UC Davis senior Ricardo Garay would make a great publicist for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“We as students have a great deal of heart and we can gather together to change a lot,” he proclaimed. “We will occupy but also talk to people and come up with a plan about how to make changes. It’s something I’m proud of to be a part of…a group with my fellow students with the power to change the world.”
Occupy Wall Street has spread to college campuses and taken its goals of fostering economic and social equality with it. Unfortunately, some schools were obviously unprepared for dealing with the relatively passive movement. Exhibit A: a viral video depicting excessive police brutality against an Occupy protest on the University of California, Davis campus.
The incident has sparked a debate about how far law enforcers should be allowed to go when dealing with the Occupy protestors, an investigation into whether the police officers had just cause to pepper spray the students, and demands from students and faculty for the resignation of Chancellor Linda Katehi.
Garay wasn’t present when police broke out the pepper spray, but he described the events leading up to the confrontation between protestors and law enforcement and his horrified reaction:
“We spent the entire night without any conflict. We were centered directly in the middle of the quad. Multiple people brought food for us and there were several anonymous donations. People were singing and doing homework. It was an extremely peaceful and unifying experience. People were discussing important issues.
“We argued that we were an assembly and had the right to assemble on school grounds. I had class in the morning, so I left. When I got home, I heard about the incident. I couldn’t believe it because they had lulled us into a false sense of security by letting us stay all night. Most of those people are my friends. I feel like I should’ve been there.”
UC Davis students not affiliated with Occupy were just as shocked at this act of police cruelty.
“The video was pretty horrific,” said UC Davis senior David Hipperson. “People were peacefully protesting and out of nowhere they get pepper sprayed. They weren’t interrupting anybody or creating a disturbance. It’s crazy.”
Garay’s views of the episode are similar, though he has found a silver lining along the orange mist of pepper spray that has created this semi-scandal:
“Overall I think it was handled really poorly, and it’s such a shame, but the good that comes from it is that it highlights important issues. It’s a sad time in [UC Davis’s] history and a great time to take action.”
Photo: Wayne Tilcock of The Davis Enterprise