Sunday, September 30, 2012

Debra Saunders – Will be pepper-sprayed for cash

Commenting on the settlement received by the U.C. Davis students who were pepper sprayed during a peaceful sit down demonstration on campus last November, Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders offers to get herself pepper sprayed for the $30,000 settlement each student was awarded by the University.  (Read the very thoughtful comments too; they are eloquent and make me feel this blog is redundant.) 

I’d like to see that.  

The trouble with this story, as with much of Saunders’ jaundiced and skewed view of the world, is that she twists the truth just enough to weight the story in her favor.  In Debra’s world, because the students sat down in protest of tuition hikes, they were asking to be pepper sprayed, and cannot now cry foul over that treatment. What she doesn’t say is that the Davis students were also protesting police brutality used against peacefully protesting Berkeley students just days before.
But Debra doesn’t let the facts get in way of good rant.  In some bizarre alternate reality, Debra tells us the students surrounded the cops, refused to leave and got pepper-sprayed for their threatening posture.  Once again, it is clear to me that Debra must phone this column in from outer space.  Her own paper carried the story and the photos showing students seated on the ground, arms linked together  being pepper sprayed. While other students may have protested outside the police circle, the ones who got sprayed were the ones on the ground.   

Civil disobedience is a longstanding tactic of the civil rights movement, but where does it say that when college students engage in it, whether protesting tuition hikes, striking for free speech or showing solidarity for fellow students, those people protesting become willing participants in having their eyes doused in chemicals designed to be used to subdue vicious dogs, riot control or personal self-defense.
Here are some other fun facts about pepper spray Debra might want to ponder before offering up her eyes:
 “When sprayed directly at the face, the effects of pepper spray can be severely incapacitating, invoking temporary blindness, breathing difficulties, a long-lasting burning sensation and severe coughing, with effects lasting anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. Although pepper spray is deemed a non-lethal agent, studies suggest that high levels of exposure can have serious health effects. A 1999 report on the health effects of pepper spray by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina states (pdf):

“Depending on brand, an OC spray may contain water, alcohols, or organic solvents as liquid carriers; and nitrogen, carbon dioxide, or halogenated hydrocarbons (such as Freon, tetrachloroethylene, and methylene chloride) as propellants to discharge the canister contents.(3) Inhalation of high doses of some of these chemicals can produce adverse cardiac, respiratory, and neurologic effects, including arrhythmias and sudden death.” Pepper spray by Brianna Lee,
So, is pepper spray a proper response to peacefully demonstrating?  Especially the military grade pepper spray used by the Davis police.  There seems to be a trend among the right these days that civil rights were something that happened in the past and are only for African Americans.  (Also see this blog on that very subject, Ann Coulter on "Civil Rights" - Bring on the Exorcist, 
Everyone else, I guess, who speaks out about unfair conditions, deserves pepper spray in the eyes. What next, Debra, dogs attacking striking teachers?  Fire hoses for veterans marching for health benefits? How much would you take for those experiences?