Occupy crackdowns violate rights

Police overreaction has stifled students’ freedom of speech.

Cassandra Sundaram

To be able to speak freely is a liberty that should not be taken for granted, especially considering many countriesâÄô lack of concern for human rights. The rights to free speech and assembly are freedoms the United States was founded on. From the Boston Tea Party to the conservative political organization of the same name, Americans are not shy about their distaste for tyranny and corruption.

For this reason, the Occupy protests that have broken out nationally have been no surprise. They are an expected representation of natural outrage at unacceptable greed and the unjust authority of our countryâÄôs financial institutions and wealthiest corporations. The protests have been met with hostility and anger by those who condemn the participants as misguided freeloaders.

But over the past few weeks, police across America have overreacted. People who were simply expressing their opinions and exercising their constitutional rights as American citizens have been pepper sprayed, beaten with police batons and shot at with rubber bullets, all because their activism was somehow perceived as a threat to public safety. But the only safety that was ever in danger was that of the protesters themselves.

Students at University of California-Davis and UC Berkeley were pepper-sprayed, beaten back with batons and arrested during their Occupy protests which dealt with a variety of higher education issues. Society always complains of the lack of youth involvement in politics and government, but it seems that as soon as we speak up, we are deemed too dangerous to be listened to and consequently stifled under the guise of security and safety. If students at Berkeley canâÄôt express themselves freely without threat of violence, who can?