UC Davis music professor Bob Ostertag has written a savagely brilliant editorial in the Huffington Post, denouncing the use of military-style force by campus police, in particular the now-infamous point-blank chemical weapons attack on peaceful students on the UC Davis campus. Ostertag dissects the "health and safety" arguments put forward by the administration, the excuse that "no other options" were available to the administration, the "outside agitator" fearmongering, and the intellectually dishonest equivocating of passive, nonviolent resistance with violence. Xeni linked to this in passing this weekend, but it is such a blazing piece of de-bullshitification that I want to give it its own post.
Could Chancellor Katehi please explain what "serious health and safety concerns" were posed at Davis that were absent at Columbia? The only thing that involved a "serious health and safety concern" at Davis yesterday was the pepper spray. I just spoke with a doctor who works for the California Department of Corrections, who participated in a recent review of the medical literature on pepper spray for the CDC. They concluded that the medical consequences of pepper spray are poorly understood but involve serious health risk. As with chili peppers, some people tolerate pepper spray well, while others have extreme reactions. It is not known why this is the case. As a result, if a doctor sees pepper spray used in a prison, he or she is required to file a written report. And regulations prohibit the use of pepper spray on inmates in all circumstances other than the immediate threat of violence. If a prisoner is seated, by definition the use of pepper spray is prohibited. Any prison guard who used pepper spray on a seated prisoner would face immediate disciplinary review for the use of excessive force. Even in the case of a prison riot in which inmates use extreme violence, once a prisoner sits down he or she is not considered to be an imminent threat. And if prison guards go into a situation where the use of pepper spray is considered likely, they are required to have medical personnel nearby to treat the victims of the chemical agent.
Apparently, in the state of California felons incarcerated for violent crimes have rights that students at public universities do not.