11/30/11

Pepper-Spraying Cop UC-Davis

A couple of weeks ago there was an incident at UC Davis where a group of students were protesting peacefully at the campus and a group of police skirted pepper spray on them.

The videos and photos of the policeman calmly spraying the students, immediately circulated around the Internet. The most striking thing about this was exactly the patience and calmness that the guy showed. He did not act as if he was frightened or threatened by the students sitting peacefully and locking their elbows with each other, his attitude was more of "wait, I will get rid of this nuance. It will only take a minute." 

The UC Davis students were protesting among other things, an act of police repression that happened a few days before at the UC Berkeley campus. Where police violently dispersed a peaceful protest of students and faculty. The students at Berkeley had also locked their arms signaling peaceful resistance. In the last 45 years or so, locking arms had become the symbol of public and peaceful manifestation of disagreement. Robert Birgeneau, the UC Berkeley Chancellor wrote after the protesters were dispersed at his campus, that "linking armas and forming a human chain....is not non-violent civil disobedience." You can ask the guy in the photo above about that one!

Of course, after Birgeneau's declaration, the students protesting at UC Davis, got the whole treatment when the Chancellor Linda Katehi, authorized police to "disperse" the crowd at their campus. The police followed the order in the manner that the photography shows.

It was that show of lack of empathy, and abuse of power that caused this image to migrate very quickly into popular art imagery. Almost immediately, there were classic art works sporting the image of the pepper-spraying cop on them (more of it in a future post). 


The image of the police attacking peaceful protesters, and college students, while guarding banks (such as in the photo above), is becoming a pervasive one in our very unequal times. What is next? Special police forces in shopping centers? That could be next. 




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