OWS Continues to Dominate the Zeitgeist: Outcry over Abuse of Students at UC Davis Grows, Right-Wing Plan to Smear Protests Exposed
A sign in Foley Square, November 17th 2011
Photo by Sarah Seltzer
Photo Credit: Sarah Seltzer
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In a few short hours, the video was popping up seemingly every few seconds on Twitter with horrified responses from those who shared it. As a group of students sat on the UC Davis quad Friday evening, arms linked, huddled across a roadway, a cop reached up, flourished a can of pepper spray, and provocatively sprayed it on their faces to horrified shouts from onlookers. Eventually, the students began collapsing, and they were dragged away, arrested.
Fast forward to the end of the video, when the remaining students chant "you can go" to the police officers.
If protesters are continually met with brutality that horrifies onlookers and compels them to side with the protesters, well, then Occupy Wall Street isn't going anywhere. Just as the video was spreading across the internet, there was word of another breaking story--that of a lobbying firm cozy with the finance sector coming up with a plan of attack against OWS.
All this is proof that Zuccotti Park may be gone, but the momentum of the movement continues.
Here's how the writers at Student Activism describe what happened at UC Davis:
One student witness says that police sprayed the thickest section of the line and that there were gaps in it at other points. That it was always, in other words, a symbolic rather than actual barrier. This video shows that two officers initially moved in to remove students from the line without violence, but were waved back by a superior so that he could spray them instead.
Students. Sitting down. With bowed heads. On university property. Police freely moving around them, pepper spraying them, facing no resistance whatsoever. Just students. Sitting on the ground.
Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.
So far, everything except the spraying down students' throats is confirmed.
Several videos and photos of the incident are circulating far and wide. Here are two video views:
As with all viral videos this powerful, there is much excellent talking and writing already taking place. Lili Loofbourow writes that the end of the first video, when students convince the cops to leave, is the post powerful:
...the students announce to the officers that they are offering them “a moment of peace,” that is, the option of leaving without further escalating a truly horrible situation. They cry (in one of the most moving instances of the human mic I’ve ever seen) “You can go! You can go!”
It’s transcendently brilliant, this tactic–the students offer an alternative in a high-pressure situation, a situation that no one wants, but which seems inevitable in the heat of the moment. It’s an act of mercy which, like all acts of mercy, is entirely undeserved. Watch the other officers’ surprise at this turn in the students’ rhetoric, after they had (rightfully) been chanting “Shame on you!” Watch the officers seriously consider (and eventually accept) the students’ offer.
One protester interviewed by the student paper said that the brutality would change the nature of the protests.