's kneecaps for littering. You don't douse somebody who is siting an making no attempts to be violent in the face and throat with high doses of concentrated pepper spray. And just because you can find examples of "crueler" punishments in history does not make this any less repugnant, nor does it make it legal.

Anonymous said...

That was not a protest it was an orchestrated group crime. If you are blocking the sidewalk and ignoring thr rights of others and then refuse to cease that unlawful action, whatever it takes to make you stop is just too damn bad. What really happened is that those bored little idiots paid a price for having something to talk about when they wanted to show everyone how cool thgey are. Don