As movements go, the Occupy Wall Street movement was a slow starter. It took almost a month to get some mass media coverage, but since then it has grown large and vocal enough to threaten some powerful people. It’s simply psychology, really; when people are threatened they strike out. Like a cornered, wounded animal.. blindly and viciously. As various police departments respond to peaceful occupiers with greater violence, there has been a remarkable lack of physical response and that in itself is astounding. Beatings and chemical attacks are the first line of defense in the police handbook… the next step is gunfire and that will be a sad moment. I pray that cooler heads prevail somewhere.
I have, as every person who works for a living, deep opinions on the OWS subject but I won’t force them on you here. What I really wanted to note was the response to the vicious pepper-spraying at UC Davis over the weekend. I use the word vicious because chemical deterrent is usually reserved against violent offenders or as a preventative. In this case it was neither. Spraying seated students is abhorrent and actually against the California code of conduct for prisoners. During a prison riot, a guard is forbidden from using chemical weapons against a seated prisoner. So, in UC Davis, convicted criminals > seated students.
(click forward to 6:00. This is about a minute after the seated students were pepper sprayed.)
But all that is beside my point to tell the truth. What really struck me is the 1 minute later response from the stricken students. What would usually become a horrible, violent riot became something more. Look at the police. They’re ready for anything… they are ready for violence and to respond by shooting unarmed college students.. that’s their posture at that moment. But listen to what is being said by the students. “We are giving you a brief moment of peace. You can go. You can go.”
Swiftly the chant is picked up. “You can go.”
And they do.
What could have been a horrible, terrible blot in history became something else. It is a sobering moment and I hope that movements across the world learn from the intelligent, wise choices of the UC Davis students.