By Brad Friedman on 4/4/2012, 11:35am PT  

We've been busy covering election issues and other pressing matters, but the fully weaponized police military state that the U.S. has become post-9/11 --- as we reported in great detail late last year --- continues apace.

Last night, another horrifying example occurred out here near Los Angeles at Santa Monica College were campus security guards reportedly pepper sprayed some 30 students, without warning, in the hallway just outside of an open Board of Trustees meeting. Several hundred had shown up to try and voice their opinions during (ironically enough) the Public Comment period about the cost of some classes being raised by as much as 400% percent.

We've yet to see video of the actual use of the chemicals said to have been used, but this was the scene just after it...

While I don't believe it's yet been confirmed, there were several reports of either a 4 or 5-year old being among those doused with pepper spray, even while there were no arrests made.

In other words, the use of chemical weapons on peaceful demonstrators (and, perhaps, infants) now appears to be among the first, rather than a last resorts used in the disturbing rise of "police" violence against peaceful citizens expressing their First Amendment rights.

Via Xeni Jardin's report at BoingBoing, we're pointed to the following disturbing observation from blogger zunguzungu --- a student at UC Berkley, where cops resorted to the violent use of batons to break up peaceful student demonstrators last November (video here) --- on the troubling implications of what happened last night in Santa Monica and at several other recent attempts at peaceful demonstration...

But to the question of the moment: how does this happen? How does pepper spray become the act of first resort? Even the anodyne phrasing of the LA Times admits that pepper spray was used proactively (Several were also overcome when pepper spray was released just outside the meeting room as officers tried to break up the crowd”) and not in response to some kind of clear and present danger.

Or, rather, it was. A crowd must be dispersed before it does something, goes the logic of the new preemptive policing; a crowd is, itself, a clear and present danger. If you wait until the crowd actually does something, you’ve waited too long. And so you preempt it by striking first.

If you doubt that this is the way these people think, I’d invite you to read Jeff Young — the current assistant police chief at UCLA — writing his “operational review” of UC Berkeley’s police actions against protesters from last November 9th, and note that his main takeaway was that campus police should have probably been allowed to use pepper spray. For more successful protest management, he decides, what the police need is more force options. Perhaps Tasers?

That’s not a joke. He actually observes that while Tasers are “a fairly new crowd management tactic for police,” they “have proven to be very effective,” and notes that a “special panel of the Chancellor of UCLA rigorously reviewed the use of these devices [and] found the use of this level of force within applicable law and police policy.”

Again, this wasn't even an official metropolitan police force using pepper spray in Santa Monica. It was the campus security guards. Nonetheless, the Santa Monica Police were called out, in force, shortly thereafter.

Santa Monica College is not the only one facing extraordinary increases in student tuition. A report last month detailed that it may now cost more to attend the University of California and California State University systems than it costs to go to Harvard, Princeton or Yale.

A report published yesterday by Demos details how, from 1990 to 2010, state funding for higher education, per full-time student, has plunged 26%.

"As state support has declined," the report explains, "institutions have balanced the funding equation by charging students more. Between 1990-1991 and 2009-2010, published prices for tuition and fees at public four-year universities more than doubled, rising by 116 percent, after adjusting for inflation, while the real price of two-year colleges climbed by 71 percent."

All the while, as tuition costs for educating our citizens have increased across the nation, we've fought two incredibly long and unnecessary wars, have been forced to lay off nurses, police and firefighters, cut public services to the most needy and, at the same time, give huge tax cuts to the rich who don't need it, billions in free money to the Wall Street firms who tanked the world economy, all the while as U.S. corporations continue to turn all-time record profits.

Jardin's BoingBoing report included a tweet from @mary_menville on the incident last night which seems to have captured the American disease well...

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