Sunday, January 15, 2012

Follow up on Occupy

This (video) and the aftermath is a perfect example of the sort of behavior that I was trying to characterize in my previous post. The message that was spread after this incident was basically "police officers needlessly pepper spray innocent protestors". That message is inaccurate, or at best shows poor judgment with all the facts (of course my conclusion is also assuming I have all the facts!) available

The videos released, the pictures accompanying the news articles, all the evidence seemed to indicate that the police acted inappropriately, to put it very mildly. The Google personalizes results so it's anecdotal evidence, but when I typed in "uc" "uc davis pepper spray" was the 6th suggestion, and when searching "uc davis" the bottom half of the first page of results were all related to the pepper spray incident. Some of the police officers involved were put on leave, and I just realized anyone who cares enough to read a blog post about the UC Davis pepper spray incident probably knows the basic message about what happened and the aftermath.

That's why this more complete video of what actually happened is so important. IANAL, but it appears that a crowd of protestors surrounded a group of police officers, refused to let them leave, were pepper sprayed, then the police were allowed to leave. I've never been involved in a protest but it seems like refusing to comply with the police results in the police giving up or being arrested. And the police action should be reasonable because police brutality is something I take very seriously. The right to legally protest is something I take very seriously.

I always understood protests - civil disobedience - is when one is saying "I'm protesting by breaking the law with the understanding that while my stand is morally justified in my mind, it's illegal and I refuse to stop until I'm forced to by police". And what happens is some variation of:

1) Police/Law: What you're doing is illegal so stop doing it
2) Protestors: No it isn't! Or, it's illegal but I'm publicly going to continue doing it to raise awareness of my cause or somehow change society
3) Police/Law: We get that. It's still illegal and you still need to stop doing it
4) Protestors: No, we can continue. It's so important that we're willing to risk arrest
5) Police/Law: Seriously guys, we will arrest you and physically make you stop.
6) Protestors: That's the price of taking an ethical stand
7) Police/Law: We're *this* close to making you stop. We've told you repeatedly, we told you yesterday, and now we're standing in front of you literally shaking the pepper spray can. It's about to happen.
8) Protestors: (they literally said this) Don't shoot children!

And then the police used pepper spray. And guess what? The protestors were forced to comply without the police using unreasonable force. On top of that, the police didn't even force them to comply with what had been ordered the day before. The police settled for just being allowed to walk away. 

Occupy's response? Label it police brutality, and release edited video and pictures that seemed to prove that it was police brutality. I just can't sympathize with a group or with people whose mentality is that the truth is less important than furthering their goals. That isn't to discount the distaste for their general mentality that I find easier to describe rather than justify. Screaming don't shoot children? Believing they have a right to civil disobedience without repercussion? They consistently adopt all sorts of ideas that I take very seriously and ruthlessly cheapen and exploit them. The best parallel I can think of is the phenomenon of adding "-gate" to the end of everything, but of course Occupy does this in a much more directed purposeful way. 

I agree with a lot of their goals but I can't support using lies and misrepresentations as evidence or cheapening serious ideas. TBH, I think my distaste for the movement stems from how close they are to something I would love to support and yet they're also so far away.

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