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Saturday, November 19, 2011

"There Must Be Space For Disobedience": The Irony Of Good Intentions - Day 64 Of The #OccupyWallStreet Seedcorn

The Video: The latest blunder is very, very famous now

Today's liveblog is all about it: Live Blog for #Occupy Movement: Pepper-Spraying of UC Davis Students, Lobbying Firm to Offer Advice on OWS & More.

From Nathan Brown, Department of English UC Davis, Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, calling for her resignation (h/t Kevin Gostola - my emphases):
I am writing to tell you in no uncertain terms that there must be space for protest on our campus. There must be space for political dissent on our campus. There must be space for civil disobedience on our campus. There must be space for students to assert their right to decide on the form of their protest, their dissent, and their civil disobedience—including the simple act of setting up tents in solidarity with other students who have done so. There must be space for protest and dissent, especially, when the object of protest and dissent is police brutality itself. You may not order police to forcefully disperse student protesters peacefully protesting police brutality. You may not do so. It is not an option available to you as the Chancellor of a UC campus. That is why I am calling for your immediate resignation.
(There is more withering rhetoric in the letter - "you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis" - so it is worth reading in full.)

I only wanted to say that there is indeed sanctioned space for protests. Under the Bush administration, they began calling them "Free Speech Zones" (although have existed without this moniker for at least 40 years - emphasis mine):
Free speech zones have been used at a variety of political gatherings. The stated purpose of free speech zones is to protect the safety of those attending the political gathering, or for the safety of the protesters themselves. Critics, however, suggest that such zones are "Orwellian", and that authorities use them in a heavy-handed manner to censor protesters by putting them literally out of sight of the mass media, hence the public, as well as visiting dignitaries. Though authorities generally deny specifically targeting protesters, on a number of occasions, these denials have been contradicted by subsequent court testimony...

The most prominent examples were those created by the United States Secret Service for President George W. Bush and other members of his administration...

Many colleges and universities earlier instituted free speech zone rules during the Vietnam-era protests of the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years, a number of them have revised or removed these restrictions following student protests and lawsuits.
The irony of Assistant Professor Nathan Brown's lament - "there must be space for civil disobedience" - is clear. Of course the intentions are good and, on the face of it, sound quite reasonable, but of course protest is simply not protest when it is permitted.

Be careful what you wish for.

And so I thank the University of California at Davis, I thank George W. Bush, I thank the mayors of #Occupied cities across this great land, and I thank the campus police officer who is "Standing there with his beer belly stuck out like he’s watering the lawn on a Saturday morning in Suburbia, USA." For without these patriotic anti-heroes, the true heroes and patriots of the United States of America, currently disinterring and polishing the old family silver, would not have the opportunity to show the rest of us how it is truly done.

The banality of oppression - campus police round up pepper-sprayed students with aplomb


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