You can watch the 45 minute version here. This may not be the definitive version, but if you care about this issue, you owe it to yourself to at least take 45 minutes from your busy life and watch a version of the whole thing.
Some have said the cops are surrounded. That is after-the-fact rationalization (at best). Perhaps it was true in a technical sense, though I’m not even certain of that. The police seemed to be able to walk freely over the students. The police were certainly not acting as if there were surrounded; they made no effort, even after macing some of the students, of breaking out. I do not believe that police used force because of any perceived threat to their physical safety. And if there was a threat (I wasn't there), it wasn't coming from the people who were maced.
If you think police acted out of necessity here -- as opposed to legal, justified, or even acceptable behavior -- if you real believe it was tactically necessary for the safety of the officers to mace the people sitting down, you probably can’t ever conceive of a situation where police did the wrong thing. That’s your right, but... well... you've got nothing to add to any talk of bettering police.
Here’s my take:
Except for the use of mace, it all seemed to be handled pretty well. Seriously -- and I know it’s a bit like saying, “other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the show?” -- most police officers and most protesters deserve a star for staying cool in a potentially hot situation. This includes the initial police arrests.
Now whether the students needed to be dispersed and/or arrested is an issue I’m going to pass over because it’s not relevant to analyzing the behavior of the officers on scene following lawful orders. There were no students being clubbed. There were no bottles lobbed at police. There was no vindictive pepper-spraying of students on the way out. There was no riot. This was not Kent State. All that is good.
Everything was just fine until somebody made a bad (not illegal, mind you) decision to use O.C. spray against passively resisting non-threatening students.
In the end, the police retreated and the students chanted “you can go.” And police did.
It gets me thinking, people have been upset about the militarization of police for years. Seems like nobody listens or cares until a few college students get maced by cops in riot gear. I guess better late than never. But the smell of mace in the morning is so minor compared to what is going on elsewhere in this country. For instance, innocent people continue to get killed in drug raids.
People are actually fighting and dying for real freedom in other countries (Egypt comes to mind). I’m happy our standards are higher. But we should all be a bit thankful for the (mostly) civil society in which we Americans live. I can write this. You can disagree. And nobody is going to knock on our doors and arrest us. God bless America.
Finally, a few minor points:
Am I the only one, but chanting crowds always bug me. Something about the mindlessness of chanting always rugs me the wrong way. Is there not a certain dignity to silence?
And since when did college students start referring to themselves as “children”? What ever happened to “I am a man”?
And before some huffy cop corrects me, I know that police do not technically “mace” people. Police use O.C. (Oleoresin Capsicum) spray, which is a related to hot peppers (hence the “capsicum” of O.C.). I think mace is actually another chemical. But many people, including myself, always use mace as a generic term for anything that comes out of spray can and hurts like hell. Besides “stop or I’ll administer a chemical O.C. spray” does not have the same ring to it.
Finally, on the lighter side of pepper spray, of course there’s a tumblr blog.