Rosa Parks

Some Occupy Protesters at UC Davis refused to move from a walkway.  So, the cops showed up and moved them. That’s what happens. If you don’t move, cops will move you. Unless you’re homeless and on a park bench, or you’re rich or something. Then cops don’t give a shit what you do. But if you’re a young protestor, yelling some crap about being 99% of something, cops will teleport in a move your ass.

I shouldn’t make light of this, but that’s my instinct. When something bothers me, I make light of it.  What bothers me?  A cop pepper sprayed these students.  That bothers me.  If you watch the video, you’ll see it.  The cop shakes a can, steps in front of them, pepper sprays them, then tries to get them to move. He isn’t the only one doing it, but he did it first.  This has caused outrage for many reasons. But, let’s be clear here.  These are Occupy protestors.  These students knew what would happen. They knew they would get arrested and they knew they would be pepper sprayed.  They knew it.  Someone had to have told them. It’s like Rosa Parks.  She knew exactly what she was doing when she sat at the front of the bus and refused to move. She knew it.  She did it because she knew it, she knew the consequences and she, thankfully, did it anyway. The students knew they would be attacked by police.  The people on the video tape knew it. Everyone knows it. Am I comparing the Occupy Protestors to Rosa Parks. Yes, I am. It’s the same thing. People do things in order to make statements.  In Rosa Parks case, the statement exploded for the benefit of everyone.  In the Occupy Protestors case, well, we’ll have to wait and see.  But, let’s not say these kids are innocent. They aren’t.  But the cop isn’t innocent either.

If you’re a cop, you have a job to do.  Protect and serve.  You protect people and you serve them. And, most times, you do what you’re told.  This cop was told, along with his cop buddies, to get these kids out of there.  I’m sure he wasn’t, however, told to spray pepper spray directly into those kids’ faces.

This bothers me on two levels.  One, I work with students every day.  Students are bright, optimistic, smart, hopeful young people. Sometimes they make mistakes.  I’m not saying that the Occupy protests are mistakes. I don’t think they are.  I do think that many, many students are going to take part in these protests.  Because of that, it is the responsibility of those with power, professors, cops, to treat them with respect and dignity as these young people exercise their right to Free Speech.  It is their right to sit there and it is their right to get arrested.  Getting arrested is part of Free Speech. It makes a statement.  Getting arrested says, “I believe in this so much that I’m willing to go to jail for it.” It’s a bold message and it’s a long tradition.  That doesn’t mean that these kids should be treated as if they are monsters.  The students weren’t attacking anyone.  If cops are put in place during a protest and the protestors seem to be a threat, then the police have a right to defend themselves.  You can not say, by watching this video, that the students were a threat to anyone.

Make no mistake. This is a protest movement.  It is effective.  It is working.  The Occupy Protestors aren’t going to stop.  It is the duty of the authorities to treat the protestors with respect.    But maybe the cop did the movement a favorite by spraying the students.  Every time a stupid cop does something like this, it makes the movement ten times stronger.