You might have seen my sweet little town in the news this weekend. That is, the university town of Davis, CA. Sixty five thousand folks, educated, liberal, nerdy, bicycle and family friendly. The campus is in the center of town, and is part of everything we are and do, even when we aren’t paying attention. There are three reasons to move to Davis…the schools are exceptional, your kids can ride their bikes anywhere–safely, and you’re connected to a great university. Did I mention safety for all?
This week UCD student were protesting the new UC rate hikes, and created an Occupy UC Davis encampment. Davis isn’t a political hotbed like our neighbor down the road, Berkeley, and UCD has a history of peaceful protest. It seemed like an extension of the small (ten tents maybe?) Occupy Davis group, set up in Central Park, next to the Farmer’s Market, a few blocks away. Not threatening in any way, to any one.
After one day the students were asked to take down their tents, and they refused. Instead, they formed a circle, linked arms, and sat down in front of their tents. There were 50 students, 150 onlookers, and 35 campus police. They were pepper sprayed. Sitting down. And because it appears that every onlooker was had a cell phone, recorded for the world to see.
Appalling. Disturbing. Assault, if you ask me. Nine were arrested, eight of them students.
Students probably the age of my daughters. Students who were sitting. Sitting.
I couldn’t believe the video. The police in full riot gear. Trying to intimidate with sticks and guns. And pepper spray. And the students sat, while others shouted. Everyone was shocked.
My Facebook feed was (and is) full. It was all Steve and I could talk about. I was sad to know that is how my community will be introduced to the world, as the face of police brutality. In my town…my small, sweet, safe town. That’s just not who we are.
The truth is, until this weekend, I’ve not been paying much attention to the Occupy movement. I was a little fearful they might even take away my good liberal card. But honestly, I was too busy working for the money I am no longer making.
I am paying attention now.
The pepper spray incident was shocking and horrifying. But the event that still has me reeling was the student response to the Chancellor. The event happened on Friday, and on Saturday she held a press conference (in a very small room, with space for only a few, depending on who you read) and stayed in the building for several hours. When she left, the students formed a line, blocks long, and sat in silence as she walked to her car. Stone, cold, silence. Deafening silence.
Amazing. Inspiring. Peaceful and strong.
The students were the non-violent ones. The ones who knew that silence would be a weapon heard around the world. And again, youth show us the way.
I am so proud of them. They represented the best of who we are.
Video of the original pepper spray incident here. Video of Chancellor Katehi’s walk of shame, here. There is a third piece too…this is a letter from Rev. Kristin Stoneking, the woman who accompanied the Chancellor on her long walk. She inserted something new into the discussion…compassion. Read it here.
And I am paying attention, still. In fact, I may even go over to campus tomorrow. There’s a movement happening, and while I don’t understand all of it, I understand this.