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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

#Occupy Bat Signal--We Are The 99%!

The Newt--the very person who began the destruction of the U.S. economy through his Contract With America bullshit, and pushed his moronic, drone-like Republican Congresspersons to support the abolishing of the Glass-Steagall Act, and the creation of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, has now been show that the Great Unwashed Protesters, who need good jobs, are a whole lot smarter than this reptile running for president!!

What is so disconcerting is that we have complete fakes running on the GOP side for president, and Democrats have a complete failure running on their side.

Where are the competent choices?

Obama lied his way to the top, and the GOP have been lying for decades!

Poet Laurette of the United States, Robert Haas, reports on the neo-fascist Brown Shirts beating him during a protest.

This is happening on Obama's watch. He is silent and missing in action.


As reported in the NYT Sunday:


Poet-Bashing Police

: November 19, 2011 By ROBERT HASS  Berkeley, Calif.

They swung hard into their chests and bellies. Particularly shocking to me — it must be a generational reaction — was that they assaulted both the young men and the young women with the same indiscriminate force. If the students turned away, they pounded their ribs. If they turned further away to escape, they hit them on their spines.NONE of the police officers invited us to disperse or gave any warning. We couldn’t have dispersed if we’d wanted to because the crowd behind us was pushing forward...

LIFE, I found myself thinking as a line of Alameda County deputy sheriffs in Darth Vader riot gear formed a cordon in front of me on a recent night on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, is full of strange contingencies.  The deputy sheriffs, all white men, except for one young woman, perhaps Filipino, who was trying to look severe but looked terrified, had black truncheons in their gloved hands that reporters later called batons and that were known, in the movies of my childhood, as billy clubs.
The first contingency that came to mind was the quick spread of the Occupy movement. The idea of occupying public space was so appealing that people in almost every large city in the country had begun to stake them out, including students at Berkeley, who, on that November night, occupied the public space in front of Sproul Hall, a gray granite Beaux-Arts edifice that houses the registrar’s offices and, in the basement, the campus police department.
It is also the place where students almost 50 years ago touched off the Free Speech Movement, which transformed the life of American universities by guaranteeing students freedom of speech and self-governance. The steps are named for Mario Savio, the eloquent undergraduate student who was the symbolic face of the movement. There is even a Free Speech Movement Cafe on campus where some of Mr. Savio’s words are prominently displayed: “There is a time ... when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part.” 
Earlier that day a colleague had written to say that the campus police had moved in to take down the Occupy tents and that students had been “beaten viciously.” I didn’t believe it. In broad daylight? And without provocation? So when we heard that the police had returned, my wife, Brenda Hillman, and I hurried to the campus. I wanted to see what was going to happen and how the police behaved, and how the students behaved. If there was trouble, we wanted to be there to do what we could to protect the students.
Once the cordon formed, the deputy sheriffs pointed their truncheons toward the crowd. It looked like the oldest of military maneuvers, a phalanx out of the Trojan War, but with billy clubs instead of spears. The students were wearing scarves for the first time that year, their cheeks rosy with the first bite of real cold after the long Californian Indian summer. The billy clubs were about the size of a boy’s Little League baseball bat. My wife was speaking to the young deputies about the importance of nonviolence and explaining why they should be at home reading to their children, when one of the deputies reached out, shoved my wife in the chest and knocked her down.
Another of the contingencies that came to my mind was a moment 30 years ago when Ronald Reagan’s administration made it a priority to see to it that people like themselves, the talented, hardworking people who ran the country, got to keep the money they earned. Roosevelt’s New Deal had to be undealt once and for all. A few years earlier, California voters had passed an amendment freezing the property taxes that finance public education and installing a rule that required a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature to raise tax revenues. My father-in-law said to me at the time, “It’s going to take them 50 years to really see the damage they’ve done.” But it took far fewer than 50 years.
