he University of California, Davis, placed two campus police officers on leave Sunday, after they pepper sprayed protesters who were peacefully blocking a walkway in a show of support for the Occupy movement. (See the video below). The president of the University of California system said he was "appalled" by videos of the Friday incident, which went viral online. UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi ordered an investigation and took "full responsibility," but resisted calls for her resignation. Was there any justification for treating the demonstrators this way?
No. This is just plain wrong: There's no way to sugarcoat this "chilling" video, says Philip Kennicott at The Washington Post. Watching an officer "applying a toxic chemical to humans as if they were garden pests is shocking." Campus police say the officer wielding the spray can was just doing his job. But if this is standard procedure, the standards need to be changed.
"UC Davis pepper-spraying raises questions about role of police"
Sadly, the police had no better option: What happened wasn't pretty, says Jay Tea at Wizbang, but the cops really had no choice. They have a duty to uphold the law. The protesters were blocking a public sidewalk and refused to move. The cops couldn't just walk away. Was pepper spray "a great choice"? Of course not. The visuals are damning, "but I don't see how any of the other options" — Tasers, say, or physical force — would have been any better.
"The least worst option"
Well, it's disturbing that this is even an option: It's scary "how common such excessive police force has been in response to the Occupy protests." says Glenn Greenwald at Salon. We have militarized our local police in the name of fighting terrorism, and we're now living in a "police state." Our rights to free speech and assembly may be "flamboyantly guaranteed by the U.S. constitution," but "if a population becomes bullied or intimidated out of exercising rights offered on paper, those rights effectively cease to exist."
"The roots of the UC-Davis pepper-spraying"
Take a look at the pepper-spray incident:
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