On Friday, police in riot gear hit student protestors in the face with pepper spray. Told explicitly by UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi that violence should be avoided at all costs, officer John Pike is seen nonchalantly spraying students as they sat on the ground blocking the sidewalk.
Chancellor Katehi told a student assembly yesterday that “Because encampments have long been prohibited by UC policy, I directed police only to take down the tents,” she said. “My instructions were for no arrests and no police force.” Officer Pike has been placed on administrative leave.
Caught on video by a number of bystanders, the casual use of pepper spray for students who posed no physical threat to police is frankly an embarrassment and an affront to our nation’s belief in free speech. I don’t agree with the Occupy protestors – but I support their right to express their point of view. I’m offended by Westboro church members protesting military funerals – but they have the right to do so (at a distance). The list goes on and on. Escalating into violence, however, is not acceptable from any side.
I appreciate the freedom for me not only as a blogger, but a public official, to be able to express MY views and not worry about being executed for disagreeing with the “powers that be.” Freedom of speech is a fundamental right for all human beings. It is not bestowed by government, but we must be ever-vigilant in safeguarding it – all of us.
See for yourselves the pepper spray incident – and tell me what you think. Even if you disagree. 🙂