Trade Unions

On the improper use of pepper spray

As a general rule I’m sympathetic to the rank-and-file cops assigned to police rowdy demonstrations, who are frequently called upon to keep their cool in the face of egregious provocations.

But I sure can’t justify the use of pepper spray on non-violent seated protesters, as happened at an Occupy demonstration at the University of California in Davis.

I was reminded of a video made by friends of mine in the 1990s about the A.E. Staley company’s lockout of union workers at their corn syrup manufacturing plant in Decatur, Illinois. (Although I was living in Israel at the time, I’ll take credit for introducing them to the music of Billy Bragg.) Unfortunately the lockout ultimately ended in a defeat for the union.

As you can see from the video, if you are a police officer assigned to remove peaceful sitdown demonstrators, there is a proper way (starting at 4:25) and a wrong way (starting at 7:13).

Too bad it happened before YouTube.

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