I just now saw the clip of the students getting pepper sprayed by the police officer at UC Davis. I sat here, feeling shocked and helpless to do anything to aid these students, as the officer casually sprayed that row of students as if he was spray-painting a fence or something.
I had expected the video to end there, but it didn’t. For a few more minutes I watched, appalled, as students got dragged away by police, watched as officers tried to push the students and spectators back, watched as officers pointed their weapons at the protestors. The tension and oppression came through the screen and filled me with a deep sadness and discouragement about what has happened to my beloved country.
But as I continued to watch, there was a shift in the power.
The students began chanting, “OUR university!” – re-claiming their home. And then one student (with a megaphone maybe?) said, “You can go. We won’t follow you.” And all the students began chanting, “You can go! You can go!” – and I watched as the officers slowly backed-up and left the campus. Watching the students work together to combat the oppression that had moved onto their campus, I was so proud of them. They were models of what non-violent resistance should look like – holding their ground, standing in solidarity, and pushing back the violence and ugliness that had invaded their home.
It reminded me of that scene from Witness, and it reminded me, too, of the hope and inspiration I felt after I watched the movie, Gandhi. It reminded me of the power of Truth and justice, and one of my favorite Gandhi quotes: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it – always.”
This old hymn has been singing through my head a lot lately:
“A glorious day is dawning, and o’er the waking earth
The heralds of the morning are springing into birth
In dark and hidden places, there shines the blessed light:
The beam of Truth displaces the darkness of the night.
The advocates of error foresee the glorious morn,
And hear in shrinking terror the watchword of reform:
It rings from hill and valley, it breaks oppression’s chain.
A thousand free men rally, and swell the mighty strain.”
– Lowell Mason
Amen, brothers and sisters, amen!