“The fear in his eyes was the scariest thing”
A student who was in the crowd — but wishes to remain anonymous — wrote this account of what happened with Officer Kemper:
What I saw is an officer who got confused, separated from his unit, and something told him that the only way out was violence. His way back to his unit was blocked by protesters, but they were being hit and pepper sprayed so they were not surging toward him but away from the rest of the police at the bottom of the stairs. He charged someone with his baton out and when he lost control of it, someone immediately tossed it to his feet. By that point, though, he was drawing his gun. At no point did anyone advance on him. Even when he had his baton back in his belt he did not holster his gun. What surprised me is that he immediately was allowed to go back out on the line face-to-face with protesters. He clearly was not fit to do his job at that point, but when people tried to speak to the officer in charge Acuna, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “So?”
The fear in his eyes was the scariest thing; that and his inability to properly use his weapon. He was waving the gun around the crowd, without perceiving an actual threat. It is my understanding that police only should draw their guns when there is a weapon present. Obviously this was not the case, and after several minutes of scanning the crowd with his gun drawn he should have known that. He holstered his weapon, but then pulled it out again when the chants around him became more heated. Still no weapon, still no advancing protesters. No threat except numbers of angry unarmed people who had just had their lives threatened for trying to get inside a building using only their bodies.
I think that this marks a definite escalation in the police response to the movement for public education. That, coupled with the system-wide militarization of campuses this week, means that we are getting closer to being as effective as we want to be. The amount of surveillance that has been done over the last year will not help the administration in pacifying the movement. It will only give people more reason to be angry and act on that anger. But we cannot expect them to stop. This week, people have been accused of inciting violence against police by putting up a flier about Officer Kemper, followed to and from their classes, given meaningless and false citations on campus, and even had UCPD visit their houses to tell them they are being watched. It is difficult not to be afraid or paranoid, especially when lives are threatened, but letting the armed forces of the administration, Regents and the state control our advances toward public education can only hurt us.