For some days now I have been meaning to take the time to post about the recent string of police and security response to peaceful assembly. I've seen some footage of incidents on cable news and read a few accounts and I am saddened by the turn to aggression by many of the authorities in the past week.
Even where we have previously seen police take a responsible attitude toward protesters there has been a shift in the response to their peaceful assemble.
Have we forgotten the lessens of the late sixties and seventies? The brutality on the streets during the Nixon years only heightened the tensions in this country. The response with force to peaceful assembly
(a guaranteed constitutional right) is indefensible. Spraying protesters who are sitting in rows with pepper-spray and clubbing individuals is only going build a toxic climate in this country.
We seem to growing very lax in terms of many of our constitutional guarantees. When law enforcement abridges the right of peaceful assembly it is a fundamental attack upon every one of us, not just those in a particular location protesting a particular cause. We don't have to be associated with that cause to be the victims because the erosion of on person's right of assembly risks the protection of our own right does do so on this or some other cause.
The former poet laureate Robert Hass, was beaten on the Berkley Campus by Alameda County deputy sheriffs. Is it really necessary to beat a seventy-some year old man who is peacefully assembled? Or a man or woman of any age?
Someone explain to me what threat is posed by this assemblage because the threat that is posed by police with batons and pepper-spray on a peacefully assembled crowd, that threat I understand. The latter risks bodily harm, risks unhealthy tensions between authorities and citizens, and it jeopardizes the very constitutional rights we all have as citizens of this country.
Above is one video shot at UC Berkley that demonstrates the response to assembled students.
I am outraged by this. I'm old enough to recall the Nixon years when young Americans were coming home from Vietnam in body bags by the thousands and brutality of those times. Do we really have to repeat this? Have we not progressed in the year that have followed?