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Exclusive Interview: UC Davis Protestor Eyewitness Account Of Police Pepper Spraying

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The pepper spraying by police of about a dozen University of California, Davis, students Friday afternoon has become an iconic example of police brutality and discrimination against not only the Occupy Wall Street movement by local and state officials, but against the very constitutional rights police and the elected officials they serve are paid to protect.

The New Civil Rights Movement contacted a UC Davis Department of History graduate student who was part of Friday’s protest. While the student, Robin Marie Averbeck, was not directly pepper sprayed, she says she and a friend “were close enough to catch some blow back from the spray and were coughing for a minute or two, but we recovered quickly.”

We asked Robin Marie Averbeck several questions via email, and asked her to share with us in her own words as many details as possible. Initially we had planned to only use selected quotes from Averbeck’s statement, but we find her comments so powerful, credible, honest, and passionate, we are presenting her statement here, below, in full, and unedited except for clarification. We have highlighted in bold a few of her more poignant and critical comments.

Averbeck, and all the students who participated in last week’s protests at UC Davis are heroes. Their non-violent actions have changed the conversation in America, and highlighted the paramilitary forces our police departments have become.

Stay tuned today for more stories about the UC Davis attack.

 

Hi David –

First I’ll just give you a rundown of my involvement. I showed up at the Occupy UC Davis campus around 2:15, when it was just the 30 or so campers and maybe a dozen other people who have been participating in the student movement – which would describe me; I’ve been participating in all the events this past week but I was not one of the campers. (I have to warn you I do not feel confident with my ability to gage the number of people in any assembly, so I would try to get second confirmations on my numbers if you can. I will talk to some of my other friends in the department tonight to see if anyone else is interested in commenting.) I was there when the police showed up at 2:30 to remind the Occupiers that the Chancellor told them to leave by 3:00, and I along with some other students went to the MU [Memorial Union, which is the main eatery/student center on campus] to announce to the students inside that the cops were coming and to encourage them to come out and support us.

When they started arriving, we took all the tents and put them at the center of the quad, and linked arms around them forming a circle. At this point there were probably 50 of us who had gathered by then. The riot cops (which I have heard the number to be 50; I’m not sure if it was that high but it was at least 25 that first arrived on the horizon) took a while to observe this (maybe 5, 10 minutes at most) but then began breaking through the chain and making arrests. At this point the line clumped into little clusters and we remained holding hands and sat down. The other tents that the cops had not gotten to were also taken down quickly by other occupiers; so it is worth noting that the official request of the Chancellor, that the tents be taken down, was already quickly accomplished and therefore all we were then doing was standing our ground.

While we chanted and refused to move, some other students who had gathered in the large crowd of spectators that had gathered around began joining us in the clusters that were refusing to move.

I have to say that this is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen – because all of us already there had already committed to the movement, already committed to the possibility that we would be arrested or brutalized in some fashion. However these were students who were previously uninvolved – who were sitting there finally realizing that the Occupy movement, the student movement against the privatization of their university, and a police state that represses its own politically conscious citizenry all meant something to them, is real and has real consequences to them and their friends. Seeing someone at the moment that their apathy finally melts away is a beautiful sight to behold, and that day alone made it a proud day for UC Davis.

I would say that at least 12, perhaps as many as 20 students joined us there; it might have been more, actually, but I’d prefer to be conservative in my estimate.

A few minutes later we decided through People’s Mic to form a circle around the students that had been arrested, which resulted in the circle you see in the pepper spraying video. Those of us in the linked-arm circle were all sitting down. I was on the lower left side of the circle, maybe 15-20 feet from the students who got sprayed. Before the spraying started, students were chanting various chants, from “You are, we are, the 99 percent” to “Cops Off Campus” and “Books not Batons.” One person even used People’s Mic to announce that he had found a beanie, so whoever had lost it should come talk to him; it was inspiring and everyone was feeling the solidarity, at least I know I was.

There was about 10-15 minutes of this I think – this is the situation I supposed the cops felt they were cornered or threatened, and yes, that is absurd. At no point did we threaten [the police] or refuse to let them leave – in fact, before the pepper spraying started my friend, who was immediately to my left in linked arms, used People’s Mic to demand that they leave – another girl in the circle asked to amend that to we politely ask them to leave! So they could have left at any time – as you see in the video, we were all sitting down, so to claim we were somehow obstructing them is beyond absurd, it is clearly a lie.

So it was in the midst of this situation, which lasted probably about 15 minutes from when we sat in the circle that you see in the video, that I looked over my shoulder and saw the huge cloud of orange dust as the students were being sprayed right in front of me. In all honesty, I was shocked and horrified – I almost started crying on the spot. I don’t know why I was so surprised – it seems naïve of me – but it is really something different seeing this in person. I and a friend to my right were close enough to catch some blow back from the spray and were coughing for a minute or two, but we recovered quickly. After a minute or two of continuing to sit, the students got up as the riot police backed away, realizing that the pepper spray had failed to disperse the crowd, and we chanted as we approached them very slowly, mostly chanting “Shame on you.” It was at this point I figure that they realized there was nothing else to be done to disperse the crowd and they left, along with the students they had arrested.

