The roots of the UC-Davis pepper-spraying

Glenn Greenwald writes: The now-viral video of police officers in their Robocop costumes sadistically pepper-spraying peaceful, sitting protesters at UC-Davis (details here) shows a police state in its pure form. It’s easy to be outraged by this incident as though it’s some sort of shocking aberration, but that is exactly what it is not. The Atlantic‘s Garance Franke-Ruta adeptly demonstrates with an assemblage of video how common such excessive police force has been in response to the Occupy protests. Along those lines, there are several points to note about this incident and what it reflects:

(1) Despite all the rights of free speech and assembly flamboyantly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the reality is that punishing the exercise of those rights with police force and state violence has been the reflexive response in America for quite some time. As Franke-Ruta put it, “America has a very long history of protests that meet with excessive or violent response, most vividly recorded in the second half of the 20th century.” Digby yesterday recounted a similar though even worse incident aimed at environmental protesters.

The intent and effect of such abuse is that it renders those guaranteed freedoms meaningless. If a population becomes bullied or intimidated out of exercising rights offered on paper, those rights effectively cease to exist. Every time the citizenry watches peaceful protesters getting pepper-sprayed — or hears that an Occupy protester suffered brain damage and almost died after being shot in the skull with a rubber bullet — many become increasingly fearful of participating in this citizen movement, and also become fearful in general of exercising their rights in a way that is bothersome or threatening to those in power. That’s a natural response, and it’s exactly what the climate of fear imposed by all abusive police state actions is intended to achieve: to coerce citizens to “decide” on their own to be passive and compliant — to refrain from exercising their rights — out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.

The genius of this approach is how insidious its effects are: because the rights continue to be offered on paper, the citizenry continues to believe it is free. They believe that they are free to do everything they choose to do, because they have been “persuaded” — through fear and intimidation — to passively accept the status quo. As Rosa Luxemburg so perfectly put it: “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.” Someone who sits at home and never protests or effectively challenges power factions will not realize that their rights of speech and assembly have been effectively eroded because they never seek to exercise those rights; it’s only when we see steadfast, courageous resistance from the likes of these UC-Davis students is this erosion of rights manifest.

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Comments

  1. delia ruhe says:

    I suppose we are intended to be grateful that they’re not using bullets in a reprise of Kent State.

  2. Joseph Partida says:

    …and it wasn’t that long ago in northern California, where the young demonstrators for environmental concerns, had pepper spray applied to their eyes with swabs after they were all hand cuffed together in custody by the police! This is all part of our history of class struggle and labour rights. Did you think it was going to be different now? Civil rights, human rights, labour, has always been brutal and violent. Read People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn for a reminder of our real history and how we need to continue the struggle for our rights. Fight the bastards and solidarity forever.

  3. dickerson3870 says:

    RE: “The roots of the UC-Davis pepper-spraying”

    SEE: Sheriff Ortiz goes to Israel, by Eva Ruth Moravec, mysanantonio.com, 07/07/11

    (excerpts)…For one week last month, Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz swapped his cowboy hat for a yarmulke as he visited Israel on an organized trip with other law enforcement leaders.
    “I’ve always had an interest in Israel,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “It was a great conference.”
    Ortiz joined 16 other sheriffs, police chiefs and organization heads, including Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, on a week-long trip, courtesy of the Jewish Institute for National Security’s Law Enforcement Exchange Program….
    …Ortiz said he was impressed by Israel Defense Force soldiers, who he said are trained as soldiers and as police officers.
    “If we ever deploy troops along the Texas border, they should have training in being a soldier and in law enforcement,” he said…
    …The junket was Ortiz’s second organized trip to Israel: last year, Bexar County footed the bill to send him to an international conference on homeland security, he said…

    SOURCE – http://blog.mysanantonio.com/police/2011/07/sheriff-ortiz-goes-to-israel/

    ALSO SEE: Israel trip an eye-opening experience for Jefferson chief, By Adina Solomon, onlineathens.com, 07/18/11

    This summer, Jefferson Police Chief Joe Wirthman went on a two-week trip 6,000 miles away, traveling across Israel with a delegation of state law enforcement officers as part of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange.
    “It was an awesome trip,” he said. “A trip of a lifetime.”
    GILEE, which partners with Georgia State University, sends a different group of Georgia officers every summer to work with Israeli law enforcement and border control.
    Commerce Police Chief John Gaissert and University of Georgia Police Chief Jimmy Williamson also have gone in past years.
    The object of the program is to learn how Israeli police deal with terrorism every day…
    …After his trip, Wirthman is trying to think one step ahead with the Jefferson Police Department, preparing for the type of threatening situations Israel faces 24 hours a day, he said.
    “Hopefully it’ll never happen, but in this world, ‘never’ isn’t a word,” Wirthman said. “We’re not invincible here.”
    He’s also witnessed how people live their daily lives with the constant menace of terrorism, he said.
    Wirthman met one man who sends each of his children on a different bus to school. In case one of the buses is bombed, only one of his three children will be harmed.
    “I don’t know if I could raise my family under those conditions,” said Wirthman, who has three kids of his own.
    And nobody in Israel grumbles about it, he said. Instead, they have a strong national pride many Americans had only after 9/11, he said…”

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://onlineathens.com/stories/071811/jac_858627408.shtml

    P.S. LASTLY, SEE: Connect the dots: In ’02, NYPD began training in Israel; 9 years later, spying against NYC Muslims exposed, By Alex Kane, Mondoweiss, 10/20/11
    LINK – http://mondoweiss.net/2011/10/connect-the-dots-in-02-nypd-began-training-in-israel-9-years-later-spying-against-nyc-muslims-exposed.html