Death of Democracy in Michigan: Pepper Sprayed for Exercising First Amendment Rights

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer was one of many citizens pepper-sprayed by police Tuesday while engaging in a protest against the Republicans’ union busting bill at Michigan’s Capitol. A mounted police also used his horse as crowd control, running over a citizen.

Watch here via ACLUofMichigan (between 11 sec-17 sec):

c/u, click to enlarge:

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The Battlecreek Enquirer reported that Schauer had been in the process of trying to negotiate with police regarding moving the crowd when they were pepper-sprayed:

He said he tried to negotiate a line away from the Capitol that police would accept when he and “a number” of people were sprayed.

“I immediately began to retreat and began to cover my eyes and my mouth,” Schauer said. “It was not good.”

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer talks about his experience with the protestors outside the House chamber, including getting pepper sprayed himself.

Watch here via MIRSNews:

There were instances of chaos and violence at yesterday’s protest, but according to Schauer, the protest area where Schauer and others were pepper sprayed was not one of them. Nor does the crowd appear violent or out of control in the video.

As of the Occupy movement, police are using pepper spray inappropriately in order to move crowds. It is becoming a “pattern and practice” of our local/state governments. The University of California has to pay nearly $1 million in damages to a group of students involved in an Occupy protest who were pepper-sprayed by campus police in an effort to get them to move. However, the officer was cleared of illegal use of force.

Pepper spraying was hardly the only incidence of thuggery against the people yesterday. “Mounted police use horses to control crowd, run over protester in process”:

The right to protest is one of our most basic rights as Americans, enshrined both in the U.S. Constitution and international human rights law. It falls under the First Amendment, and includes the right to assemble, protest, and petition. The act of protest is not a threat to the government; quite the contrary, it is one of the founding tenets of our system of government.

The scared Republican Koch puppets are afraid to face their constituents because they stabbed democracy in the back, passing laws without debate in the lameduck session. They knew citizens would be angry when they stripped away a global human right without even pretending to debate it. Force (ignoring democracy) needs more force to enforce it (intimidate protesters).

Police are being egged on into acting like private militia for the lawmakers, which suggests that governmental agencies are seeking to silence free speech. Silence is the effect of intimidation, and it’s not an accident.

These recurring episodes of excessive force serve to silence the rights of protesters (including free speech and freedom of assembly). Indeed, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) — an international organization of which the US is a member — found that “America is failing to uphold this fundamental right.”

Their report recommends that U.S. authorities remedy this by limiting the use of police force among other suggestions:

The report recommended U.S. authorities “ensure the right to free assembly, including by facilitating protest camps and marches as much as possible, limiting police use of force, promptly investigating police misconduct, and not dispersing assemblies merely for lack of permits.”

Citizens shouldn’t be pepper-sprayed for exercising their first amendment rights, and they shouldn’t be met by a menacing, deliberately intimidating show of force by police. Police need to modify their crowd control policies in order to not only respect, but facilitate, the freedoms accorded to us.

Pepper spray should be saved for when the threat has escalated.

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