Let me set aside the distressing irony that protesters in, say, Tahrir Square in Cairo last spring were, in the main, better treated by repressive authorities than protesters on a California campus.
Let me just talk politics.
Specifically, this: What would I do if I were president and running for re-election?
Let me go a bit further…
What would I do if I were running for re-election and I knew the Republicans were mounting a nationwide campaign to disenfranchise as many minority voters as possible?
What would I do if I were running for re-election and knew that many of my core supporters in 2008 felt disrespected and ignored by my Administration?
And, finally, what would I do if I were running for re-election and I had even the vaguest idea how many kids go to college and how many families back home were worrying about them — and how many of those kids and parents considered themselves Democrats?
In that situation, I think — again, I’m just making a political calculation here — I’d take the opportunity to speak out about what happened at UC Davis.
Mr. President, making a short speech like this should not be a tough call.
Consider: Forbes magazine — Forbes! — has condemned the police.
Do you really want to be the last to speak up?
Or is it your intent to say nothing?
There comes a time, sir, when we must stand up and be counted — or have our silence counted as its own kind of speech.
I’m sure there are many Americans — not just college kids, their parents and their professors — who would be grateful if you would remind us all of the right to assemble peacefully.
Some, perhaps, might even see that as a reason to vote for you.
So what should the answer be? Does “democracy” provide a permit for police brutality, for violent actions which are such so excessive that even conservative reporters complain about being assaulted by the police without any reason?
“I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters. The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.” —President Barack Obama
Stephen Lippenholz spent Sunday and Monday in a hospital bed in Prince George’s Hospital Center, the right side of his face scarred and swollen.
He needed dime-sized plastic shell fragments removed from his cheek, surgery to restructure his broken nose, and 40 stitches to close a cheek wound after police shot him in the face with a pepper pellet gun.
Lippenholz is just one of many who ran from Route 1 Saturday night with welts from pepper ball gun wounds, crying as pepper spray burnt their eyes or wheezing from the tear gas polluting the air. A significant number are coming forward, saying they were severely injured or violently arrested while acting as bystanders in the melee.
“They gave no warning, they just started shooting,” said Lippenholz, a sophomore letters and sciences major. “I think it’s pretty ridiculous they were using those guns to control the fans. There are so many other kinds they could use.”
His father, Richard Lippenholz, expressed similar emotions.
“My understanding is that the police shouldn’t be shooting into the crowd blindly,” he said. “I don’t think anyone deserves to be blinded or killed because a sign was torn down.”