Friday, November 25, 2011

More news from the University of California:

By now, the news of University of California police spraying quietly sitting students with military-grade pepper spray at the UC Davis campus is well known. I have a few things I'd like to say about that.

Firstly, at the ground level, it's pretty clear that this action was unnecessary, brutal, counterproductive, and even unconstitutional.

The students who would eventually be tear gassed were posing no threat, and, at most, were a minor annoyance. The students were, it is true, sitting on a sidewalk, but they certainly weren't blocking movement along that sidewalk. People were simply stepping over the students to get to and fro. There's even a picture of the UC Davis police officer, who would eventually spray the students, doing exactly that. Were the students annoying? Sure. Were they seriously impeding traffic? Apparently not. Sure, if someone in a wheelchair had tried to get by, and if the students had refused to part to allow that person to get by, then perhaps there would have been a stronger case against the students … but, to the best of my knowledge, there was no one in a wheelchair in the area, and my guess is that the students would have made a path for any such disabled person. In the absence of any actual impeding of traffic, I am at a loss to see how the complaint that the students were “impeding traffic” could really be reasonable. Further, if the students really needed to be moved (a point which is far from clear) then there is no reason to believe that the UC Davis police could not have moved those students in the traditional manner, by dragging them off.

So, the UC Davis police eventually used military-grade pepper spray on these sitting, unresisting students. How is that not brutal? The UC Davis police caused pain and suffering for no reason beyond their own enjoyment. The pepper spray did not break up the students, nor cause them to flee, nor had any visible positive impact on public order. “Brutal” and “sadistic” seem like reasonable descriptions of the police action under these circumstances.

So, what were the effects of this UC Davis action? Perhaps most obviously, they've created the precedent that the introduction and use of military-grade weaponry is appropriate at these student protests. As above, that's a precedent that never had to be made. I would classify the creation of such a precedent as “counterproductive” at best. More to the point, it's a precedent that could easily be the foundation of some large scale bloodshed to come.

There's the constitutional issue. The UC Davis police action was cruel. For the use of military-grade weaponry on a bunch of peaceful protesters, the word “cruel” is perhaps not strong enough, but it's certainly accurate. The UC Davis police action was unusual. If it weren't unusual, people around the world wouldn't be talking about it now. And it was punishment. The UC Davis police action caused pain and suffering, which is a pretty good example of punishment. In my copy of the Constitution, the 8th Amendment pretty clearly forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Maybe the Constitution to which the UC Davis police officers swore an oath didn't include that 8th amendment.

And then there's the UC Davis Chancellor handling of this whole issue. The Chancellor of a University of California campus is the highest ranking authority on the campus. It's the Chancellor's job to be responsible for everything that happens on the campus. Either the presence of a large number of student protesters on campus, or the fact that the UC Davis police generated a plan to use military-grade weapons on the peaceful students should have caused the Chancellor to be present. Both events together certainly demanded the presence of the Chancellor, if at all possible. Instead, Chancellor Katehi was absent from this whole event, and only came out of the woodwork later, to try to affix blame to anyone but her. That certainly fits with a pattern I've discussed before on this blog, in which University of California personnel claim and accept payment for performing a service, then don't actually provide the service. Is it too much to ask that someone who is paid to be the Chancellor at UC Davis actually does some Chancelloring (is that a word? Well, it is now) when large scale protests and the use of military-grade weapons occur on campus? Obviously, the answer is yes, it is too much to ask.

If you've read the rest of this blog, you will already have guessed that I was surprised by exactly none of the disgusting behaviors evinced by University of California personnel in this instance. You will also have noticed that, no matter what the University of California does, whether it be stealing children, running fake clinical programs, stealing cadavers, engaging in large scale fraud and embezzlement, or more, nothing serious ever happens to address or correct those actions. Based on previous history, I therefore offer this prediction of what will happen as a result of these events at UC Davis: nothing serious. Probably no one will loose their job, and certainly not their pension, there will be no criminal charges filed, and the next scandal will roll right along without being slowed down by any concern on the part of University personnel about University punishment for their actions.

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