Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News attacked the police at UC Davis on his Monday night broadcast. He said the demonstrators were just “sitting on a sidewalk peacefully protesting” when they were pepper-sprayed. Inviting members of his viewing audience to take the side of the protesters, he said, “Imagine those are your kids sitting on the sidewalk.” In fact, some of those “kids” were non-student agitators. They were locked arm-in-arm and had refused reasonable and repeated requests to move. They were threatening the educational atmosphere on campus by erecting a tent city that was luring increasing numbers of criminal outsiders. They wanted a confrontation and got it. What’s more, they got it on film, making sure they could portray the police in the worst possible light, without context or background to the confrontation that should have been avoided.
Doesn’t Brian Williams have the ability to get facts on the ground before going public with sensational and wild allegations against the police?
Sitting in the comfort of his New York studio, Williams ignored the statement issued by Linda P.B. Katehi, the Chancellor of UC Davis, when she noted that “…on Thursday a group of protesters including UC Davis students and other non-UC Davis affiliated individuals established an encampment of about 25 tents on the Quad.” Notice the reference to “non-UC Davis affiliated individuals,” including outside agitators.
Katehi said, “The group was reminded that while the university provides an environment for students to participate in rallies and express their concerns and frustrations through different forums, university policy does not allow such encampments on university grounds.”
So the radicals were there in violation of university policy, interfering with the rights of others. The head of a college or university clearly had a responsibility to act under those circumstances.
The chancellor went on: “On Thursday, the group stayed overnight despite repeated reminders by university staff that their encampment violated university policies and they were requested to disperse. On Friday morning, the protestors were provided with a letter explaining university policies and reminding them of the opportunities the university provides for expression. Driven by our concern for the safety and health of the students involved in the protest, as well as other students on our campus, I made the decision not to allow encampments on the Quad during the weekend, when the general campus facilities are locked and the university staff is not widely available to provide support.”
So the chancellor wanted to keep the campus safe on the weekend, for the benefit of the real students who were there. Was she expected to let more and more outsiders assemble on campus, to the detriment of the students paying to get an education?
She continued, “During the early afternoon hours and because of the request to take down the tents, many students decided to dismantle their tents, a decision for which we are very thankful. However, a group of students and non-campus affiliates decided to stay. The university police then came to dismantle the encampment. The events of this intervention have been videotaped and widely distributed. As indicated in various videos, the police used pepper spray against the students who were blocking the way.”
Clearly, Brian Williams of NBC News misled his viewers about what these “kids” really did. They flouted the law, interfering with the rights of others.
Veteran FBI agent Rick Hahn said he had a response to Williams’ request for parents to judge the “students.” He said, “I want my child to obey the law. Therefore, if my child is ordered by police to clear an area, I expect my child to respect that and obey the law. If my child does not obey the law, then, I expect my child to be arrested. Why? Because my child did not obey the law. And if my child resists arrest, I expect the police to forcibly affect the arrest. Why? Because that is their duty.”
In order to make the point that the police were somehow going beyond their lawful duty and authority, Brian Williams said they were “methodically spraying students with debilitating law enforcement-grade thick pepper spray that’s meant to cover like spray paint.” Notice the use of the inflammatory language designed to incite public sentiment against the police, who were being encircled by the demonstrators as they tried to move the offenders.
As Rick Hahn points out, the use of pepper spray was designed to reduce problems caused by the physical relocation of the protesters. He says, “If the police choose to forcibly effect the arrest not by merely physically engaging my child, an action that could lead to serious injury to both my child and the police officers involved, but rather by taking another step to diminish the physical ability of my child to resist arrest, say by dispersing pepper spray or tear gas, I accept that. After all, my child has broken the law by refusing to comply with a police order and has escalated the situation by resisting arrest. Is it therefore reasonable to hope that rather than engaging my child in physical combat, wrestling, punching or worse using billy clubs or truncheons, that the police disperse a chemical to make my child less resistant and, hence, less likely to be injured? My answer is yes, by all means it is reasonable.”
Hahn, a veteran of the FBI’s battles against domestic terrorists and communists, added, “Perhaps Brian Williams and much of his audience are too young to remember the beatings by fisticuffs and billy clubs that marked the various confrontations between police and demonstrators in the 1960s, but I remember well. Heads were beaten, arms were broken, and people were kicked, bitten and bloodied in physical contests of arrest and resist between police and demonstrators. It was ugly, and I’m sure that many of the demonstrators and police still carry the damage from those wounds to this day.”
Some of those confrontations were engineered by members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), whose leaders had been to Cuba to learn tactics of confrontation and even guerrilla warfare. It is time to examine who and what is behind the “Occupy” movement and why billionaire George Soros is financing it.
By attacking the police for their rational and reasonable response to unlawful protests, media coverage of the kind demonstrated by Brian Williams makes it almost certain that there will be more escalation. Chancellor Katehi is already on the defensive, apparently thinking that pandering to the protesters will save her job.
The situation is dire: the campus police chief and two police officers were put on administrative leave, Chancellor Katehi was shouted down at a demonstration while trying to apologize, and the radicals have erected their tents again. The mobs are taking over UC Davis.
The losers will include real students there for a real education, unless they organize quickly to safeguard their rights. Katehi should take a strong stand in favor of law and order on campus, support the police and quickly reinstate the chief and the officers unfairly and hastily put on leave. That is the only way to restore public confidence in her running of the university.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at email@example.com.