Police Brutality at UC Davis

This piece about police brutality at the Occupy protests at UC Davis is a sad reminder of how lightly many in the US hold the values of free expression that our country was founded on. The opening photo in the story below reminds me of Hannah Arendt's comments about "the banality of evil."

You wonder whether these people think when they look at the photos and videos of their actions, and what they think about the judgment of history. I remember 30 years ago, we all watched Richard Attenborough's Gandhi and wondered how the British could have committed the atrocities they did. (The memory of the scene in which the protesters march up to the factory gate two by two, expecting and enduring the moment when they will be clubbed down, still brings a lump to my throat.) Now we know.

As +Keith Fahlgren (@abdelazer) said on Twitter: "YouTube sure makes it easy to hate the police." And that's a terrible thing for a society, when those whose job it is to protect the values of our society turn against it.

There's a moving and courageous denunciation of the actions by the UC Davis administration by an assistant professor there that is well worth a read:


After a detailed description of what happened, Nathan Brown focuses on the cognitive dissonance between the statements of the university and its actions:

"On Wednesday November 16, you issued a letter by email to the campus community. In this letter, you discussed a hate crime which occurred at UC Davis on Sunday November 13. In this letter, you express concern about the safety of our students. You write, “it is particularly disturbing that such an act of intolerance should occur at a time when the campus community is working to create a safe and inviting space for all our students.” You write, “while these are turbulent economic times, as a campus community, we must all be committed to a safe, welcoming environment that advances our efforts to diversity and excellence at UC Davis.”

"I will leave it to my colleagues and every reader of this letter to decide what poses a greater threat to “a safe and inviting space for all our students” or “a safe, welcoming environment” at UC Davis: 1) Setting up tents on the quad in solidarity with faculty and students brutalized by police at UC Berkeley? or 2) Sending in riot police to disperse students with batons, pepper-spray, and tear-gas guns, while those students sit peacefully on the ground with their arms linked? Is this what you have in mind when you refer to creating “a safe and inviting space?” Is this what you have in mind when you express commitment to “a safe, welcoming environment?”

"I am writing to tell you in no uncertain terms that there must be space for protest on our campus. There must be space for political dissent on our campus. There must be space for civil disobedience on our campus. There must be space for students to assert their right to decide on the form of their protest, their dissent, and their civil disobedience—including the simple act of setting up tents in solidarity with other students who have done so. There must be space for protest and dissent, especially, when the object of protest and dissent is police brutality itself. You may not order police to forcefully disperse student protesters peacefully protesting police brutality. You may not do so. It is not an option available to you as the Chancellor of a UC campus. That is why I am calling for your immediate resignation."
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