My wife bounced nimbly to her feet. I tripped and almost fell over her trying to help her up, and at that moment the deputies in the cordon surged forward and, using their clubs as battering rams, began to hammer at the bodies of the line of students. It was stunning to see. They swung hard into their chests and bellies. Particularly shocking to me — it must be a generational reaction — was that they assaulted both the young men and the young women with the same indiscriminate force. If the students turned away, they pounded their ribs. If they turned further away to escape, they hit them on their spines.
NONE of the police officers invited us to disperse or gave any warning. We couldn’t have dispersed if we’d wanted to because the crowd behind us was pushing forward to see what was going on. The descriptor for what I tried to do is “remonstrate.” I screamed at the deputy who had knocked down my wife, “You just knocked down my wife, for Christ’s sake!” A couple of students had pushed forward in the excitement and the deputies grabbed them, pulled them to the ground and cudgeled them, raising the clubs above their heads and swinging. The line surged. I got whacked hard in the ribs twice and once across the forearm. Some of the deputies used their truncheons as bars and seemed to be trying to use minimum force to get people to move. And then, suddenly, they stopped, on some signal, and reformed their line. Apparently a group of deputies had beaten their way to the Occupy tents and taken them down. They stood, again immobile, clubs held across their chests, eyes carefully meeting no one’s eyes, faces impassive. I imagined that their adrenaline was surging as much as mine.
My ribs didn’t hurt very badly until the next day and then it hurt to laugh, so I skipped the gym for a couple of mornings, and I was a little disappointed that the bruises weren’t slightly more dramatic. It argued either for a kind of restraint or a kind of low cunning in the training of the police. They had hit me hard enough so that I was sore for days, but not hard enough to leave much of a mark. I wasn’t so badly off. One of my colleagues, also a poet, Geoffrey O’Brien, had a broken rib. Another colleague, Celeste Langan, a Wordsworth scholar, got dragged across the grass by her hair when she presented herself for arrest.
I won’t recite the statistics, but the entire university system in California is under great stress and the State Legislature is paralyzed by a minority of legislators whose only idea is that they don’t want to pay one more cent in taxes. Meanwhile, students at Berkeley are graduating with an average indebtedness of something like $16,000. It is no wonder that the real estate industry started inventing loans for people who couldn’t pay them back.
“Whose university?” the students had chanted. Well, it is theirs, and it ought to be everyone else’s in California. It also belongs to the future, and to the dead who paid taxes to build one of the greatest systems of public education in the world.
The next night the students put the tents back up. Students filled the plaza again with a festive atmosphere. And lots of signs. (The one from the English Department contingent read “Beat Poets, not beat poets.”) A week later, at 3:30 a.m., the police officers returned in force, a hundred of them, and told the campers to leave or they would be arrested. All but two moved. The two who stayed were arrested, and the tents were removed. On Thursday afternoon when I returned toward sundown to the steps to see how the students had responded, the air was full of balloons, helium balloons to which tents had been attached, and attached to the tents was kite string. And they hovered over the plaza, large and awkward, almost lyrical, occupying the air.
Robert Hass is a professor of poetry and poetics at the University of California, Berkeley, and former poet laureate of the United States.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 20, 2011
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to Mario Savio, a spokesman for the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the 1960s. He was an undergraduate student, not a graduate student.
Taking to the Streets

The Battles of Occupy Portland

For those who were there, November 13th will be a day long remembered in Portland, Oregon. Occupy Portland again proved why it remains the 2nd strongest Occupy movement in the U.S. when it mobilized against police eviction. Instead of the Occupiers being evicted it was the police who were sent home demoralized.