More than anything else, I would say that what stood out to me was first, how horrifying it was to see this in person, and second, how it only increased the determination amongst the students. I can speak for myself that once I saw those students getting sprayed I was even more determined than I was before not to budge in the face of violence; I actually thought for a minute that the cops would just continue spraying around the circle, so I started bracing myself to be sprayed, because there was no way in hell I was going to be intimidated by that kind of violence, especially not after seeing my fellow students brutalized like that and how bravely and stoic they remained in the face of it. It was also beautiful to see everyone coordinating afterwards to get help for the students sprayed, and the students themselves comported themselves with great dignity.

I do not know if any counseling is being offered for the students sprayed; all in all this took about an hour and a half, from when the cops first started showing up on the horizon to when the students reassembled for a general assembly after they had been shamed off the campus.

Feel free to use my full name – Robin Marie Averbeck – and that I am a graduate student in the Department of History at UC Davis.

Best, much thanks,

Robin Marie Averbeck

 

For more on the UC Davis pepper spraying attack, see all our UC Davis stories here, including:

Watch: Shocking Video Of Police Pepper Spraying UC Davis Students

 

UC Davis Professor Demands Chancellor Resign Over Pepper Spraying Of Students

UC Davis: New Video Surfaces Of Police Pepper Spraying Passive Students

UC Davis Pepper Spray Attack Of Students By Police: What Questions Do We Need Answered?

 

 

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OPINION

‘Lying’: Johnson Slammed for Latest Claim on Trump Respecting Peaceful Transfer of Power

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Speaker of the House Mike Johnson on Wednesday celebrated Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to Washington, D.C. to meet with House and Senate Republicans, barely blocks away from where the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and on democracy itself took place. Many hold the-then president and his “Big Lie” responsible for the insurrection, and he has been indicted on charges related to it.

Johnson was asked if the ex-president is committed to and respects the peaceful transfer of power.

The Speaker’s response has angered some critics.

Johnson has a tenuous grip on his gavel and on the House GOP majority. He has already faced one vote to remove him, and survived it thanks to House Democrats. To shore up his power, Johnson has traveled to Mar-a-Lago to appear with the indicted and now criminally-convicted ex-president, and has promoted several pieces of legislation critics say only serve as messaging vehicles to please Trump.

Pointing out that this will be he first time Trump has met with both House and Senate Republicans in D.C. since the January 6 insurrection, a reporter Wednesday morning asked the Speaker, “are you committed or have you spoken about basically not doing anything like that again and committing to respecting the American tradition of peaceful transfer?”

READ MORE: Buttigieg on Martha-Ann Alito: Flags Symbolizing Love vs. Insurrection Are Different

Johnson, whose emotions are often on view, repeatedly frown and looked irritated as the reporter spoke.

“Of course he respects that,” Johnson said frustratedly. “And we all do and we’ve all talked about it ad nauseam.”

“We’re excited to welcome President Trump back and he’ll be meeting with the Senate Republicans of course, after he has a breakfast with us. And there’s high anticipation here and great excitement.”

Ahead of Johnson’s remarks CBS News congressional correspondent Scott MacFarlane had posted where Thursday’s meeting with House Republicans and Donald Trump will take place.

If there were no question about Donald Trump’s commitment to the peaceful transfer of power – and there is given to this day he calls insurrectionists, “warriors,” “victims,” “hostages,” and “patriots” – the Speaker would not need to be discussing it “ad nauseam.”

As a backbencher before being elevated to Speaker, Johnson was not just a little-known congressman, he was an architect of Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Johnson spread election fraud conspiracy theories and lies, as a CNN investigation published in April confirmed.

READ MORE: Speaker Johnson on Why He Thinks Hunter Biden’s Conviction Is Valid but Donald Trump’s Is Not

Also back in April, Johnson tried to rewrite history, whitewashing the role of insurrectionists and those who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, saying some of them were “innocent, you know, people who were there and just happened to be walking through the building.”

Highlighting those remarks, The New Republic reported, “the Republican leader seemed to suggest that the 2,000 people who charged the halls, destroyed federal property, and interrupted the peaceful presidential transfer of power—1,265 of whom have been charged by federal authorities—were actually mere innocent bystanders.”

Critics were quick to call out Johnson’s remarks.

Veteran journalist John Harwood responded, saying, “by lying here, Johnson shows he understands that what he and House GOP helped Trump do in Jan 2021, and what Trump intends to do again if necessary, is wrong.”

He added, “if he weren’t ashamed of it, he’d tell the truth.”

Award-winning CNBC/NBC News reporter Carl Quintanilla responded to Johnson’s remarks with a 4-second clip of a someone who appears to be attacking law enforcement with the American flag on January 6.

“Bullshit,” declared former Tea Party Republican U.S. Congressman Joe Walsh. “Trump is humanly incapable of accepting an election loss. He will NEVER respect the peaceful transfer of power. And Mike Johnson knows that.”

The Biden campaign reposted the video and remarked, “(No, he clearly does not).”

Media critic and former Chicago Tribune editor Mark Jacob responded with: “Mike Johnson is a lying traitor.”

