One of the more notorious responses to an Occupy protest took place on the campus of the University of California at Davis on November 18, 2011. This was basically a peaceful student demonstration in sympathy with the Occupy movement that was dispersed through the use of pepper spray by the campus police. Needless to say, media coverage of this action backfired on the Administration of the University of California, which then appointed a task force, led by retired State Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, to investigate the incident.
The task force report was released yesterday. As might be guessed, it came down solidly against Davis for violating policy and using poor judgment. This was not particularly earthshaking news to those of us here in California. The University goofed, and it went through the appropriate channels before acknowledging the error. Nevertheless, I found it interesting that Al Jazeera English had picked up this story by this morning.
Perhaps I should not have been as surprised as I was. In many ways the Occupy movement was an outgrowth of the Arab Spring, and we know that different countries have responded to Arab Spring protests in radically different ways. Thus the “due process” that evolved in the wake of the Davis incident is an example of what many Arab Spring protestors want to see taking place in their own countries. Given that there seem to be fewer and fewer incidents in which the United States can be held up as a role model for the advantages of a constitution-based rule of law, there is much to be said for Al Jazeera English calling attention to a positive aspect of that system.