The campus cops who made international news this past week by pepper spraying a group of California protesters have done irreparable harm to the interests of those who hired them, and they certainly appear to deserve to be fired.
Having acknowledged that, there are a couple of salient points about the incident at the University of California.
This was NOT Kent State. No one was seriously injured.
And this stupid behavior does NOT make the protesters right.
It does NOT prove their cause.
It just makes it more difficult for the college officials to attempt to enforce order on their campus — if that was every really the goal of the college administration, and that remains in doubt today.
UC President Mark G. Yudof has already issued the obligatory statement: “Free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history. It is a value we must protect with vigilance.”
As the incident was reported by the Associated Press; “Videos posted online of the incident clearly show one riot-gear clad officer dousing the line of protesters with spray as they sit with their arms intertwined.”
When you see the video, the act appears as cold-blooded retribution.
It APPEARS that way.
Though there were no serious injuries, the response could be anticipated. “UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said she has been inundated with reaction from alumni, students and faculty.”
We live in a society where the initial act is almost certainly to be forgotten. There is no effort to determine how offensive the protesters had been. All we are concerned about is whether an official overstepped his duty.
Could these people be dealt with without the pepper spray?
Shouldn’t the college officials have just let the protesters have free reign over the campus?
There will be no end to the support the protesters will get, just because there are so many of us who want to experience the ‘60s again.
To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: “protesters, you’re no ‘60s peace movement.”
Getting sprayed with pepper spray is no fun. Both of the officers who were involved know that. They had both been through the training and had, themselves, been sprayed so they would know what it was like.
While the video does look callous, it’s important to remember, this was not a phalanx of riot cops attacking kids with shields and clubs.
Still, the university officials don’t have a leg to stand on, as the reaction from Chancellor Katehi illustrates. “I spoke with students this weekend and I feel their outrage.”
Does she feel their outrage to the point of agreeing to cut her own salary in half and will she get everyone else in the college community to do the same thing, or to work at minimum wage so these protesters won’t have any student debt?
Is she and everyone else who works for the college ready to return to the ‘60s in benefits and income? Because, that is what these protesters want.
They want a society where things are more fair — for them.
There certainly is a lesson to be learned from this incident. Those who are charged with keeping the property and personnel at these public institutions safe, cannot win in the current political climate.
That might be a point for public safety officials at other sites of the protests to consider.
And if we have come to the point that we are just going to hand over public property every time a group shows up to grip, we need to face the hard facts.
We have already lost this battle.
— Chuck Smith