Archive for Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Debate on use of pepper spray arises

November 22, 2011


— Viral videos of riot police repeatedly pepper spraying a row of seated, nonviolent Occupy Wall Street protesters at a California university has sparked outrage, an investigation and calls for the college chancellor’s resignation.

It has also set off a debate about whether the officers were justified and how far they can go to disperse peaceful demonstrators.

While many students, lawmakers and even the university’s chancellor saw the officers’ actions as excessive, some experts on police tactics say depending on the circumstances, pepper spray can be a better crowd control measure than dragging protesters away or swinging at them with truncheons.

“Between verbalized commands and knock-down, drag-out fights, there’s quite a bit of wiggle room,” said David Klinger, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer and instructor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “When you’ve got a bunch of people who are clearly noncompliant, locking arms, it doesn’t look good (on camera).”

Soon after the spraying on Friday at University of California, Davis, video recordings spread across the Internet. The footage of an officer casually spreading an orange cloud over protesters while spectators screamed in horror joined other much-discussed pepper-spray incidents, such as the 84-year-old activist hit in the face in Seattle and a Portland, Ore., woman who was sprayed in the mouth.

The university announced Monday that it has placed the police chief and two officers on administrative leave to restore trust.

Still, nearly 2,000 students and residents gathered Monday at the main quad to hear speeches and chant slogans against police and university officials. Students who were pepper-sprayed opened the protest, saying they now feel unsafe on campus.

“We were just kids sitting down in a circle singing,” said mechanical engineering student David Buscho, 22, of San Rafael, Calif. “It felt like hot glass. ... I was paralyzed with fear.”

Pepper spray is an inflammatory agent that derives its active ingredient from chili peppers. When the spray is deployed, it causes nearly instant inflammation, resulting in dilation of the capillaries in the eyes, paralysis of the larynx and a burning sensation on the skin.

Students used pink and purple chalk to scrawl messages of peace such as “One Love” on sidewalks.

Buscho said students were yelling at police Friday that they were peacefully protesting. One of the helmeted officers began pointing a spray can directly at protesters’ faces, he said.

“I had my arms around my girlfriend. I just kissed her on the forehead, and then he sprayed us,” he said. “Immediately, we were blinded. ... He just sprayed us again and again, and we were completely powerless to do anything.”

The protest Friday was held in support of the overall Occupy Wall Street movement and in solidarity with protesters at the University of California, Berkeley who were struck by police with batons on Nov. 9. Nine UC Davis students hit by pepper spray were treated, two were taken to hospitals and later released, university officials said. Ten people were arrested.


akt2 6 years, 6 months ago

What did these brats expect would happen? Very few are probably actually working their way through college. They are there by the grace of daddy's bank account, or the government loans that they have so graciously accepted. Showering and going to class would make more of a personal difference than what they are doing.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

Channeling Newt Gingrich, eh?

You don't know any of these people, but your post does indicate a willingness to demonstrate the breadth and depth of your ignorance.

Now get back in the flock.

akt2 6 years, 6 months ago

No I think I'll get back to my comfortable life. Paid for by me, without any government hand outs or bailouts. Let the brats continue acting like heathens and when their parents tire of it, maybe they will cut the funds. That's the day our entitled little protesters will cut the crap and decide they don't really want to live in a tent.

voevoda 6 years, 6 months ago

akt2, You assume both that the university protestors are rich kids attending college on their parents' wealth, and that they are illegitimate recipients of government handouts. If they are the forner, don't they fit just fine with the "revere the rich" rhetoric of the far right? If they are the latter, then they would be fully justified in defending the public policies that benefit them. Either way, you have no call to disdain them. In any case, public assembly and political speech is Constitutionally protected. There doesn't seem to have been any pressing need--or any need at all--to force the student protestors to disperse. Why not just let them express their opinion? Or does the mere expression of a contrary opinion so frighten you, akt2, that you want to see it suppressed?

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago


So now it's ok to pepper spray peaceful protesters?

Let's just hope they don't kill some, as they did in the 60's at Kent State.

deec 6 years, 6 months ago

Give 'em time. Then the State Dept. can condemn excessive force being used like they did today about Egypt.

bevy 6 years, 6 months ago

Shouldn't all levels of government have figured out how far they could go back in the sixties? It would be interesting to know how many of our elected officials (who now condone this barbaric behavior by police) were attending sit-ins back in the day.

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