The following is a mishmash of ideas, do not expect it to make sense or flow. You’ve been warned.
I may joke around that pepper spraying hippies is legally justifiable because “it’s fun, and they needed spraying” but like most of my dark humor, it’s nothing more than a chuckle, not to be taken seriously. I may dislike what some people say or what their views are, but I cannot justify using physical force against them just because we disagree.
The pepper spraying of UC Davis students is a troubling event in my mind. I support the students’ right to protest. It’s misguided in my opinion and the parents who continue to pay for their kids to go to college but not to class are idiots, but it doesn’t mean they can’t freely speak their mind.
Where this becomes an issue is when their actions start impeding others. If I’m paying out the nose for my daughter to go to college, the last thing I want is her to be unable to make it to class because a group of privileged crybabies thought the best way to argue against crony capitalism was to get high and form a barricade around a walkway. Obstructionism makes sense when the group you are blocking happens to be the very group you’re complaining about. Doing this to the general public just makes you a dick.
So, now we have a bunch of children who have zero clue how the world works, bitching about systems they can’t begin to comprehend, demanding solutions based on a fairytale on how life should be, doing something completely irrelevant as a protest, and deciding that blocking a public path is a good idea. The cops are called in to have them clear the public pathway, they refuse, they’re warned that they will be sprayed, they refuse, they get sprayed, and… well… nothing good was going to come of this from the get go.
Problem #1 – “Public property”. Which public has more right to it? First come, first serve? The person with the greater need? Privileged groups or individuals? At what part does your usage of public property infringe on my right to use it as well? In this case, we all understand that a public sidewalk is for travelling. Blocking a path of travel (and, from the pictures & videos I’ve seen of this particular incident, they extended the blockade so there was no way to walk around) seems to go against the spirit of public land.
Problem #2 – At what point does ‘being a complete and utter dick’ go beyond peaceful assembly? Blocking a sidewalk on campus that requires non-participating students to be forced to travel well out of their way to get to where they need to go is one thing, but what happens when these infants decide that blocking traffic on a major thoroughfare is a ‘valid form of protest’? What happens when I cannot get to work or home to take care of my family or when an emergency vehicle is impeded? At some point, you have to say “Enough” and use force to remove the blockade.
Even the blockade thing I have a hard time believing is ‘peaceful’. When a country blockades another country’s supply line, it’s understood to be an act of war. Doesn’t matter which country is in the right. Getting in my way and saying “I will not let you pass because I believe what you are doing is wrong” is a form of violence; it’s restraining someone against their will. The issue is that most people don’t see it as violence and thus when someone has to use force to make it to work / class / church / whatever they’re called the aggressors when that is truly not the case.
Even knowing this, understanding the logic behind blockades being aggression (slower aggression, but aggression none the less), I have a hard time justifying pepper spraying a bunch of kids. Which brings me up to
Problem #3 – Police work is dangerous. Actively seeking out the worst in our society is an honorable profession rife with dangers to life and limb. There is no honor in demanding the rights of the citizenry you are sworn to protect take second place to your safety. We don’t laud our soldiers because their job is easy, we praise them because they put their lives on the line so that you and I do not have to.
In this case, the cops were required to remove the protesters blocking the path. To do so, they require physical contact (remember, the protesters initiated it, not the cops) and force. ‘Softening’ them up with OC to make the cops’ jobs easier is not something I agree with, especially considering these were smelly college students. There was nothing to soften up; if you’re a cop who cannot physically manhandle a college kid, you need to hit the gym not the pepper spray.
The whole “cops’ safety is above everyone else’s” shtick is nothing more than a path to tyranny. Same goes for “politicians” or “protected classes”. When you selectively enforce laws based on a person’s job, race, or bank account, you basically move the public into a caste system. We fought a big war to avoid that many years ago, and here we are rebuilding the very thing we created this country to get away from.
These protestors are not peaceful. #OWS has resulted in something like 7000 arrests, 3 murders, countless rapes, and widespread theft. We need a police force to restrain these barbaric impulses so that the regular citizenry doesn’t have to resort to defending themselves against the mob. What we don’t need though is a constabulary that believes it can employ tear gas, flash bangs, and Tasers at will because somehow their safety trumps the rights of anyone else. Part of these protests’ goals by the groups that truly are behind it are to expand the ‘us vs. them’ mentality, be it cops against citizens or Republicans against Democrats.
Whoever wins here, we all lose.