"Occupy," Tea Party, and Pepper Spray | Nose Under the Community Tent | Paul Losch | Palo Alto Online |


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By Paul Losch

"Occupy," Tea Party, and Pepper Spray

Uploaded: Nov 30, 2011

I attended college at UC Davis during the Viet Nam era. Plenty of anti-war rallies and demonstrations. Never a damaged bookstore like Stanford experienced, let alone some of the more extreme goings on that took place at Berkeley. Davis did not and does not have that sort of "personality."

I guess I am far enough along in my life experience that I have tried to think about what transpired with this recent pepper spray incident in Davis from the perspective of the leadership—the Chancellor, the Police Chief, mainly. It is not clear to me just what the students were doing that led to the pepper spraying—"disperse" is the word I have seen mentioned—and I have difficulty connecting the dots.

Instructing the police to disperse the crowd, from the vantage point of the Chancellor, may or may not have been the right call. There does seem to be a huge disconnect from making such a call, and discussing tactics about how it should be done. Clearly, it was a failure, and does display a lack of judgment by the Chancellor.

More to the point, did she send the right direction? I think this "Occupy" movement, taking place all over the country, calls into question that she did. As that 1960's Buffalo Springfield song goes: "There is something happening here."

Had I been Chancellor, with my understanding of the facts, I would have handled this very differently. Peaceful assembly in a Constitutional right. "Disperse" offers no alternative to those who are part of this "Occupy" movement. There should have been some middle ground from getting the Occupy folks to assemble elsewhere if legitimate campus business was being disrupted. That is a far cry from the police pepper spraying those sitting, as best I could tell, on a sidewalk adjoining the UCD Quad.

A couple of interesting contrasts include how LAPD—1400 strong—managed to clear an area that the Mayor of LA decided needed to be cleared.

Closer to home—we have no "Occupy" movement in Palo Alto, we have no Tea Party here, as best as I can tell. Are we "above" it all, "beneath" it all, living in a cocoon? There appears to be little or no thought leadership here around the issues that two disparate groups around the country have raised, admittedly somewhat incoherently. Both groups have presented "symptoms" that a thoughtful place such as Palo Alto should be able to distill into a better understanding of what is truly behind these goings on.