I recently visited my alma matter, U.C. Davis, to give a talk about bug photography. I hadn’t been to Davis since I graduated in 2005. It was good to be back. More than good. I had forgotten how much I missed the wide tree-lined streets, the gardens, the warm community of intellectuals, the chaos of Davis’s iconic bicycle commute.
As my host Phil Ward and I drove past a little Occupy Davis encampment in Central Park I did a double-take, and laughed.
“That’s kinda stupid,” I remarked. “Why on earth does Davis need occupying?”
You see, Davis is the most egalitarian place I’ve ever lived. The town is quiet and peaceful. The sense of community permeates the place like the smell of buttered popcorn at a movie theatre. People know each other. It’s not the sort of town that, say, crashes the global economy in an unregulated orgy of financial greed.
Occupy Wall Street? Sure. Any occupants are better than the current ones. Occupy Congress? An excellent idea. But Occupy Davis, California? Bicycle capitol of the world? It seemed silly in that environment. If Occupy Davis was serious, I thought, they’d join their counterparts in Oakland & San Francisco. You know, places that actually have big financial & government institutions. Protesting in Davis is just protesting for the sake of protesting.
Well. I could not have been more wrong:
There are some things You Just Don’t Do. You don’t bring riot gear to a non-riot, for example. You don’t assault people who are not threatening violence.
If the police in Davis, California- the most easygoing town this side of Pleasantville- mount such an overkill of a response to a small, non-violent protest then we have a big problem.
I misjudged. Turns out Davis needed to be occupied after all. And if Occupy Davis has a point, then so does Occupy Anywhere.