Welcome back to California from wherever you were. As you may have heard, while you were gone, campus police at U.C. Davis, acting on orders from the chancellor to clear peaceful protesters out of an open public area, pepper sprayed students who were posing absolutely no danger to anyone or anything.
Of course missing out on important goings-on as an absent governor is nothing new for you: your constant travels as a presidential candidate in 1979 and 1980 left your loathsome Republican lieutenant governor, Mike Curb, as acting governor and he used his status to veto legislation, issue executive orders and make appointments.
This time – and by the way, it’s absurd that your alleged press office wouldn’t say where you’d gone (not the Appalachian Trail, we assume) – your lite gov played nice, if a bit milquetoasty for our tastes.
“UC students and the people of California deserve a swift, just and thorough independent investigation into this matter,” Gavin Newsom said in a prepared statement. “Concrete remedies need to be implemented to ensure that peaceful protests on our university campuses are never again met with senseless violence.”
“President Mark Yudof and his staff have kept my office appraised on the events of the last week and I made it clear that the University has a profound obligation to its staff and student body — not to mention its worldwide reputation — to better balance protecting the public safety with protecting the constitutional right to free speech and political expression,” Newsom said. “After contact with William Bratton earlier this week, I am pleased that the University of California has retained the former Los Angeles Police Chief to lead an independent investigation of the pepper spray incident on the campus of UC Davis last Friday. I have every confidence that Chief Bratton will be thorough and frank in its findings.”
Here’s the problem, Jerry. Wherever you were – and we gotta believe you knew about what happened because a) your alleged press office said so and b) the video was all over the friggin’ planet – you should have issued a strong, compelling and unambiguous statement.
You should have said something like this:
The use of pepper spray and night sticks against peacefully protesting students at UC Davis represents exactly the wrong message our great universities should be sending to our young people.
Instead of supporting and encouraging students who have become productively and non-violently engaged in the important issues of the day, university authorities unleashed overwhelming military force against them.
It is not enough for University of California officials to call for a review of policies and procedures. Those responsible for this outrageous assault on human rights must be held fully accountable, Students and parents must be reassured that the University of California and all higher education institutions in this state respect and applaud young people who reject apathy and embrace personal involvement in what ails society.
You still could if you just man up, governor. It’s not too late to demonstrate that the actual Office of the Governor encourages students to take direct, peaceful action in support of their convictions and expects California’s universities to cherish exactly this kind of informed engagement.
Late Monday, Brown’s office released a letter the governor sent earlier in the day to Paul Cappitelli, executive director of the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, saying:
“I am seriously concerned that the rules governing the use of force, in particular the use of pepper spray, are not well understood in the context of civil disobedience and various forms of public protest. The recent ‘occupation’ protests in cities throughout California and on campuses of the University of California underscore the urgency of articulating guidelines that are crystal clear and comport with constitutional requirements.
“In view of widespread public concern, I am requesting that POST carefully review its 2003 Crowd Management and Civil Disobedience Guidelines and, without delay, make whatever changes are necessary to ensure compliance with First and Fourth Amendment protections against excessive force.”
Brown’s press office said the governor also had spoken to UC President Mark Yudof and former LA Police Chief Bill Bratton. What Brown said, we don’t know.