Peaceful protesters met with police brutality

Mark Linville

In recent weeks, the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread to the university level, inspiring college students to voice their opinions to their administrations regarding tuition increase, and financial aid decrease.

For decades, college students have protested many world issues through small means, using their campus as the medium for their voices to be heard.

During the Vietnam War, students all over the country protested the necessity of the war. Their protests were believed to be peaceful as an effort to counteract the less than peaceful approach of the U.S. government.

On May 4, 1970, students at Kent State University protested the Cambodian Incursion, an invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

Nearly 500 students spoke against President Richard Nixon and the government. Over the course of four days the students called to “bring the war home.”

However, the students were met with adversity from Kent State officials and police. The Ohio National Guard responded to end the protest.

On that day, police fired live rounds into the peaceful protestors, firing a total of 67 rounds, killing four students and injuring nine more.

On Nov. 10, 2011, protestors at the University of California at Berkeley staged an Occupy protest on the campus. Hundreds of students did just as the Kent State protestors did 41 years prior.

An Occupy encampment was set up to protest the cost of California’s Higher Education System.

Student guardsmen spoke their voice and come together by linking arms to create an unbreakable chain. The students claimed to be peaceful protestors. However, the Berkeley officials disagreed. Campus police responded to the crowd of students to break with physical force, shooting with bean bag guns and beating those who resisted with batons.

Another incident on Nov. 18 involving student protesters at the University of California at Davis had the same students vs. campus police conflict. Only this time, pepper spray was used to deter the students from their cause.

This event has sparked anger among students and faculty alike at UC Davis.

Students are demanding that campus police undergo sensitivity training and some faculty members are recommending that Chancellor Linda Katehi resign her post.

Marlene Robles, a student from UC Davis and protester, saw the use of pepper spray as excessive.

“When I saw the authorities use pepper spray on peaceful protesters I thought it was cruel and unnecessary,” Robles said. “They were already physically dismantling the arm link, which was working.”

Robles, who is active in the Occupy protests at Davis, says the initial goal was focused on the 81 percent fee hike by the University of California Regents for the next four years. “In the last two years that I’ve been at this school, student fees have already risen about 50 percent.” Robles said.

Even though the two incidents at Davis and Berkeley are similar, they both are being handled differently by officials.

At Berkeley, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau does not support the students. He stands by the university policy stating “Any activities such as pulling fire alarms, occupying buildings, setting up encampments, graffiti, or other destructive actions that disrupt with anyone’s ability to conduct regular activities — go to class, study, carry out their research, etc. – will not be tolerated.”

Davis Chancellor Katehi is more sympathetic towards the students who were brutalized by police.

“The use of pepper spray as shown on the video is chilling to us all and raises many questions about how best to handle situations like this,” Katehi said in a statement.

Robles confirmed that Katehi addressed student concerns at a rally held in the quad on Nov. 21.

“She said that she took all responsibility for what happened that day and she offered an apology to students and parents,” Robles said.

Katehi pledged to take action to ensure that incidents like those at UC Davis and Berkeley do not happen again.

“I feel very sorry for the harm our students were subjected to and I vow to work tirelessly to make the campus a more welcoming and safe place, and as Chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident,” Katehi told ABC News.

Similar to the Occupy Wall Street and encampments all over the world, the college sector is still unresolved.

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