I remember when the main thing I was seeing was a hashtag. #OWS or #OccupyWallstreet popped up on the social media radar and there were those who dismissed it at first glance, but I kept watching. From the interwebz to the front lawns of City Halls, to the concrete jungles of Wallstreet, I’ve been watching these protests for 2 months now yet none have struck a chord with me as much as the violence perpetrated against students in our California UC system.
This morning I came across an interview on BoingBoing which was a first-hand account of one such UC protest. The Occupy protests at UC Davis started off peacefully enough but were met with an almost barbaric violence of action… and it didn’t come from protestors! When you watch the video below, your first reaction may be horror at how these seemingly peaceful college students were treated by campus officers and one in particular (Lt. John Pike) but when you read the full interview at BoingBoing, it may be enough to get your blood boiling.
Yes, that alone is powerful enough, but then I began thinking, “what if those were my children peacefully protesting?” Then all the warrior, protector, father stuff welled up inside me and I had to get this post written. Let’s face it, right now our govt. isn’t too popular with “the people.” And with good reason! Look at California and how our educational system has degraded. One of the worst states in the country with an educational system in some cities that rates below some developing nations. Our youths are looking at these career politicians who fill the halls of our hallowed civic institutions and the system they’re a part of and many are hopeless about the future. The amount of students coming out of college and unable to find work factors into that, I’m sure. With all of this going on, it is hard not to empathize with our country’s youth and their peaceful protests. I’m amazed though by the brutality which we’ve seen visited upon these students by the authorities at UC Berkeley and now, at UC Davis. I can’t even put into words the rage I would be experiencing if one of my own were pepper sprayed in the face at point blank while peacefully sitting in protest of tuition hikes which could eventually place public education out of the reach of many.
I think back to the civil rights protests of the 60′s (I wasn’t around but I’ve done quite a bit of studying and listened to many, many first hand accounts) and wonder if those in power realize that by visiting this level of unwarranted violence on these youth that they may be sewing a violence creating by their own heavy hand. I remember that segregation and Jim Crow produced the MLK’s of the civil rights movement but it also gave birth to radicals like the young Malcolm X and Black Panther Party. Do we really want to push our youth to adopt the mantra, “By any means necessary!” Moreover, do we really want to see them act on it? If the police are already handling protests in the manner they are, I can only imagine the violence visited upon rock, knife or gun wielding “occupiers.”
I must admit that there is a strong part of my personality that as Dave Chapelle put it is a “habitual dissenter” but it is only the part of me that looks at life and systems and asks, “Why can’t we do this better? In fact, why aren’t we doing this better?” I think the amount of critical thinking we encourage in public grade school is already at levels that make me sad, but now it feels as though we’re trying to also take youths who are casting off indifference and complacency and show them that complaining without action is the preferred course of action… unless of course those actions are violent.