19 November 2011

Where is the OWS "Violence" Coming From?

This image shows an officer from the UC Davis police force nonchalantly dousing students with pepper spray because they refused to comply with orders. The story is here at Mother Jones.

This is authoritarianism in action. Put a normal guy (who is well paid with benefits and looking forward to a state pension, by the way) in uniform and he nearly always loses all sense of proportion. Watch the video - the riot-gear-clad, armed-to-the-teeth campus police are essentially driven off peacefully by the outraged students.

One thing that has astonished me listening to news reports about OWS protests across the country is the presumption on the part of the media that protests will be violent. More specifically, the presumption seems to be that when there is violence that the protesters will be the perpetrators. From what I can tell that is simply elite anxiety. Nearly every instance of violence that has come to my attention has been perpetrated by law enforcement. Sometimes they are just using their own bad judgment, sometimes they are acting on orders from elected officials. But this episode in Davis is a perfect example of how law enforcement escalates conflict in the most casual of ways. The kids were sitting on the sidewalk for Christ sake. Pepper spray?!?
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P.S.: There is a YouTube of the officer "warning" the students that they will be subject to "force" if they don't move (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGagKL_tvS8). To be blunt, this sort of procedural butt covering does not justify the actions he then takes. He might as well be saying: "I warn you, if you don't do what I order I am about to take totally disproportionate action against you!"

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