UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of "too many videos"

UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of "too many videos"

Summary: UC Davis' pepper-spray videos have gone viral around the web, proving citizen journalism can allow us to form our own views of raw footage collected in the thick of it.

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1970: Kent State shootings: One iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken by chance of a student killed by the unfathomable brutality of National Guard troops; some no older than the students they killed. One person, one camera.

1991: Rodney King arrest: An African-American man who was beaten relentlessly by police with batons, showing the cruel brutality of Los Angeles' law enforcement and utter disregard of then societally-developing race relations. One person, one camera.

2011: UC Davis pepper-spray assault: Around fifty students at the California university sprayed at point-blank range by police, emphasising the disproportionate violence to what was a peaceful, orchestrated protest. One police officer, dozens of cameras.

In the run-up to last weekend, students at the University of California, Davis told the world through a deafening silence how to hold a peaceful, arguably beautiful protest. In so many cases, its underlying message can be drowned out by the rage of violence, disruption and civil disorder.

Students have long been portrayed in a particular way, as lay-about good-for-nothings, with little interest in anything beyond their own politics, causing disruption for anti-fur movements and sleeping in until late afternoon. Not to mention, these 'leeches' continue to put strain on the financial system they seem to complain about.

But the university students at UC Davis, disaffected by decisions made by the state, the university and those who they thought they could trust, taught the world one important, crucial lesson in post-modern principles of today's reporting.

The truth will out.

On Friday afternoon, UC Davis students sat down along a pathway and linked arms, peacefully defiant in the face of law enforcement, in that they would not be intimidated and had a right to protest without causing disorder or committing violence.

The police were then called in to clear the student protesters, after the chancellor Linda Katehi claimed they were trespassing on university property. It was Katehi who ordered the UC David police to evict the protesters.

Then this happened.

Within hours of the -- 'incident' seems to trivialise it -- attack on the students, UC Davis police were forced to issue a press statement defending their actions.

"Students were given warnings to leave their tents [pitched on campus] by 3 p.m.", it said. "The protest initially involved about 50 students", Annette Spicuzza, UC Davis' police chief said. "Some were wearing protective gear and some held batons".

The final insult was when she said: "Officers were forced to use pepper spray when students surrounded them", adding, "There was no way out of the circle".

It makes one see there could have been at least two sides to the story. Perhaps the students were being unruly, or defiant, or armed and ready to commit violence. It was possible, and had been previously witnessed in England during the student protests.

But the statement was spin, and the spin doctor who wrote that statement was clearly unaware that citizens had recorded the event in full, and could in no way document the blasé attitude of the police officer, spraying the students at point-blank range with a thick fog of violent pepper-spray.

The video had been published to YouTube, where it has amassed nearly a million viewers in just over 24 hours, but clearly had not been seen by those who released the pro-police spin.

The next day at a news conference, describing the video images as "chilling", Katehi said that a task-force would be set up to investigate the actions of the police during the clearly peaceful demonstration.

Katehi reportedly refused to leave the building she was in, after a large group of UC Davis students mobilised outside. Chanting, "we are peaceful" and "just walk home" in a bid to see their university's leader, the students at least watched Katehi leave the building.

The students, as you will see, engaged again in protest fitting for the occasion.

It was not what you heard, but what you did not hear. A deafening silence of hushed voices but seething anger. The video was painfully awkward to watch as an outside observer, whilst equally inspiring and poignant. The contempt could be sliced through the air from the disgust felt by the students there.

The rise of citizen journalism has been a contentious issue amongst many. But as I call it, "@breakingnews culture", based along the Twitter feed of the MSNBC Breaking News account, it gives citizens around the world chance to bring raw, unedited and unfettered truths to the masses. It uses citizen journalism through tweets and blog posts, mobile phone footage and other non traditionally-generated content to progress a 'legitimate' new-media news outlet.

What we see in any modern event, no matter how off the cuff or sporadic, is a sea of cameras. One report likened it to a panopticon society.

It is not 911 or 999 we call in an emergency. We do not think to engage with the situation. But what we do, as the Generation Y, is pull out our phones and start recording; documenting every second of the event for history's benefit.

Instead of being reliant on information given to the public through media channels, we are now able to instigate our own broadcasts. Immediately connected to a global audience, two YouTube videos alone are prime examples of how witness reports to scenarios like this are no longer chained to censorship or secrecy.

This cultural shift allows people to see and feel themselves how it was in a situation like this. More than the printed word or carefully-trained television reporter, people have more freedom to make up their own minds and frame opinion around their own personal experiences.

In this case, and in so many more to come, the police and government -- for all the money, tax revenue and intelligence that Western governments have at their disposal -- seemingly cannot get their heads around a simple enough concept that wherever one is, someone is watching and recording.

For years, we have had to rely on information that is presented to us. Often, it would be from the sources that be, relayed to the middle-men and women of the media. But because we generate vast quantities of the media ourselves, and release it of our own volition and accord, we trust ourselves and our partners as members of the citizen journalism collective.

But as the masses collect vital citizen-based intelligence, it is the normal citizens of this world who use Facebook and Twitter, and other social media platforms and networks with our colleagues, friends and family, who make our own decisions about the news of the day.

As citizen journalism offers instant accountability to the actions made by those in authority, it gives us greater control over what we believe and consume as end-users of this world we live in.

Spin no longer works.

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46 comments
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  • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

    Incidents like this the past few weeks are exposing the Police State we are being subjected to. Evicting protesters is Unconstitutional and endangers the basic rights of EVERY last American. Is this the country we were raised in, were men and women are beaten, gassed, pepper-sprayed and arrested for their disapproval of the government? We have to be careful to protect our Constitutional Rights!
    dregstudios
    • Not correct....

