Dear President Obama,
This letter is an act of desperation on behalf of my entire generation. It is with a heavy heart that I ask you to condemn the use of excessive police force in the form of pepper spray, baton violence, and physically threatening techniques within the peaceful protests involving UC Berkeley and UC Davis student and faculty members.
I watched a series of Youtube videos late Sunday night that accurately display raw footage of the UC Davis protest scene when a police officer uses pepper spray in response to a handful of students sitting peacefully on their quad. One particular video struck me because of the student behind the video recorder–while she documented images of her classmates being assaulted, the student eventually breaks down in tears and reaches her hand out in front of her to lean on a fellow protestor. This also caused me to cry because of the symbolic nature of this videographer: she was a student subjected to unnecessary police violence and reached out for support after letting her emotions get the best of her.
I can’t help but feel devastated at the fact that my peers on college campuses across the country are experiencing this kind of violence when engaging in non-violent protests. It’s happening here, on our soil and in our own home states–not in some far away place, thousands of miles away from our personal realities.
National, mainstream news outlets like The New York Times, CBS News, and The Washington Post have covered the police brutality used against peaceful student protestors. Moreover, students and professors at UC Berkeley have filed a civil suit against the university, setting a legal precedent for students and protestors nationwide.
Clearly this has gone far beyond a few viral videos and sporadic claims of abuses of the First Amendment. In response to the police’s outrageous acts, individuals are taking legal action, the media has spread these stories far and wide, and students are organizing candlelight vigils in honor and solidarity with UC Davis, The moment has not passed, however, for you to break your own silence and officially comment about police assaults on college campuses.
I have been a longtime fan of you and your politics—I voted for you in November 2008, my very first election at the ripe age of 18, and never felt more invigorated and passionate about my country’s future. I was easily convinced and intrigued by your campaign messages of "hope" and "change," so please use this as your opportunity to prove my instincts right and justify my decision.
As the father of future college students, a former college student yourself, and leader of "the free world," I request that you speak out about the issue of unnecessary police violence and make clear the demands of living in a democratic nation. Your active support of the Arab Spring is also reason to embrace students’ rights to free speech and protection of physical safety when expressing the first amendment. It was as recently as September 21 that you declared this support in a speech at the U.N.
"The United States will continue to support those nations that transition to democracy with greater trade and investment, so that freedom is followed by opportunity…We will pursue a deeper engagement with governments, but also with civil society—students and entrepreneurs, political parties and the press."
With tears streaming down my face and a sinking feeling in my stomach, I ask you this simple task: please make an official statement about both incidents at UC Berkeley and UC Davis. In responding to these students’ rights to peacefully protest without risking physical attacks and abuse, you will open an important dialogue amongst the general public about freedom of speech and how campuses can become safer places for students to express their opinions.
Krystie Lee Yandoli
Sign this petition asking the Obama Administration to "condemn the use of tear gas and pepper spray (and other chemical weapons) on peaceful protesters in the United States."