Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A face full of vegetables

Megan Kelly, another blowhard from Fox News, defended the cops pepper-spraying passive students at UC Davis. She said pepper-spray is "a food product," vegetable derived. I'll get some pepper-spray and, since it's only food she'll let me spray it in her face. Would she then still think it's a veggie?

Something I notice about the video of the pepper-spraying is how peaceful everyone looks. The first cop is very casual about blasting them, while the students sit with arms linked, taking it. No one jumps up and tries to wrestle it out of the cop's hand, no one from the crowd intercedes. It's very Gandhi-like, very turn-the-other-cheek. It gives all the sympathy to the people on whom the spray was used, and anyone trying to defend police tactics, like the idiots at Fox News, will find themselves shouted down. The cops knew they were being filmed. I'll bet they wonder why everyone is down on them, because they were doing what they were taught to do. Now a couple of them are on administrative leave for it. The UC Davis police chief, whom I saw defending the action in an interview, is also on leave.

I didn't go to college, and even if I had I probably wouldn't have gotten involved in anything that would have earned me a dose of an irritant like Mace or pepper-spray, or especially tear gas. When I was in the Army I went through the tear gas chamber five times. Four times during my two-year hitch, and once at a summer camp for a California National Guard unit, where I spent two weeks on the side of a mountain watching artillery fire. The gas chamber was part of the training, made more relevant in that year of 1970 because National Guardsmen were using tear gas in various student and public demonstrations around the country. The Army wanted all soldiers to be aware of what tear gas—CS gas, in military nomenclature—would do.

I can tell you from first hand experience that tear gas is not good. It burns your eyes, your nose, your throat. It's actually the most unpleasant thing I've ever experienced. And not just once but five times. I told people at the time that I went through more tear gas than people who spent all their time attending demonstrations. My heart goes out to those people at UC Davis who took the pepper-spraying from close up and did nothing, but they probably helped future demonstrators. Nothing changes policy like the bright hot spotlight.

I'll bet when that campus cops went to work that day none of them thought, "I'm going to get on YouTube today by giving a bunch of peaceful protesters a face full of pepper-spray." It was probably all within the guidelines of their duties, as they understood them. But they'll be forever seen as bullies rather than police officers in performance of those duties, and that's in spite of any acquittal that may come about at a hearing in months to come.

The clich├ęd expression "teachable moment" comes to mind. That video can be used as a training tool for police departments in how not to react to peaceful people who refuse to move. I've noticed that more and more since these so-called non-lethal methods of crowd control were invented cops are much more likely to use them when the situation may call for more restraint than action. Tasers, pepper-spray and even rubber bullets sometimes seem more like the tools of sadists rather than law enforcement tools by those hired to be serving and protecting.


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