UC Davis Pepper Spraying: a Symbolic Response to Occupy Wall Street

UC Davis Pepper Spraying: a Symbolic Response to Occupy Wall Street

Guest Author: Reginald Nievera

The recent events that occurred on the UC Davis campus are tragic and outright appalling.  If you haven’t heard, campus police at the University of California-Davis decided to pepper spray a group of students for their participation in an Occupy Wall Street peaceful protest demonstration.  Amidst public outcry, two of the officers were suspended for their part in the event.

The suspension of these officers is an unwarranted reaction by the university; it suggests that the officers consciously and individually made the decision to pepper spray the students.  Blame should not be placed onto the officer’s character; rather it should be projected onto authority figures’ general response to the Occupy movement.

The police’s solution and response to peaceful protesters suggest a broader significance than simply a group of officers that responded improperly.  It suggests that the influence of ‘Wall Street’ and transnational corporations has penetrated law enforcement, creating a perceived notion of ‘us against them’.  Law enforcement officials have lost all sense of their individual values and morals; the unconscious influence of ‘Wall Street’ has officers pepper spraying harmless students.

This pattern has been exemplified multiple times throughout history: the Nazi regime, the Milgram experiment, the Stanford Prison Experiment, and now the pepper spraying at UC Davis.  The theme that connects all of these events is obedience.  We respond to a higher authority’s instructions, even if it compromises our own personal values.

The Nazi’s killed and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of people, not because they were clinically insane, but because they were told to.  Ordinary civilians in Europe delivered perceived intense, electric shocks to other civilians because a man in a white coat told them they ‘must proceed’.  UC Davis campus police administered pepper spray to the faces of harmless students because they were told to break up the protest.

In a book called, The Corrosion of Character, author Richard Sennett suggests that the nature of our line of work can compromise our individual character and personal identities.  The officers on the UC Davis campus are not monsters, they are human beings.  They showed obedience to a higher authority, even though, they personally know that pepper spraying a student is wrong.

‘Wall Street’ and transnational corporations are that higher authority.  In order to protect the so-called ‘peace’ is to rid of protesters by any means necessary.  Law enforcement officials have been hired as corporate foot soldiers taking care of their dirty work.  Corporate executives cannot legally pepper spray the Occupy Wall Street protesters in the eyes, but somehow they found a way to manipulate the system and have police officers do it for them.

*The opinion of the guest blogger are theirs and theirs alone.


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  • I agree with the guilt of Wall Street and the big corporate interests. This extends to Obama who has remained silent and spineless as the result of being paid off by Wall Street.

    But look at the profile of UC Davis police and you will see willing accomplices -- white psychopathic fatties who aren't qualified to serve off-campus and hate the site of students getting a college degree. I highly respect the great police force where I live. The UC Davis police are a stain on law enforcement.

  • In reply to max888max:

    That begs the question, who is qualified to wield the power of being a law enforcement official? We'd hand over a badge, holster, and baton to an individual with the most radical of views.

    This is not a shot at UC Davis police, but the broader implication of obedience. We'll obey a higher authority figure even if it means doing something you personally don't agree with.

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    (a) Any power that can not be justified is IMMORAL.

    (b) The reasons justifying the existence of Congress --the size of the assembly and the distance of its members-- do not exist anymore with current technology. With the Internet, cell phones, digital signatures, etc., it is possible to build a permanent system of referendums for the people to decide DIRECTLY --without a congressman-- in all important matters.

    (c) Therefore, the mere existence of the Congress and the representative democracy is IMMORAL.

    There is a phrase that says: "POWER CORRUPTS, AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY." The second part of this phrase was used to replace monarchy with representative democracy; and the first part of this phrase will be used to replace representative democracy with DIRECT DEMOCRACY.

  • In reply to Lorenzo Gonzalez:

    I agree, the idea of a direct democracy may be a bit idealistic. It ignores the fact that social inequality exists. Each social class is going to heavily favor their own values, thus creating yet another form of the party system. Not allowing only the power elite, ruling class monopolize congress may be the first step to end that sort of corruption.

    Direct democracy may also be problematic due the psychological concept of 'group think'.

  • As a "corporate executive," I often use my inherent financial advantage and ability to game the system by directing police officers to bring attractive coeds from Depaul straight to my condo in Lincoln Park and also grabbing me a pizza and a slurpee late at night every now and then.

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