What Constitutes Assault?

Was the act of pepper spraying students for non-compliance an assault? Gunsmithing&Politics thinks it was. Robert thinks it was not. Pondering it myself and watching the video again, I want to turn the question around.

If, by chance, one of the students had popped up and grabbed the can of pepper spray, turned it around, and sprayed the policeman with it, would that have been assault? What response would you expect from the other police officers on the scene? What would the student have been charged with?

If one is assault, then why not the other? If acting to prevent further assault is justified to prevent injury to the policeman, then why didn’t the other officers act to prevent injury to the students?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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3 thoughts on “What Constitutes Assault?

  1. Of course it is assault. The question is whether it is a justifiable use of force under the law (it was) and was an ethical use of force. These people were breaking the law by blocking the public walkway. The use of force is justified to remove them. A lot of police departments have started using things like tasers and pepper spray rather than going hands on because they've found it puts officers at less of a risk and keeps them from having to beat people with steel or wooden batons when they almost inevitably resist such removal.

    And no, a protester already breaking the law is not justified in using force in the furtherance of that crime anymore than a robber can claim self defense if he stabs a homeowner who is defending himself.

    Here is question. Should I be allowed to do anything I please on public property so long as I'm doing it peacefully?

  2. As for the last question in your post, that is the great paradox, is it not? I think there is a solution, and that is to end qualified immunity, criminalize violations of civil rights, and have the police officers put on trial in such cases. Let a jury decide.

  3. I have to agree with Robert, they WERE breaking the law (criminal trespass according to a friend of mine in Sacramento law enforcement.

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