The following morning, however, the police again moved in to evict the mostly-emptied camp, and again thousands of protesters arrived to protest. As this article is being written there remain thousands of protesters in downtown Portland trying to decide their next occupation spot with hundreds of riot police nearby. Although the original occupied park is now surrounded by a fence and hundreds of riot police, the movement has been strengthened exponentially after the stunning victory the previous night and energetic re-mobilization the following morning which grew throughout the day.
The Mayor, police, and the local 1% had set the stage to justify police violence while scaring the public away from the downtown occupation spot before the eviction; radio stations warned listeners to “stay away from downtown,” businesses closed their doors early for “fear of violence,” the media shamefully reported stories without sources about people from “out of town” coming to Portland with violent intent. The ultra-peaceful protest that ensued made a mockery of these lies from Portland’s 1%.
The eviction order was to begin at midnight, but there were 7,000 plus people already assembled to prevent it. The police tried to wait the protesters out. Hours later the Mayor got impatient and made mistake number two. The riot police were sent in to provoke a riot; mounted police and foot soldiers slammed themselves into the very peaceful crowd, to no avail. They were swarmed by thousands of people unafraid, and the police retreated. The crowd roared with ecstasy.
There were other scare tactics employed; loud speakers announced the use of “chemical agents” to clear the streets, but the police had already lost their nerve. The jubilant protesters stayed in the streets until the sun rose, just to make sure the police didn’t try any more tricks (though the tricks came hours later).
The now-humiliated Portland Mayor had given the occupy camp a 48-hour eviction notice on November 11th, having been pressured by the Portland Business Association and now-humbled Police Chief into action.
The reason the Mayor hadn’t acted before is that he is much more politically astute than the police chief and understood the power of the Occupy Movement. In Portland there have been three very large demonstrations that had immense popular support. But the usually savvy Mayor miscalculated and attempted to strike prematurely. Now he has provoked a strong reaction, pumping new energy into the movement.
Why did the Mayor finally decide to act? Aside from pressure from his corporate and police buddies, he watched the development of the Occupy Movement closely and waited for public support to wane. The Mayor saw the Occupy demonstrations dwindle in size, due in large part to the fracturing of the Occupy demonstrations into the pre-Occupy dynamic of issue-based activism that has long infected the left.
For example, several marches were held every week, each organized around a different issue: there was an anti-coal march; anti-police brutality march; diversity march; anti-pipeline march, etc. There were also several cases of small groups or individuals practicing civil disobedience.
The Mayor’s confidence bloomed in direct proportion to the shrinking sizes of the marches and actions.
The Mayor’s confidence was warranted, and so were the fears of the Occupiers, many of whom had already packed their tents and left. The kitchen, library, media center, and everything else of value were plucked from the camp in anticipation of the eviction, (this aided the police the following morning when the camp was finally evicted). The Occupy leaders seemed aware that they had lost touch with Portland’s working class.
In fact, the Occupiers did not even issue a strong “call to action” in defense of the camp, nor was the pre-eviction day of events organized in a way that would mobilize massive numbers. There was a noon rally, 2pm march, 5pm rally, 7pm festival — none of which were well attended.
After the community festival drew only a couple hundred people, most activists — including myself — thought the camp was lost. At the last hour, seemingly out of nowhere, thousands of people came streaming into the streets. They came not because the organizers of Occupy Portland had reached out to them effectively in the preceding weeks, but because they understood the basic issues that the movement represented, that of working people versus the wealthy and corporations.
Occupy Portland has been given a reprieve by working people, but it must learn from the above mistakes. “We are the 99%” is a powerful uniting slogan, but the various issue-based activism of years past directly contradict the uniting principles of the larger Occupy Movement. Most of the issue-based activists have not yet realized their ideas are not those that the 99% view as most important. The attempt at trying to re-assert their organizing around a hundred separate left issues, most of which working people know very little about, has fallen flat.
The Occupy Movement will be crushed if the demands being fought for do not connect with working people. A key characteristic of any powerful social movement is the appearance of successive, large demonstrations that draw in new layers of working people, students, and the elderly. The average working person feels impelled to join such a movement because they see their own interests reflected in the movement, and once they join they learn that their interests are the same as those of the others involved.
Massive demonstrations also inspire people because they instinctively know that in huge numbers their power is multiplied, making the demands winnable. Consistently large demonstrations are only possible when they are organized around a few demands that are of most concern to all working people.
There remain only a few issues that have the potential to galvanize the larger working class into the streets and to keep them there. They are the issues that Democrats and Republicans refuse to embrace, but are issues that nevertheless represent a major social crisis affecting hundreds of millions of the 99%. The Occupy Movement must make these issues their cause: a massive jobs program and no cuts to social programs — including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, all to be paid for by massively taxing the rich and corporations. In fact, the only visible signs at the recent Portland demonstration called for Jobs and Taxing the Rich.
The Occupy Movement will not withstand another period of demonstrations based on a laundry list of issues that do not, at this time, resonate with the vast majority of the 99%. This will only result in the pre-Occupy, leftist based politics of splintered interests, with each group pursuing its own predetermined agenda without a vision of a mass movement of the great majority. Occupy Portland was saved by a massive outpouring of people and needs to keep the majority of working people in mind at every step of the movement from now on.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist and writer for Workers Action (
Occupation on the Move

Portland Stands Up

Faced with a 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning eviction from the three city parks occupied for more than a month, Occupy Portland and its city supporters turned out in mass Saturday night and well into Sunday morning.  At their height around the midnight deadline, crowds swelled to over 6,000 strong.  This massive turnout came despite a police led fear campaign, in which reports were circulated via the local media claiming police “intelligence” indicating an influx of 150 out of town “anarchists” coming into the city for a violent confrontation.
When I first arrived at the occupied parks at 9:30 Saturday night, the encampments were noticeably thinned from just days earlier.  Given that Mayor Sam Adams (who claims “support” for the Occupy movement) ordered the eviction in part to “clean” the parks so as to be able to reopen them to the “public,” campers had worked through the day to clean the parks themselves.  This left substantially fewer tents erected within the parks.  And as I traversed further through the camp, and a driving and chilling rain, I found only a few hundred occupiers gathered for an open mic.  This all left the initial impression that the camp would likely fall soon after the eviction deadline lapsed.
But as the evening progressed, the crowds slowly began to mount.  In fact, as it progressed past 11:00 p.m., the parks filled to capacity.  At that point it was clear that the discussions and demonstrations ongoing on how best to resist arrest would not be immediately needed.  Buoyed by arriving peace activists, encircling bicyclists, and others expressing solidarity with Occupy Portland, the crowds spilled out of the parks and onto the adjacent blocks.  And as the 12:01 a.m. expulsion deadline neared, crowds eagerly chanted the final countdown, creating an atmosphere more akin to New Year’s Eve.
By 2:00 a.m., with the crowds still in the thousands, riot police began to move on the occupiers.  Mounted patrolmen accompanied by the threat of teargas were employed in an effort to push the crowds out of the streets and back into the parks.  But after a thirty-minute standoff and isolated skirmishes, the police pulled back and the crowds filled into the streets surrounding the parks.  In the wake of the retreating armored police, drum circles formed, as protesters jubilantly danced to chants of “Whose streets?  Our streets.”
By 5:00 am—the normal opening time of the city’s parks—thousands still remained on the streets, creating barricades and holding protective lines against the police.  And within a little less than an hour, the police had retreated fully from the streets, leaving the protesters to dismantle their barricades and triumphantly return to the occupied parks to chants of: “What does victory look like?  This is what victory looks like.”  Walking through the parks, I could see new tents being erected and energized campers working on a further cleaning of the park.
By midday, however, the police had returned to the parks in force.  Interrupting a general assembly meeting, riot police slowly forced all occupiers out of the parks with shoves and the interspersed baton strike.  Soon the encampments in all three parks were cleared of campers.  The raid left more than 50 protesters arrested.  (But as is always the case, police were uncertain of exactly how many people they had managed to detain during the day).  At least one protester was taken to the hospital after sustaining blows to the chest from a police truncheon.
As word spread of the midday police action, hundreds of protesters returned to the park blocks.  Growing to a thousand or more, the protesters settled into an occupation of a street block just west of the cleared parks for the next several hours.  A general assembly meeting was then held in the blocked street, as the riot police in formation mere feet away repeatedly broadcast calls threatening teargas and arrest.  Debated followed over whether to seek to hold onto the street, or regroup at another location.  As dusk fell, the protesters agreed to leave the street and march to an adjacent city square, with many expressing interest in ultimately moving to the campus of Portland State University.
Although necessitated by the afternoon police action, the discussion over the next phase of the struggle and movement had begun prior to Sunday.  Multiple occupiers had already begun to express an interest in staging future occupations of vacant buildings, as has been seen in other Occupy movements across the country.  In addition, discussion and planning was also underway on the national day of action this coming Thursday, in which attempts will be made to occupy commercial banks.
Thus, although ultimately cleared out of their encampments, Occupy Portland demonstrated its continuing relevance as a vibrant and powerful movement.  For if nothing else, the battle Saturday night and early Sunday morning confirmed that the movement has strong support within the city and is more than capable of mobilizing sizable masses to stymie police action.  Beyond question then, Occupy Portland will continue to be a force in the national Occupy movement.
Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon.  He may be reached at

Protesters Have the Right to Protest … and to Resist Unlawful Arrest

Top Military Commander and Courts Support Right to Protest

In response to comments from those supporting the police crackdowns on peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional rights but violating local ordinances (see comments here), reader Purplemuse writes:
The Constitution supersedes local ordinances that are being used to OBSTRUCT 1st Amendment Rights. The camping ITSELF is in order to MAKE A STATEMENT – a First Amendment Right. Protesters are not camping because it is fun to expose yourself to the elements and hardship and you want to roast wienies and marshmallows and drink beer while swapping ghost stories.
Would you listen to Colin Powell, retired four-star general in the United States Army, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989), as Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993) when he says, “It isn’t enough just to scream at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. We need our political system to start reflecting this anger back into, ‘How do we fix it? How do we get the economy going again?’” He also states that the Occupy Wall Street Protests are “As American as Apple Pie.”
Does he go on to qualify his statement by saying, “as long as they obey local (misdemeanor) ordinances. No, he does not. He actually goes on to say that he “gets” it.
If a man, well above your rank, that you’d likely drop everything to stand up in a room to honor, “gets” that peaceful protests, by design (that’s why they are referred to as ‘civil disobedience’) infringe on ordinances and make the public uncomfortable in order to be heard, are as American as Apple Pie; do you think you could set your fear of disobedience aside long enough to defend those protesters against physical harm for exercising those American as Apple Pie Rights? If you can’t than I think you need to join the ranks of officers who simply “do as they are told” and jab petite women in the spleen with billy clubs (as in Berkeley) in order to incite a riot. (BTW: They did not succeed, Berkeley stood firm in determined peace).
(Watch Powell’s statement here).
It is every citizen’s duty to resist false arrest
There is no such crime as “resisting arrest.” This is a fictitious crime dreamed up by law enforcement to accuse a citizen of a crime when they refuse to surrender to the illegal demands of the police.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on numerous occasions that resisting a false arrest is not merely a citizen’s right, but his duty! In fact, the Supreme Court has gone so far as to rule that if a law enforcement officer is killed as a result of actions stemming from a citizen’s attempts to defend themselves against a false arrest, it is the fault of the officer, not the citizen.
Here’s a short collection of relevant court rulings on false arrest and resisting arrest:
“When a person, being without fault, is in a place where he has a right to be, is violently assaulted, he may, without retreating, repel by force, and if, in the reasonable exercise of his right of self defense, his assailant is killed, he is justified.” Runyan v. State, 57 Ind. 80; Miller v. State, 74 Ind. 1.
“These principles apply as well to an officer attempting to make an arrest, who abuses his authority and transcends the bounds thereof by the use of unnecessary force and violence, as they do to a private individual who unlawfully uses such force and violence.” Jones v. State, 26 Tex. App. I; Beaverts v. State, 4 Tex. App. 1 75; Skidmore v. State, 43 Tex. 93, 903.
“An illegal arrest is an assault and battery. The person so attempted to be restrained of his liberty has the same right to use force in defending himself as he would in repelling any other assault and battery.” (State v. Robinson, 145 ME. 77, 72 ATL. 260).
“Each person has the right to resist an unlawful arrest. In such a case, the person attempting the arrest stands in the position of a wrongdoer and may be resisted by the use of force, as in self- defense.” (State v. Mobley, 240 N.C. 476, 83 S.E. 2d 100).
Do individuals have the right to come to the aid of another citizens being falsely arrested? You bet they do. As another court case ruled:
“One may come to the aid of another being unlawfully arrested, just as he may where one is being assaulted, molested, raped or kidnapped. Thus it is not an offense to liberate one from the unlawful custody of an officer, even though he may have submitted to such custody, without resistance.” (Adams v. State, 121 Ga. 16, 48 S.E. 910).
And on the issue of actually killing an arresting officer in self defense:
“Citizens may resist unlawful arrest to the point of taking an arresting officer’s life if necessary.” Plummer v. State, 136 Ind. 306. This premise was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case: John Bad Elk v. U.S., 177 U.S. 529.
I believe that violence discredits the entire protest movement.  I therefore hope that the protesters remain peaceful, even when confronted with unlawful arrests. However, as David points out, the police have no right to make unlawful arrests in the first place.

The Use of Pepper Spray On Peaceful Protesters Is Illegal … And Can Seriously Injure Or Kill

While everyone knows that the use by police on peaceful protesters is brutal, many don’t realize it is illegal … and can cause lasting damage.

Pepper Spray Can Seriously Injure … Or Kill

The ACLU reported in 1995:
“An Army study concluded that pepper spray’s active ingredient, “is capable of producing carcinogenic effects, sensitization, cardiovascular toxicity, as well as possible human fatalities.”
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Duke University found that pepper spray could “produce adverse cardiac, respiratory, and neurologic effects, including arrhythmias and sudden death.”
Wikipedia notes:
For those with asthma, taking other drugs, or subject to restraining techniques which restrict the breathing passages, there is a risk of death. The Los Angeles Times has reported at least 61 deaths associated with police use of pepper spray since 1990 in the USA. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) documented 27 people in police custody who died after exposure to pepper spray in California since 1993. However, the ACLU report counts any death occurring within hours of exposure to pepper spray. In all 27 cases, the coroners’ report listed other factors as the primary cause of death, though in some cases the use of pepper spray may have been a contributing factor.
The US Army concluded in a 1993 Aberdeen Proving Ground study that pepper spray could cause “[m]utagenic effects, carcinogenic effects, sensitization, cardiovascular and pulmonary toxicity, neurotoxicity, as well as possible human fatalities. There is a risk in using this product on a large and varied population”. However, the pepper spray was widely approved in the US despite the reservations of the US military scientists after it passed FBI tests in 1991. As of 1999, it was in use by more than 2000 public safety agencies.
The head of the FBI’s Less-Than-Lethal Weapons Program at the time of the 1991 study, Special Agent Thomas W. W. Ward, was fired by the FBI and was sentenced to two months in prison for receiving payments from a peppergas manufacturer while conducting and authoring the FBI study that eventually approved pepper spray for FBI use. Prosecutors said that from December 1989 through 1990, Ward received about $5,000 a month for a total of $57,500, from Luckey Police Products, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company that was a major producer and supplier of pepper spray. The payments were paid through a Florida company owned by Ward’s wife.
Pepper spray has been associated with positional asphyxiation of individuals in police custody. There is much debate over the actual “cause” of death in these cases. There have been few controlled clinical studies of the human health effects of pepper spray marketed for police use, and those studies are contradictory. Some studies have found no harmful effects beyond the effects described above.
Direct close-range spray can cause more serious eye irritation by attacking the cornea with a concentrated stream of liquid (the so-called “hydraulic needle” effect).
Pulitzer-Prize winning science writer Deborah Blum writes today in Scientific American:
One hundred years ago, an American pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville developed a scale to measure the intensity of a pepper’s burn. The scale … puts sweet bell peppers at the zero mark and the blistering habanero at up to 350,000 Scoville Units.
Commercial grade pepper spray leaves even the most painful of natural peppers (the Himalayan ghost pepper) far behind. It’s listed at between 2 million and 5.3 million Scoville units. The lower number refers to the kind of pepper spray that you and I might be able to purchase for self-protective uses. And the higher number? It’s the kind of spray that police use, the super-high dose given in the orange-colored spray used at UC-Davis.
As pointed out in the 2004 paper, Health Hazards of Pepper Spray, written by health researchers at the University of North Carolina and Duke University, the sprays contain other risky materials….
The more worrisome effects have to do with inhalation – and by some reports, California university police officers deliberately put OC spray down protestors throats. Capsaicins inflame the airways, causing swelling and restriction. And this means that pepper sprays pose a genuine risk to people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.
And by genuine risk, I mean a known risk, a no-surprise any police department should know this risk, easy enough to find in the scientific literature. To cite just three examples here:
1) Pepper Spray Induced Respiratory Failure Treated with Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation
2) Assessing the incapacitative effects of pepper spray during resistive encounters with the police.
3) The Human Health Effects of Pepper Spray.
That second paper is from a law enforcement journal. And the summary for that last paper notes: Studies of the effects of capsaicin on human physiology, anecdotal experience with field use of pepper spray, and controlled exposure of correctional officers in training have shown adverse effects on the lungs, larynx, middle airway, protective reflexes, and skin. Behavioral and mental health effects also may occur if pepper spray is used abusively.
Pepper spray use has been suspected of contributing to a number of deaths that occurred in police custody. In mid-1990s, the U.S. Department of Justice cited nearly 70 fatalities linked to pepper-spray use, following on a 1995 report compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union of California. The ACLU report cited 26 suspicious deaths; it’s important to note that most involved pre-existing conditions such as asthma. But it’s also important to note a troubling pattern.
In fact, in 1999, the ACLU asked the California appeals court to declare the use of pepper spray to be dangerous and cruel. That request followed an action by northern California police officers against environmental protestors – the police were accused of dipping Q-tips into OC spray and applying them directly to the eyes of men and women engaged in an anti-logging protest.
“The ACLU believes that the use of pepper spray as a kind of chemical cattle prod on nonviolent demonstrators resisting arrest constitutes excessive force and violates the Constitution,” wrote association attorneys some 13 years ago.

The Use of Pepper Spray Is Illegal

The use of pepper spray in war is banned by the Geneva Convention.
It is also illegal in the circumstances it was used in Seattle and Davis. As Daily Kos notes:
Non-violent protesters may sue police and the municipality of county that employs them under this Federal law, 42 United States Code Section 1983if they have been pepper sprayed while peacefully protesting, whether or not the protesters were arrested.
Here’s the language of the law in question:
§ 1983. Civil action for deprivation of rights
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.
The use of pepper spay by law enforcement against non-violent protestors has been found to be a violation of of the 4th amendment rights of the protesters in the case ofLundberg v. Humboldt, which is the controlling precedent in the 9th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over any cases brought against the police for their actions in Seattle and Oakland. In its 2001 opinion regarding the Lundberg case, the 9th Circuit held that non-violent protestors who did not present a threat to the safety of the public or to law enforcement officials, even though they had committed the misdemeanor offense of trespass, could sue the governmental authorities and law enforcement officials who had pepper sprayed them, reversing the trial court’s decision to dismiss the case on the basis that the authorities had “limited immunity” to violate the civil rights of individuals engaged in non-violent civil disobedience.
The use of pepper spray against non-violent protestors who pose no threat to police or to the public, has been deemed grounds for legal action against the police under Section 1983 for a violation of your 4th amendment rights.
I strongly suggest to anyone who was pepper sprayed, beaten with batons or otherwise assaulted by the police in Oakland and Seattle that you consult with a lawyer, either with the ACLU, National Layers’ Guild or a private attorney specializing in lawsuits based on civil rights violations and police abuse and use of excessive force. It seems clear to me that the 9th Circuit precedent would allow lawsuits against the authorities who used pepper spray and other “pain compliance techniques” used against OWS protesters and bystanders to proceed without any argument by the authorities of qualified immunity from litigation based on their brutal acts of unnecessary violence.
University of California Police are not authorized to use pepper spray except in circumstances in which it is necessary to prevent physical injury to themselves or others.
From the University of California’s Universitywide Police Policies and Administrative Procedures: “Chemical agents are weapons used to minimize the potential for injury to officers, offenders, or other persons. They should only be used in situations where such force reasonably appears justified and necessary.”
… UC police are not authorized to use physical force except to control violent offenders or keep suspects from escaping.
Another quote from the UC’s policing policy: “Arrestees and suspects shall be treated in a humane manner … they shall not be subject to physical force except as required to subdue violence or ensure detention. No officer shall strike an arrestee or suspect except in self-defense, to prevent an escape, or to prevent injury to another person.”

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