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Occupy Protests

“Shame on you,” was chanted loudly and repeatedly by a crowd of students and other protestors at UC Davis on November 18th. The chant was in response to campus police firing pepper spray from close range at protestors’ faces, who were sitting on the ground in linked arms for solidarity. The protest was a peaceful attempt to call attention to Occupy Wall Street but the police feel justified in their not-so-peaceful actions, which, in this writer’s opinion, is an unacceptable stance. A more civil reaction to a peaceful protest is in order.

Occupy protests first began September 17, 2011 and were initiated by a group known as the Adbusters. Via Internet sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and video blogs,  the group proposed running protests on Wall Street, which they consider to be a major location in the country’s current economic crisis.  The purpose of the movement, according to the website at occupywallst.org, is to take a stand against the richest 1% of people and dictating the rules for an unjust economy on a global basis.  Their political slogan is simply “the 99%,” referring to those who desire less of a corporate influence on politics, an overhaul in banking, an increase in volume and quality of jobs, and a fairer income distribution. In the last few months, the movement has grown and spread to college campuses across the country.  

In the UC Davis case, the police were not justified in their actions. Of course it is legal for the police to use pepper spray as an alternative to guns or other life threatening weapons in order to stop potential unruliness, and the intent of the police at UC Davis was to disperse the crowd. However as a result to the pepper spray, the victims were left temporarily blinded, disorientated and physically unable to disband. The campus police tactics were not only ineffective, but cruel and excessive.

UC Davis is one of many situations, including the Seattle Occupy scenario where an 84-year-old woman, a priest, and a pregnant woman were also doused with pepper spray, where law enforcement officers have used excessive force when not necessary. What does this say about the justice system? Why are these officers holding themselves above the law? Perhaps suspension with pay during an investigation of the act, along with possible trial, is not enough to dissuade police from this type of brutality. This is something we as a society need to explore.

Amongst the various cities and campuses, UCLA students have also decided to take action and have been seen around campus, camping out and marching under the banner of “the 99%.” It is my hope that In light of the police being under the scrutiny of the millions made aware by the UC Davis incident and others, UCLA protestors will not suffer the same outcome.


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