By Betty Mills
There were students at the University of California, Davis, seated on the ground doing nothing more intimidating than doing nothing, apparently staring at the cement beneath them in a protest against the increase of fees at the university. Then a policeman showed up with a hose and a yellow cloud of pepper spray was showered on the students, back and forth, back and forth, as though he were watering a flower bed.
This was not your old fashioned pepper spray recommended for women walking alone at night – a defense against purse snatchers and would-be rapists.
This was a new “improved’ brand of pepper spray developed by the military for the kind of stuff they defend against, but now distributed to police
Several of the students hosed down by the campus police were hospitalized, and many continued to suffer from this unnecessary brutality. To describe the unprovoked attack as baffling is to put it mildly.
At an earlier demonstration by students in Oakland, California. I watched a news clip of policemen with clubs vigorously attacking jeans clad young coeds as if they were saving the world from an invading army. These were kids. There is some thing so disproportionate about the violence so wantonly leveled against them.
Where’s the rationale in the huge animosity against people who are making real the promise of the Bill of Rights, that as citizens we shall always
have the right to peaceably assemble?
Consider the originators of this current crop of protesters, Occupy Wall Street. They had a library, a media center, a four page newspaper, The Occupied Wall Street Journal, medical facilities, a welcoming desk, an area for the general public, twice-a-day meetings where everyone could speak their piece.
They could also sign up for showers and laundry facilities which were donated by local residents, as was food. A clean up was organized daily for the area.
A Fox News program labeled them convicted criminals and methadone felons, and Rush Limbaugh called them union thugs and anarchists. Glenn Beck, never one for rational pronouncements, described the Wall Street protesters as Marxist radicals “who will drag you into the streets and kill you.”
They will,” he said, “kill everybody.”
Mayor Blomberg finally ordered the police to throw the protesters out, including the books, the tents, the personal belongings, the sleeping bags, the chairs and tables and all the furniture and conveniences the protesters had assembled to make their lives safe, sanitary and survivable. In a big pile it went, and the protesters were told they could claim their belongings. From the big pile? Thou jest. Let’s see, what words fit? Insulting? Insensitive? Arrogant? How about in some strange way revengeful? The multimillionaire mayor was annoyed to have his city become the focus of the “99% ers.” They, on the other hand, were angry, determined, courageous, and undaunted. And so they re-assembled the next day.
Clearly the Occupy Wall Street people and the similar assemblies that have sprung up across the nation are in some way threatening to someone, to someone with the connections to trigger the use of force – pepper spray, clubs, wanton destruction of property—in an attempt to end the protests.
Newt Gingrich says these protesters should first get a bath and then get a job. Bad enough that a man who aspires to be president of the United States has such bad manners and so much snobbery, but he is also missing the point by at least 10%, one of the estimated guesses of the current unemployment rate in this country. Many of the protesters do not have a job because there are no jobs to be had.
There is a long history in America of protest movements and forceful reactions by authorities. But ultimately many of those protests were on the winning side. Think abolition of slavery, women’s right to vote, civil rights. What the current movement is about is the excessive imbalance in this country of wealth, and the political corruption that allows it to continue.
My father-in-law maintained that in a contest between the butcher and the lamb, he was betting on the butcher.
Maybe this is one of those times when enough people are standing with the lamb that the butcher will retire to one of his corporate sponsored mansions, and the 99%ers can start re-building the country.