I rarely have the time for these police brutality videos which are so often reposted on twitter; are so often blurry, lacking in context, or carefully chopped to make to police look like aggressors; are so often hyped up by anarchists, conspiracy theorists, and silly little fools as incontrovertible evidence of a global conspiracy. I hardly ever have an emotional response, as the videos and the comments by people who can't possibly be impartial or knowledgeable, provide no factual information with which to form an opinion.... But...
Today a video called 'Police pepper spraying and arresting students at UC [University of California] Davis' is doing the rounds, and to me this video stands out for many reasons. It still lacks a certain amount of context, but what happens in it is clear to see: an armoured police man stands before a row of students seated on the path of their university campus; he raises his arm displaying his weapon, a large can of pepper spray (or other similar chemical weapon), very much in the manner of a professional wrestler playing to the audience, armed with a 2x4 wrapped in barbed wire, standing over a prostrate opponent (I'm not joking, watch the video). He then walks up and down the line spraying downwards onto the faces and heads of the peacefully protesting students.
What then follows after a couple of minutes of confusion, (in which it appears a small number of arrests are made i.e. some people are dragged away), is one of the most inspiring and beautiful acts of peaceful rebellion I, or you, are ever likely to see. Somehow the students form a semi-circle around the police officers, I suppose they are kettling them whether by accident or design, chanting Shame on you, shame on you. The police begin a tentative retreat, furtive glances, some grasping tight their strangely-shaped guns of some description.
The chant then changes to Whose University? OUR University, Whose University? OUR University, and then a peaceful invite to the police: You can go, You can go, You can go which finally results in what appears to be the police moving off the university pathway and back onto a public highway, and cheers from the protesters. It is a wonderful, tear jerking moment; one that has to mean something and should be remembered.
It doesn't really answer any questions, but it does show that small-scale peaceful protest can have some affect, and should be repeated. It doesn't provide any evidence that the US is fascist or evil, and is still just a video of one nervous, vicious, or stupid cop doing something disgusting, while his colleagues panic and try to salvage the situation. Whoever called the police onto the university campus needs to face some consequences. The university should sue the police, especially if it was uni staff who called on the police. There should be severe laws against using chemical weapons on peaceful protesters (I can't believe I actually had to type those words in that order).
If ever there were proof needed that the US was not some evil, fascist all-controlling dystopia, it is the free and easy distribution of the evidence against this police officer's crime. The video disseminates across the globe easily, and we rightly judge this as an atrocity committed against individuals, and against us all. Just remember that the world has many genuine fascist dystopias, where the pepper spraying of some students would be a minor everyday occurrence; where genocide, rape as a tool of oppression, and disappearing are the big news, but where no evidence of this can spread because the citizens are subjects without freedom; where big news is no news.
We, the comfortable people of the West, see the policeman's crime as offensive, disgusting and wrong, and this is a sign of how far we have come; how advanced and free we are; not a sign of how oppressed we are.
I have no knowledge about the facts leading up to the events of the video, nor do I know anything about what happened and will happen afterwards. I know nothing about the events in the video, except for what I think I can see, and what I conclude based on my own observations and emotions. As much as I wish I was, I am not impartial, objective, or in any way able to offer useful information; and neither are you. This is a confusing mess. I have no idea how often things like this happen, but judging by the amount of cameras filming in the video, and the speed in which the video gets out, I suspect it doesn't happen very often. But that's all I can do: suspect, wonder and worry. And be proud of the reaction of the students; proud of the free society which allows this video out; upset that one human being could treat others like insects to be spray away as an unpleasant inconvenience.
Here's the video. Watch it in full. Form your own opinions (and remember that they are only opinions; just because you think something doesn't make it true. Only conclusive evidence can make something true). (I suppose my confusion lies there – in my instinctive disgust at the policeman's crime, yet my unwillingness to view the video as evidence of a global evil; a conclusion I expect a lot of people to reach; a conclusion I view as being the opposite of the truth. Anyway, it's time I shut up.) Here's the video: