Letter to the editor: authority versus free speech

The Aggie Pepper Spray Affair: There Has to Be a Better Way

by Janet Carle

Lee Vining, CA


With great sadness I watched peacefully protesting students being coated with pepper spray on the quad of the University of California at Davis, my alma mater. Fond memories of biking through the leafy campus clashed with the video pictures. The image of UC Davis may forever be etched in the public consciousness as the college where the cops sprayed the students.

As an alumni, I understand the need of UCD’s administration to maintain order and public safety.

As a retired park ranger and peace officer, I understand the desire of the campus police force to follow orders, exact compliance and maintain an exit strategy.

As a mother of two twenty-something young men (one a UC graduate) searching for their places in the world, I understand the students’ frustration over steadily rising tuition fees, a sagging job market, and dimming hopes for their futures.

And I had just re-watched the film Gandhi the night before.

What, exactly, was the problem, anyway? UCD administrators had ordered the UCD police to remove about 25 tents and a cooking area from the campus quad. Why was this so important?

We’ve heard it all before from other “Occupy” encampments— issues of sanitation, blocking businesses and traffic flow, killing grass and trees, trash, etc.

But it is really all about authority and power.

“Occupation” is something out of the ordinary. It makes some people uncomfortable. It gets on the local news. It brings a visual, visceral discontent out in the open for all to see. It protests a small number of people having money, power— and authority. When peaceful students are pepper sprayed, batons are drawn, people are dragged away under arrest— the protest is spectacularly validated and inflamed.

What if UCD had simply put up some portable toilets, roped off the big trees and flower beds, and respectfully let the students have their say? Limited public funds can be used for toilets and trash pickup as well as police overtime and jail processing.

Perhaps small bits of our common lands should serve as stages for free speech and non-violent protest. Many people are feeling disenfranchised, frustrated and angry. The “occupy” movement has given a voice and a place to this frustration. A venue to vent, to exchange ideas , to look for a better way — it helps us all in the end. Litter can be collected, grass can be re-seeded, sewage can be pumped. But frustration and discontent will not go away when the tents come down.

Gandhi understood this as India struggled against the British Empire.

Remember how that one came out.


Janet Carle

760-647-6431 (home)

760-709-1162 (cell)


PO Box 39

Lee Vining, CA 93541


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17 Responses to Letter to the editor: authority versus free speech

  1. snow show November 24, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    the police state is here

    THEY are the 10 percent

  2. Bobbie Lee Swagger November 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Nah. You can’t have a group of transients, permanent or otherwise, camped out on public property. This is especially so on a college campus with so many young, vulnerable people about. America, sadly, is a dangerous country and schools and cities have an of obligation to (try to) safeguard their students and inhabitants. There are unstable and dark elements mixed in with Occupy. I can only imagine the outrage if a student was attacked on the way to class; “Where were the police?” would be the cry as the law suits started flying.

  3. dean November 28, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    Bobbie Lee Swagger:

    Students were attacked by the police officers sent there to protect them. Who, exactly, were the police officers protecting in this situation? The “young, vulnerable” people who were sprayed?

    Per the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the legal standard for using Pepper Spray is the SAME as deploying a taser. If you think tasing, or pepper spraying, a seated person who is not acting aggressively or endangering others is an acceptable use of force on the state’s part then you live in an alternate reality. A very frightening alternate reality.

    The truth is that Janet is onto something. These protests do make people uncomfortable. Political speech often does cause discomfort. That does not mean it is acceptable for the state to use it’s monopoly on violence to suppress speech or non-speech actions.

    I guess you think that the British should have killed Ghandi when he stood up, or that the National Guard should have fired on the Sit-Downers instead of protecting them from the thugs with badges? What about Rosa Parks?

    I don’t agree with all of the “Occupy” message but I will NEVER argue to reduce our collective rights because a message or its mode of peaceful delivery makes me uncomfortable. Your argument creates a slippery slope toward a totalitarian state – if these largely peaceful protesters are a sufficient danger to require suppression by the might of the state then we are in a dire situation indeed.

    Please tone down the rhetoric and start examining the messages. Shoot, you might even agree with Occupy’s first major goal: campaign finance reform.

    The Department of Homeland Security was involved in the national suppression of the Occupy movement. That is, personally, terrifying. What about the “Occupy” group is such a danger to the “homeland” that DHS needs to become involved? Are they stomping too many flower beds?

    • Bobbie Lee Swagger November 29, 2011 at 7:13 am #

      Nice try in attempting to equate “Occupy” with the civil rights and Indian independence movements.

      • dean November 29, 2011 at 10:44 am #

        You’re sounding a bit like Senator McCarthy.

        Are we a country where we can respectfully have a disagreement about our ideology or are we a country where all people who disagree with you, or do things differently than you, should be beaten and arrested?

        It really can’t go both ways.

        I’m arguing in favor of civil discourse and open dialogue. What are you arguing in favor of?

  4. employed November 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Occupy can’t be 90% or 99% or whatever they claim to be, because they aren’t exactly leaving their little campouts to go to work. So who are all these people who can afford to sit around and do nothing for weeks on end? They sure don’t represent me and most of the people I know. I think they should call themselves PMM, Poor Me Movement. Nothing’s their fault, bad mortgage not because of personal stupidity and greed, its Wall Street’s fault. College degree but no job? Not because you majored in a dumb subject instead of learning a valuable trade. Credit card debt? Not because you’re a fool who lives beyond your means! Wall street may have helped but you all greased your own track to get where you are. Camp out until you get typhoid or something, but stay away from me.

    • Wayne Deja November 29, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

      employed…What you say is so true….Being a liberal myself,people I know think that automatically means I am in favor of this so called”movement”….but that is far from the truth.I see a bunch of unemployed people blaming everyone for what they don’t have.And like you say,probably because of bad decisions THEY have made in their lives.It isn’t a “cause” they are fighting for.Speaking for myself,with the jobs I have and money I make,if I had big credit card debt,a new truck,fancy house ,and lived way beyond my means,I would be in a lot of trouble in this day and age.We will all see how this turns out…My bet is after these protesters are removed,probably with force,we’ll see lots of law-suits and attempts at free-money coming soon.

    • dean November 30, 2011 at 11:22 am #


      I am a college educated, well-compensated, professional. I consider myself to be, at least, in solidarity with the Occupy movement.

      Most of the people at the Occupy encampments I have visited aren’t asking for free handouts and flowers for everyone. The people I speak with are generally looking for a more just and equitable society. Many of them are looking to “turn back the clock” on wealth distribution about 50 years – to what it was after World War II.

      The economic standing of the average American during that period was substantially better than that the standing of the average American now. For instance, in 1965 the average CEO earned 24.2 times what the average production worker earned. In 2009 the average CEO earned 185.3 times what the average production worker earned.

      Another way to look at that is that, in the last 44 years, the average CEO has eliminated 161.1 average production worker positions and bolstered their own pay by an equal amount. Real median household income increased by $4,000 over the past 30 years. During that same period (1979 – 2009) the CEO pay ratio went from 36:1 to 185:1 – an increase of five fold.

      My argument is not that hard working, dedicated, and exceptional workers do not deserve to earn their fare share. They do. There’s a difference between a hard-working, dedicated, average production worker and the average CEO.

      Personally, I doubt that you are the average CEO. You might be the average production worker or slightly better.

      How many bank executives have been brought up on charges, prosecuted, and imprisoned, for orchestrating one of the greatest transfers of public wealth to private individuals in known history?

      As a young person who was “raised proper”, is college educated, generally debt free, and has their financial ducks in a row I am personally frightened by the future of this country if wealth stratification continues in the direction it is now.

      We all deserve the prospect of a bright future but right now the American Dream is just that – a dream – for most people in this country. I want everyone to have a shot at what I am enjoying right now. Why shouldn’t I?

      CEO pay Source: http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/charts/view/17
      Real median source: http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/charts/view/23

  5. employed November 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    PS: There has always been “a small number of people wielding money, power, and authority”, and maybe the Mono Lake visitor center and the Tufa reserve should be opened for these squatters, and Tuolumne Meadows in the summer. Remember sewage can be pumped and trash picked up. Any people (Indians) resisting rule by an invader (British) has NOTHING to do with the Occupy movement. Do these people claim we are ruled by a foreign country? How does this compare?

    • dean November 30, 2011 at 11:37 am #


      This compares in a few important areas.

      First: the wealthiest individuals in this country are able to subvert the political process through the transfer of funds to political candidates. The “buying” of votes (from Democrats and Republican representatives alike) is widely acknowledged on both sides of the political aisle. Are you suddenly suggesting that substantial campaign contributions made by private parties to political candidates are always “no strings attached”?

      If my vote does not get me the same level of representation as a well-connected billionaire who donated $1,000,000 to a politician’s campaign through a PAC then our government is being ruled by a foreign entity – money. When is the last time you called your senator’s cell phone to set up a private lunch date to discuss your next business venture and what they can do to support it? When is the last time you paid $30,000 to eat dinner with George Bush or Barrack Obama?

      Money buys access to power in this country and is subverting our political system.

      Second: The Indian people weren’t invaded. They were occupied. They did not push back a British invasion – the British colonized India for cheap labor, salt, and textiles. The Indian people came to understand the systemic exploitation they were experiencing under the British and peacefully revolted.

      The Occupy Wall Street movement is born of a very similar realization – many people in America are working hard for an “American Dream” that cannot be achieved under current policy. Instead of being colonized by the British we are being colonized by corporations. Corporations that, under current law, have all of the same rights as citizens (including free speech) but are not held accountable for their failings. I saying that captures this sentiment well is: “I will believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.”

      When you hear OWS protesters saying “Banks for bailed out, we got sold out” what do you think they are saying? Why didn’t the federal government come and bail out your next door neighbor, saving their family from foreclosure and eviction, instead of the banks? Why were families, who are on the verge of “losing everything” not determined to be “too big to fail”? When banks were?

      Why did our government bail out corporations before citizens?

      Instead of attacking messengers please give the message a thorough evaluation, without bias, from a logical perspective. Come to your own conclusion. Strengthen that conclusion with facts.

      Please – whatever you do – do not let the national media tell you what to think.

      • John Barton November 30, 2011 at 9:16 pm #


        I have found most of the OWS positions to be way oversimplified which tells me that there is an althogether lack of knowledge of how and why things work the way they do.

        Just one example referred to: “banks were bailed out, we got sold out”.
        Banks were bailed out as a means of keeping the financial system as we know it from complete collapse (much attributed to outright panic or “run on the bank”) which would have been much more costly to taxpayers in the longrun to keep FDIC solvent than to provide short term loans to the institutions. This was a political gamble that historians and economists will forever debate.

        A mortgage on the other hand is a contractual, private agreement between a lender and a borrower. People somehow never understood that being a borrower means repaying the lender. Because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were gov’t agencies providing funds for borrowers, the gov’t (taxpayers) once again took it in the shorts to bailout the lenders. Why should homeowners get a gov’t (taxpayer) bailout when that was a voluntary purchase of a home? Big banks coercing borrowers to buy more than they can afford? People have buyers remorse and are looking to ol’ Uncle Sammy to tell them that they don’t need to take any responsibility for their bad investment decision.

        The American dream is still completely achievable. Will it be as easy for the next generation as the previous? Yes and no. The economy cycles just like our weather from year to year. Don’t spend more than you earn. I hope the gov’t will learn to do the same. In the meantime, the OWS political party is the new communist party and the attempt to swing the political pendulum in that direction will hopefully fail as realization that the moderating free market will normalize our life once again.

        • dean December 1, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

          John –

          Thank you for addressing my commentary in an intelligible manner and bringing forth topics for discussion as opposed to ad hominem attacks.

          Mortgages, as you suggested, are a private transaction between two parties. The company making the loan has an obligation to perform adequate due-diligence to ensure that the loans that they are making can reasonably be repaid by the borrower. This has historically included character references, proof of employment, and tangible evidence verifying the borrower’s income.

          You are again correct that economists and historians will debate if the intervention was appropriate, sufficient, or adequately carried out. No matter how those arguments turn out the salient fact is that the government intervened on behalf of businesses who made poor lending decisions and stood to fail because of their mistakes.

          Why should a private business who failed to adequately hedge against risk get a bail-out because they voluntarily gave a bad loan? No one held a gun to the lenders head. No one held a gun to the borrower’s head. Borrowers and lenders, together, made poor decisions. Either party could have said “No – this doesn’t smell right”. Neither did.

          Why should one party receive more favorable treatment from the government than the other? The government clearly recognized there was a problem and then proceeded to address only half of it.

          The government, in fact, has given trillions of dollars in bailouts to large financial institutions. Much of the money that was ostensibly purposed to help “under-water” borrowers was re-purposed by banks for further speculative investments. How is that appropriate?

          Occupy Wall Street is only the “New Communist” party in that soon there will be McCarthy-era witch hunts for people who have an opinion that does not support the official narrative. I want to see Att. Gen. Eric Holder prosecuting bankers, not asking neighbors to report one another for intellectual property theft.

          To address your “oversimplification” critique:

          Can you please detail how Occupy Wall Street’s stated goals of campaign finance reform and the re-enactment of Glass-Steagall are oversimplifications?

          • John Barton December 1, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

            Sure. Much of the Glass-Steagall Act (GSA) still remains intact. FDIC is a product of the GSA. The re-enactment of the GSA in effect, took place during the bailouts since in 1933 it acted in the same manner when the banking system was in crisis. The Congressional Research Service in 1987 wrote the following as arguments against preserving the Act (as written in 1987):

            1.Depository institutions will now operate in “deregulated” financial markets in which distinctions between loans, securities, and deposits are not well drawn. They are losing market shares to securities firms that are not so strictly regulated, and to foreign financial institutions operating without much restriction from the Act.
            2.Conflicts of interest can be prevented by enforcing legislation against them, and by separating the lending and credit functions through forming distinctly separate subsidiaries of financial firms.
            3.The securities activities that depository institutions are seeking are both low-risk by their very nature and would reduce the total risk of organizations offering them – by diversification.
            4.In much of the rest of the world, depository institutions operate simultaneously and successfully in both banking and securities markets. Lessons learned from their experience can be applied to our national financial structure and regulation.

            Interestingly enough, Clinton signed in the Gramm, Leech and Bliley bill which repealed the GSA!. The Volcker Rule in 2010 was as close as we’ve come to reinstating the GSA except Volcker himself later said he was NOT in favor of a return of the GSA.

            As far as campaign finance reform, there is no solutions or proposals that I’ve seen out of OWS that would have any meaningful impact on reform. A wolf in sheeps clothing can get elected with or without ethical support and financing. Since we don’t live in the land of lollipops and rainbows, greed and self promotion will rule the day in politics with special interests alway wiggling their way in. If it’s not money upfront, it will be the promise of big kick backs later if legislation is pushed through…

      • employed December 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

        Why don’t you share your “professional” earnings and savings with your neighbor so they won’t get foreclosed on. Charity should be voluntary, not forced by government legislation. I, on the other hand, do not have enough (on my production workers salary) to share with people who are stupid or lazy and therefore in financial trouble. For the last several years I wondered how people around me seemed to be able to afford fancy boats, trucks, offroad vehicles, etc. when I knew they earned far less than I do. Now I know, and they are losing their houses and everything else, and guess what, that’s too bad, but I do not intend to bail them out, and the govt shouldn’t be able to force me.
        Also, if you think that throughout the history of this nation people with money did not control the politicians, you’re living in La La Land.

        • dean December 1, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

          Employed: Throughout history people with money HAVE controlled this nation through the control of information. They’ve also controlled the official narrative through national media. There was no “viral” mechanism for ordinary citizens to share information available.

          We now have Social Media to allow people to speak truth to power. At this pivotal point in history why are you sitting in a corner, fingers in your ears, saying “lalalalalalala I can’t hear anything”? Now, for the first time ever, the national media does not have a monopoly on how a story is framed and on who receives what information.

          My goal isn’t to tell anyone to vote in one way or another – my goal is to make everyone’s votes count and to hold our elected leaders accountable to their HUMAN constituents – not their corporate donors.

          America is an incredible country but we are currently under assault from within. Google “SOPA” (Stop Online Piracy Act), “PIPA” (Protect IP Act), NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) Amendments 1031, 1032, and 1068. “Our” government is seeking to allow corporations to control content on the internet through extra-judicial means AND trying to give the military the ability to indefinitely detain American citizens outside of habeas corpus and the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 14th amendments to our constitution.

          Are you OK with this?

          • upthecreek December 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

            Thank you for this

            like I said.. Our government is OUT of CONTROL

  6. Benett Kessler December 2, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Not sure which acts do what, but Congress needs to regulate Credit Swap Defaults – i.e., gambling on investments. If the firm is over-leveraged it can mean total failure. In the meantime, someone makes jillions of dollars. That needs to stop. Banks also do not need to play the stock market. These things are too risky and can place our economy in jeopardy. History has proved that banks and other companies can not push the limit to ultimate greed and expect a good result. Seems like ethical thinking and common sense. Of course, as the banks lobby legislators with millions, why should they want to regulate?
    Benett Kessler


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