The protests of Wall Street have come to St. Louis, with a Webster professor and…
Beaten, broken, gassed and robbed
Last Friday, editors at The Journal were shocked when photos and videos emerged from a student protest at University of California, Davis (UC Davis). A few dozen students sat, legs crossed and arms linked, around a small gathering of tents in the schools general quad area. The students were attempting to peacefully resist the removal of their tents and fellow occupiers from the area in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
In a moment hauntingly reminiscent of the shootings at UC Berkley in 1966, UC Davis police officer Lt. John Pike raised his can of pepper spray high in the air to show the crowd before walking casually down the length of the human chain, spraying every single student in the face from mere inches away.
As the videos and photos will show, Pike pepper-sprayed dozens of students that had taken no violent action against anyone. Pike and his fellow officers then began forcibly removing the choking, coughing students from the quad amidst shouts of protest from other occupiers.
Pike and his fellow officer were placed on paid leave and UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi personally apologized for the incident to a gathering of Occupy UC Davis protesters, vowing that a new investigation into the matter would bring any other abuses to light.
The Journal is deeply disturbed by these new developments. Not only did Pike fail to properly use his pepper spray (AP reported that Pike was far closer than the standard 10-foot distance), but he and the rest of the UC Davis officers were armed with the most powerful pepper spray for crowd control on the market.
The only spray that is more potent then the brand used by UC Davis is a spray designed to stun bears.
Pike and his fellow officers acted violently and without merit or provocation. Along with their superiors and other law enforcement officers across the country, Pike represents the growing militarization of free speech and the decrease in the power of peaceful assembly.
For more than two months, occupy movements have taken place with virtually no criminal incidents linked to the protesters. But on a daily basis, there are stories of brutal clubbings, unwarranted arrests and dangerous police practices. In Oakland, an Iraq War veteran was savagely beaten when he refused to disperse before advancing police. He did not attack or attempt to harm the officers, and he was given a beating so ugly that he remains hospitalized with internal injuries.
A second veteran was struck in the head with a tear-gas canister and is listed in critical condition.
In Seattle, 84-year-old Dorli Rainey was pepper sprayed at close range while marching with a protest that damaged no property and resulted in zero police injuries.
The Journal knows that the occupy movement is not always perfect or even right. But, we also remember that armed police assaulted no tea party protesters as they gathered, shouting obscenities, on the steps of the U.S. capital.
The Journal believes the trend of dismissing student protests as flavor-of-the-month fads is a dangerous one. We believe in freedom of speech for all, free of unfair oppression and undue restriction.