      @dregstudios

      No protesters were evicted, just lawbreakers. Protests require a permit which is granted by the municipality where the protest is to take place. No permits were applied for. Public and private property are protected by various laws for health and safety reasons. Failures to abide by the law makes these people lawbreakers and are subject to all the penalties of the law. There is no right to damage property, harass honest citizens going to work, commit violence, and seize public or private property to do what ever they like.

      Sorry....there has been no violation of anybody's constitutional rights.
      linux for me
      • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

        @linux for me
        Are you really that blind? You just posted your comment at the bottom of an article which stated that there was NO violence, NO harassment of anyone. And the whole point of PUBLIC property is that any member of the public is allowed to use it. They didn't seize it. They didn't attempt to stop anyone else from using it, or build walls or fences around it, or hold it at gunpoint. You need a reality check.
        So in order to protest against the government, you have to ask their permission first? That is entirely unconstitutional. If laws do exist which require this, they should be thrown out because THEY are illegal.
        Unusual1
      • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

        @linux for me
        I would expect a person who uses linux to realize that the founding fathers did not write in the constitution that a permit is required. Please, kindly, post the amendment where you find that nonsense. The freedom to assemble supercedes any municipal law of permits. Go back to using microsoft, you are not worthy of open platforms
        samir013
      • You forgot the U.S. Contitution and Bill of Rights ....

        @linux for me
        "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
        kd5auq
    • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

      I think citizen reporters and the proliferation of video cameras to capture events is a great thing. But we can't always be sure of what is going on from the video. Context may be missing, parts of the video edited out. We need more than just the YouTube posting. That said, I often think ordinary professional news people have very little more to offer. There is no substitute for in-depth reporting and that costs money to provide. That's why I subscribe to a news organization even though I could read the daily edition on the web for free. I don't want a "paper" delivered and I only access the organization on the web or smartphone, but I'm still happy to pay $11/mo to keep them there, doing what citizen reporters can't do. Consider supporting a news organization you trust to do that kind of work.
      JoeFoerster
      • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

        @JoeFoerster
        "But we can't always be sure of what is going on from the video. Context may be missing, parts of the video edited out."

        This is a common excuse made by defenders of police over reach. In fact, no such context is needed. Regardless of anything else that such context might show, what is clearly seen is that the statement that the officers were surrounded, and were unable to extricate themselves from the ring of students, is clearly false, bordering on an outright lie. In fact, the officer who pepper sprayed the students came from outside the ring of seated protestors, and stepped OVER them in a single step in order to pepper spray them. No further information is needed to then see the corresponding excuse for what it is.
        .DeusExMachina.
  • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

    I lived in and near Davis Ca. several years before i moved to Oregon...
    glad i left... :) (all this reminds me of the 60's)...gevalt >:/
    straycat5678
  • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

    Great...i write something, and it vanishes...
    straycat5678
    • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

      @straycat5678 Try not to include links -- our spam filter kicks up a fuss.
      zwhittaker
    • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

      @straycat5678 <br><br>Hi Straycat!<br><br>We are checking into why your comment is not displaying.<br><br>-Tammy Cavadias<br>Community Manager

      UPDATE: It would appear the issue has to do with the emoticon you used in your comment, specifically the right caret. I have a bug report filed, and we should have this issue fixed shortly.

      I do apologize for the inconvenience and aggravation this issue has caused you.
      tcavadias
  • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

    it didn't have a link >:(
    straycat5678
  • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

    i wrote that last couple of comments on linux...didn't work very well. wrote this one on windows...hope it goes through.
    straycat5678
    • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

      @straycat5678 How do you "write on linux"? Or on windows?
      Most folks use the browser software provided.
      You must be one of them linux gurus, as well as a windows guru.
      radleym
  • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

    it did...yay! (p.s. i did not put a link on the first two comments)
    straycat5678
    • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

      @straycat5678

      So what was your comment? :)
      none none
  • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

    Well, the comment was: i lived in and around davis ca. (uc davis) for about 23 years, and seeing the kids that where protesting on the video, kinda reminded me of the 60's and early 70's with all the crap that went on then. not sure if that accomplished much either. (live in L.A. then )....i'm feeling old. lol
    straycat5678
    • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

      @straycat5678

      Actually, it did. Reread your history. The main reason we gave up Vietnam wasn't just because we were in "unfamiliar territory" as our high school textbooks like to tell us. It was simply the unpopular support.
      zeth06
      • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

        @zeth06

        Yeah, we were tired of our veterans coming home and being spit on and having garbage thrown at them and having them called names by "peaceful" protestors. All this at the airports where they were coming home to see their loved ones. I know EXACTLY what they went through; I was there.

        Oh, and we left Vietnam because the Democratic controlled Congress of the time cut all funding and also passed laws to prevent our military from taking action.
        benched42
      • RE: UC Davis: Official 'spin' crumbles in the face of

        @benched42
        "Yeah, we were tired of our veterans coming home and being spit on and having garbage thrown at them and having them called names by "peaceful" protestors."

        This may be distasteful, but it technically sounds peaceful to me. If they were throwing bricks or molotov cocktails, that would be unpeaceful. There's a difference between glitter bombs and real bombs.

        "...and also passed laws to prevent our military from taking action."
        What exactly does that mean? The military takes its orders from civilians; it never "takes action" on its own accord. This isn't a variation on the old "we would have won if not for those pesky Democrats" urban legend that's been used for decades, including by such luminaries as Ann Coulter? You know, just a little bit more carpet bombing and it would have made all the difference? And we'd have won Korea, too, but for those pesky civilians denying MacArthur the use of nuclear weapons....
        jgm@...