This video of police pepper spraying seated, non-violent student protestors at the University of California-Davis speaks for itself. This comes just more than a week after police beat student protestors with billy clubs at the Occupy Cal protest at the University of California-Berkeley. An assistant professor at UC Davis has written an open letter calling for the resignation of UC Davis's chancellor, who ordered police to clear the student protestors from the campus's quad.
Police actions like these are symbolic of what the Occupy movement is protesting: not just that wealth inequality is extraordinarily high, but that the state protects the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyone else. You just don't see police officers with stacks of plastic handcuffs storming into Goldman Sachs.
The police are supposed to protect and serve the public, but the relationships of several police departments to the Occupy movement, especially in California, have been more repressive than anything. Radley Balko wrote an interesting article on the militarization of police departments since the 1980s and especially since September 11, 2001, which in part describes how officers wearing more militarized uniforms can be more aggressive and think of themselves as soldiers rather than public servants. The pepper-spraying of UC Davis students who were not threatening the public in any way bears a chilling resemblance to a new law created this summer in Belarus--not exactly a paragon of democracy--which bans people standing and doing nothing in protest.
When dealing with Occupy protests, police nationwide must remember that their role is to protect, not to repress.
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