Police use of force and occupy wall street, Part 2: The UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident

Turns out a lot of people got upset after my Police use of force and Occupy Wall Street post; a lot of them sent me an email and weren’t particularly nice in the way they voiced their disagreement with what I wrote. Disagreeing with me is perfectly fine, of course. But being rude isn’t. So, all of you who want to give me a piece of your mind after reading this post, don’t bother. I won’t read, nor reply to any mail starting with “You asshole!”… :-)


Anyway, I’ve been involved in a discussion on this topic in another forum and some good points were made there. I won’t rehash them here but would like to mention one of them. Because I think it’s relevant to what I said in my previous post on this subject:

The Occupy Wall Street protesters are not ignorant on how to manipulate the media.

There is a lot to be said about this but I’m not going to. Do your research on how protesters train for and plan their actions and you might be amazed at how it places some things in another perspective. Case in point, the infamous UC Davis Pepper Spray incident.

By now, everybody has already seen this:

Looking at this clip only, the police look like total dipshits for pepper spraying the hell out of protesters who are innocently sitting there…

Turns out, that’s not really what happened… There’s a lot more to it than that. Check out this video of everything that happened before the pepper spraying started. Make sure to watch the whole thing before reading on:

I’ve mentioned it before on my blog here: the camera doesn’t tell the truth by default.  Just because you see something on video, doesn’t mean you have all the facts.


Now you can argue about the right or wrong of the pepper spraying on moral grounds but IMO, the protesters are a bunch of idiots. Here’s why:

  • The police were ordered (IIRC by the chancellor of UC Davis) to disperse the crowd. As of that moment, they don’t have a choice anymore. They have to obey those orders, like it or not.
  • The protesters refuse to disperse, even after numerous warnings and orders to disperse. The police did not just wade in with the pepper spray from the get go.
  • They twist around what officers say to get a media sound bite (“Don’t shoot the children!”)
  • They try to order the police around… WTF? Since when do the police take orders from civilians?
  • They surround the police and refuse to let them leave… Re-WTF? Thats the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.

And then they complain about getting pepper sprayed? Shees…


For those of you who don’t get it, here’s some perspective:

Either the protesters are in violation of the law by these actions or they’re not. It’s either/or, nothing else.

If you think they are, then the police can resort to legal use of force to get them to disperse.

And that’s exactly what they did, so there’s no need for outrage is there? They could have started shooting protesters, cracking their skulls with batons, etc like in those countries I mentioned in my post. They did none of that. They pepper sprayed them (which is a lot safer than most other options) so they didn’t have to fight anybody and then arrested the protesters. Just like they do with anybody else breaking he law. Where’s the problem? I don’t see it.


If you think they aren’t in violation of the law, then I want you to consider this:

Scale the incident down to six people instead of a crowd.

Then change the context to this:

  • A civilian commits a crime. Two police officers show up and arrest him.
  • His  four friends start shouting at the officers to let him go.
  • His four friends then surround the officers and tell them they can leave as soon as they let their buddy go.

What should the officers do then?  Let the guy go?

I don’t think so.

In such a situation, you would expect the officers to use whatever force necessary to get the guy to the precinct. You’d expect them to call for back up and you wouldn’t be upset if they pepper sprayed the four friends to make them back off, arrest them and haul them in too. Depending on the local policies, they’d even be justified in shooting the four guys if they felt threatened enough. Believe me, it’s easy to feel threatened if you’re surrounded by an angry mob…

Here’s the thing:

When you boil it down to the essence, there is absolutely no difference between this situation and the one at UC Davis, except for the scale. None whatsoever.

So if you think the officers should have let the protesters go and allow themselves to be surrounded and be at the mercy of the crowd, then you have to agree to let the bad guy in my hypothetical situation go too.

Once you do that, you have effectively blown up your democratic right of having law and order in your society. You have destroyed the rights given to you by your constitution. You have established “Might is right!” as the de facto rule of law.

Now you can do as you please but me, I wouldn’t want to live in such a society…

I think the Occupy Wall Street protesters are dong society a disservice. Not with their message (God knows I agree with most of it) but with the ways they try to achieve their goals. Those are flat out dangerous and destructive in the long run…


Caution: As I said, don’t waste your time mailing me if you disagree; I won’t read or respond. Also, I’m not going to argue in the comments section about this. I’m not looking for a discussion here, I’m only giving my opinion (which is exactly what a blog is about, by the way…) And my opinion is worth no more or less than yours, so don’t bother getting upset. If you want to throw a fit in the comments section, I’ll just close it down.




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  1. as a point of contrast the occupy wall street protesters in Cork city, Ireland, protest peacefully – they occupy an area in the center of the city, with police permission, and choose to inform passing people of their campaign – if they are interested. They have been there a month, no drama, but plenty of good information dispersed. They are young, a lot of them university educated but thats were the similarities end with the more vocal, aggressive protestors in your video. They are not so delusional and ill-informed as to believe their self-rightous zeal can change the world ovenight especially through aggressive, cheap tactics. Shame also on some of the media for presenting them as either victims or saints. So much of this is sensationalism, desperation and fundamentalistic thinking IMO. Fair play to the police in showing good restraint, they have a crap job sometimes.

  2. There’s one thing they shout especially interesting to me:

    “If you let them go, we will let you leave /
    If you let them go, we will continue our protest peacefully”

    Ergo: if you don’t let them go, we will not let you leave = threat
    If you don’t let them go, we will not continue our protest in a peaceful manner = violent threat

    Yeah, real smart, threaten a cop, see what happens.

  3. I’m sure all of us apreciate the irony that the independent thinking of the students seems taken from “Life of Brian”:

    Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t NEED to follow ME, You don’t NEED to follow ANYBODY! You’ve got to think for your selves! You’re ALL individuals!
    The Crowd: Yes! We’re all individuals!
    Brian: You’re all different!
    The Crowd: Yes, we ARE all different!

  4. I’ve been in the shoes of those Police Officers. Republican National Convention 2008 St. Paul MN.

    It is not an easy job.

    Thank you Wim for helping to educate the public on justified use of force
    It is appreciated

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