I’ve grown up hearing stories from my parents, many of which were about their political activism, and many of which highlighted the lack of police support the experienced. In the summer of 1975, my dad participated in a desegregation protest on a beach in Boston where blacks had been excluded. While some protesters threw rocks, others remained peaceful. The police, viewing all of the protesters as outsiders, as troublemakers refused to intervene. My dad had a broken nose in the summer of 1975. The police had refused to intervene. It is that type of opposing mindset which so often has inhibited police from protecting protesters, and often led to antagonizing them.
Throughout the eighties and early nineties, college campuses around the country maintained shanty encampments on campus in solidarity with the Anti-Apartheid movement. My mother participated in these encampments at Columbia University in New York City and at the University of Michigan. Campus police basically left them alone. Although, in 1986, the shanty at Dartmouth was so off the radar of campus security that members of a conservation student-run newspaper, were able to destroy the encampment with sledgehammers.
Encampments have been a tool for bringing attention to political causes. In his last months, Dr. King planned what he called the Poor Peoples’ Campaign, which would march non violently to the capital and erect shantytowns near the White House, making a visible statement about poverty in this country. Federal officials were frightened by the disorder which this could cause and used informants, provocateurs, and information leaks to derail the movement.
I kind of thought these stories were my parents’ and my parents’ parents’, that police treatment of peaceful protesters (the UC students were) had gotten exponentially better, and that my peers would not be treated the way I know my parents’ may have been despite the plastic handcuffs, police, and precautionary advice that goes along with each demonstration. I won’t go on to say that things haven’t changed, but I would like to express my shock at the police brutality on the University of California campuses.
The contingency of the Occupy Wall St. movement on University of California campuses has transformed partly into protest against extreme tuition increases. (Tuition for UC schools has nearly doubled over the last several years.) Compared to many of the encampments and protests around the country, this one is very small. But, campus police used pepper spray, held threatening tear gas guns, hurt students with clubs, arrested many students. Videos show police pulling students’ hair, dragging, and throwing them on the ground to be arrested. To me, it the inhumanity and violation of the police officers in California is unreal. This is a breach of the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly. Campus police are to protect students, not hurt them. Student can be seen chanting at police officers “Who do you serve? Who do you serve?”