Mother Jones D.C. bureau chief David Corn wrote: “Given that Trump has promised to pardon the 1/6 insurrectionist rioters who attacked the Capitol, he’s not showing much respect for the rule of law or the peaceful transfer of power. Johnson is lying for Trump. That’s not very Biblical.”

Watch Johnson’s remarks below or at this link.

See the video and social media posts above or at this link.

READ MORE: Many Republicans Don’t Believe Trump Was Indicted or Aren’t Sure – But Say He’s Not Guilty

 

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News

Buttigieg on Martha-Ann Alito: Flags Symbolizing Love vs. Insurrection Are Different

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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg says he hopes Americans can see the difference between an LGBTQ Pride flag representing love, like the one Martha-Ann Alito lamented she has to look at daily, and flags that symbolize the January 6, 2021 insurrection, two of which she flew at the homes she and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito live in.

“I’m often reminded that the most important thing in my life, which is my marriage, and my family and the two beautiful children that my husband Chasten and I are raising that that marriage only exists by the grace of the single vote on the United States Supreme Court,” said Secretary Buttigieg, responding to a question during a CNN interview Wednesday morning about secretly-recorded remarks Mrs. Alito made. “That expanded our rights and freedoms back in 2015 and made it possible for somebody like me to get married.”

“And, you know, Supreme Court justices have an unbelievable amount of power and, and by the nature in the structure, the Supreme Court, there’s no supervision over that power. They are entrusted with it literally for as long as they live. And part of that trust is we expect them to enter into those enormously consequential decisions that that shape our everyday lives with a sense of fairness,” Buttigieg continued, appearing to acknowledge the tremendous drop in perceived credibility the Supreme Court has suffered in recent years. Last summer Pew Research reported the court’s favorability rating had dropped to a “historic low.”

RELATED: Secret Audio of Justice Alito’s Wife Exposes His Plans and Her ‘Bitterness’: Critics

“I also hope that most Americans can understand the difference between a flag that symbolizes you know, love and acceptance and signals to people who have sometimes feared for their safety that they’re going to be okay. And insurrectionists symbology, I’ll just leave it at that.”

CNN’s Berman played audio of Martha-Ann Alito before asking the Secretary to offer his remarks.

“I want a Sacred Heart of Jesus flag, because I have to look across the lagoon at the pride flag for the next month,” Mrs. Alito can be heard saying in the secretly-recorded audio. “And he’s like, ‘Oh, please don’t put up a flag.’ I said, ‘I won’t do it. Because I’m deferring to you but when you are free of this nonsense, I’m putting it up and I’m gonna send them a message every day.’ ”

Although CNN did not play the full clip of Mrs. Alito’s remarks, she continued, saying, “I’ll be changing the flags. They’ll be all kinds. I made a flag in my head. This is how I satisfy myself. I made a flag. It’s white and has yellow and orange flames around it. And in the middle is the word ‘vergogna.’ ‘Vergogna’ in Italian means shame — vergogna. V-E-R-G-O-G-N-A. Vergogna.”

She also said, “I’m German. I’m from Germany. My heritage is German. You come after me, I’m gonna give it back to you. And there will be a way — it doesn’t have to be now — but there will be a way they will know. Don’t worry about it. God — you read the Bible. Psalm 27 is my psalm. Mine. Psalm 27, the Lord is my God and my rock. Of whom shall I be afraid? Nobody.”

Watch Buttigieg’s remarks below or at this link.

READ MORE: Trump Insists No Mandatory Military Draft Advisers Have Been Planning

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Speaker Johnson on Why He Thinks Hunter Biden’s Conviction Is Valid but Donald Trump’s Is Not

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Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, who could gain tremendous power if Donald Trump is elected president in November, explained to reporters his belief that Tuesday’s jury conviction of Hunter Biden on three federal felony gun charges was absolutely legitimate while Donald Trump’s conviction on 34 state felony charges was not.

“Every case is different,” Johnson told CNN’s Manu Raju (video below) when asked if “the president’s son being convicted on three counts” undercuts the Republican Speaker’s claims of a “two tier system of justice.”

Johnson added, “clearly the evidence was overwhelming” in the Hunter Biden prosecution, one which some legal experts said should not have been brought and at least one member of the jury who spoke to CNN said was a waste of the taxpayers’ dime.

“I don’t think that’s the case in the Trump trials, and all the charges that have been brought” against Trump “have been obviously brought for political purposes. Hunter Biden is a separate instance.”

READ MORE: Secret Audio of Justice Alito’s Wife Exposes His Plans and Her ‘Bitterness’: Critics

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) issued a strong response to the Johnson’s claims.

“We should be very very worried that Republicans are so brazen in their belief that convictions of Democrats are fine but convictions of Republicans are illegitimate. This is a political party TELLING US OUT LOUD that they plan to use the justice system to persecute opponents.”

Speaker Johnson and Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and members from both their GOP conferences will be meeting with Donald Trump on Thursday, reportedly to create a game plan to pass major right-wing legislation if the convicted ex-president wins back the White House on November, NBC News reports.

Watch below or at this link.

 

 

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