The Occupy Protests and Police Brutality

Filed Under (Current Events) by on 11-19-2011

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Viral image of Occupy protester being detained by policeBefore I jump into this too deep let me start by saying I support the Occupy movement and what it stands for.  Assuming that is that you are part of the Occupy movement as a means of making change so that our government is a true democracy that is fueled by the people and their votes and not by large banks and organizations that pay our politicians the most.  That being said, this whole concept of “police brutality” is starting to get out of control on the internet.  Everyday I see a new viral video hit the net that depicts “brutality” by local or campus police.  In some instances, such as the UC Berkeley protests I will agree whole heatedly.  But in other instances I am left to wonder if people are considering, or even looking at the whole picture.

Today Gawker posted an article titled Here’s a Cop, Just Casually Pepper Spraying Peaceful Protesters in the video the officer at UC Davis does just that.  However, what we see is a line of protesters clearly refusing to remove themselves from their position being pepper sprayed. In this particular instance, no other protesters are being sprayed. Just the ones on the ground blocking the sidewalk.

My speculation is that there is some rule/ordinance that prevents people from blocking public walkways at the school.  That most likely is what fueled this incident.  The police probably came, told them they had to move granted they may or may not have pointed out why.  And then ultimately pepper sprayed these protesters as a means of dispersing them and ultimately arresting them.

I agree, there have been a number of incidents where excessive force has been used the UC Berkeley incident being a prime example, but you can’t take every photo and video at face value.  Every time we use freedom of speech or right to protest as an example for why these police are out of control we are grounding these statements in rights that are enforced by law.  Just as we want to be protected by these laws/rights, we need to recognize that these laws aren’t going to prevent us from getting in trouble if we ourselves don’t follow other laws and ordinances in place.

Again, I just as most people talking about the police brutality at the occupy protests are basing this all on speculation, but again my guess is that in instances like that in the case of UC Davis these students were pepper sprayed not for protesting, but most likely for violating some other rule or law. And even after reading the accounts from English Professor Nathan Brown, I am again reminded that these people were probably asked to move multiple times before it escalated to this.

Before you jump to make some of these “police brutality” videos and images viral, take a step back and consider what elements of the story you may be missing.  This applies not only to those of us online, but also those at the protests watching from 5,10, or 20 feet away. You don’t always know what was said or done prior to the outbreak.  Yes, you are there, but you don’t always have the full story like you think you do.  You have your perception of the story.

When all is said and done, even I may be in the wrong here.  Perhaps at UC Davis there was no rule being broken or law being enforced and ultimately the force used by UC Davis police was excessive.  But that being said, my goal here is not to say who is right or wrong, but to say look at the whole picture and think about what elements you may NOT be seeing or understanding before you assume excessive force is being used.

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