November 21, 2011

Police Tactics At UC-Davis Cause A Firestorm

Over the weekend, a firestorm erupted over a viral video of a UC-Davis campus policeman casually pepper-spraying non-violent student protesters sitting on a campus walkway.  It's one of the strangest and most shocking videos of police misconduct to come out of all the "Occupy" protests these fall and it is causing a massive reaction, with calls for the chancellor of the school to resign.  (This AM she said she will not leave her post.)

There is a very thoughtful article in this morning's Washington Post on the question of who police are protecting and how they are being viewed very differently these days by those they are supposed to protect.  Simply put, police used to be people you were told as a child to ask for help but now they are a force to be avoided at all costs.  I would have to agree with this assessment, especially here in NYC where the police have become a self-acknowledged para-military force, larger than the standing army of some countries in South America.  I find myself often crossing the street to avoid police officers, knowing that saying the wrong thing or often looking at them the wrong way can lead to trouble. 

This video popularity and the massive response to it seems to hit on an issue central to life in the post-9/11 era.  We have ceded so much power to police and other authorities to protect us from terrorism yet more and more it appears we have also handed over our basic human rights as well.  Maybe this and other videos circulating the web these days can serve as a turning point in returning the balance of power in this country to where it rightfully and constitutionally belongs; with the people.

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