MSNBC's Ed Schultz talked to Occupy Wall Street protester Jesse LaGreca about the police brutality at the Occupy UC Davis protests and what it means for the movement. Once again LaGreca did a good job expressing the concerns of those out there protesting, the problems we have with income disparity in the United States and the fact that too many of our politicians seem to want to do nothing but take this country back to the days before the civil rights movement or when there were any labor protections in place for American workers.
Transcript via MSNBC:
SCHULTZ: The violence on the campus of U.C.-Davis happened because of camping. Students were staging a protest in solidarity with the other occupy movements. They put tents on the quad. Police were there to remove the tents. Sound familiar, doesn`t it?
This is what`s happening all over the country, in New York, in Oakland, in Portland. The U.C.-Davis chancellor was just following the blueprint for breaking up the Occupy movements.
I`m joined now by Jesse LaGreca, protester, activist and freelance journalist. What do you make of what you saw on that tape?
JESSE LAGRECA, OWS PROTESTER: It`s absolutely deplorable, you know? To me it makes me feel like peasants -- the cost of living is going up, your paychecks are getting decreased, your wages are declining. And if you don`t like it, I have a can of pepper spray for you. It`s something that all of us should be shocked and disturbed by.
SCHULTZ: Do the Occupy people need to make a statement in how they want to deal with law enforcement before this spirals out of control?
LAGRECA: We`ve made several statements about engaging in civil disobedience in a peaceful nature. And I think the video at U.C. Davis exemplifies that. How can you attack students sitting on the ground? What threat does it posed to anybody?
SCHULTZ: Well, I`ll answer that in conversation. I think it`s part of a bigger plan. I mean, I think they`re putting their foot down saying, look, this is what we`re going to do if you`re going to come out here. I mean, what evidence do we have that that`s not what they`re doing? So, where does that leave you?
LAGRECA: It leaves us in a situation where we have to be very mindful of our actions. And the Occupy Wall Street protests over the last two months have been the exemplary personification of nonviolence. There really is nothing they oppose to us other than the fact that we won`t stand for tuition costs going through the roof or stand for lack of
SCHULTZ: What about leaving the tents behind?
LAGRECA: The tents are a smaller issue. I feel like the tents are a physical manifestation of our protest.
But the reality is you can`t kill an idea. You can`t kill reality. You can`t repeal reality.
And the reality for a lot of students right now is that they can`t afford the rising cost of tuition faced with a jobless economy. Where are these kids supposed to go?
To me, it`s an issue of the lack of accountability, whether the chancellor at U.C. Davis, or a bankster who destroyed the economy, who goes to jail? Who loses their job? Why are the police placed on paid leave? What does a police officer has to do to lose his job when he`s harming citizens who are literally just exercising their First Amendment freedom of assembly.
SCHULTZ: Well, you heard the professor in the last segment saying this is pretty much standard operating procedure. He`s seen the movie before. They rough up the kids, put a cop on leave for a few days, paid administrative leave, they`re back at it, and squashed out and the next protest is handled the same way.
So, what has to happen?
LAGRECA: I would hope nothing has to happen. I would hope the police would do their job and protect the citizens in compliance with the rule of law.
And I don`t see anywhere and any policeman across the country where it`s standard operating procedure to apply pepper spray before you arrest someone. I really feel if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today he`d be getting pepper sprayed in the face and arrested with us. And we are a continuation of the civil rights movement, of that fight for working class people to earn a decent salary.
You know, it`s part of the American Dream. No one wants a handout. We all expect to work hard, whether it`s at school, whether it`s in the private sector, or the public sector. We expect to work hard.
But we expect something in return. Not just too big to fail banks getting bailed out.
SCHUTZ: Now, Jesse, these students were saying they were there to support the Occupy Sacramento and some other cities, Occupy Berkeley as well which has been going on. The Occupy Davis has been a part of it. But they`re saying it`s tuition.
That was one of the thing that was really -- is this part of the 99 percent movement? I mean, is this part of Occupy? Is this an offshoot you think? I mean, is there interconnectivity here?
LAGRECA: It`s all the same thing. It`s all based on the income inequality that`s pervasive through this country and literally just all the rising costs, standing against the stagnant wages. In the last 30 years, the wealthiest 1 percent has just accumulated all of that wealth. The rest of us have seen our standard of living going down, down, down.
And as college tuition costs go up and there`s no jobs available, it becomes a pressing issue for everybody in the economy. Not just the students who have to pay these tuition fees, but their parents and everybody else connected with them.
So, yes, student tuition issue, all of it, it`s all part of the larger conversation, because the reality with Occupy Wall Street is, there`s no 15-second sound bite to sum this up. There are so many problems in this country. We need a movement to fix it.
SCHULTZ: Well, there`s no 15 second sound bite to sum up the movement and the protests, but there`s a lot of criticism out there that it`s not a very well-defined. Is it so broad and so different from what we`ve seen in the past that just about anything qualifies? I mean, that you could take just about any protest in America and say, yes, that`s the 99 percent or that`s all of occupy? Are you at that point?
LAGRECA: I think we are so large, we`re too big to fail. I think in a certain sense, that there are so many different grievances right now that it requires a lot of different voices to address it.
SCHULTZ: And what would you say to the students at U.C. Davis?
LAGRECA: I stand in solidarity with them and thank them for being the example of nonviolent disobedience that all of us should aspire to be.
SCHULTZ: Are we reliving the `60s again? I mean, you go back and look at the video tape. I was a young guy back in the days but I remember it all -- I remember the hoses on the black folk in America. I remember the dogs being let loose, I remember the cops coming over with the night sticks working over the Vietnam protesters.
Is it going to get to that level?
LAGRECA: I would hope and pray that it doesn`t. At the same time, we`re in the longest war since Vietnam. So, we are living the `60s again. We`re in the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, so kind of we`re living in the 1930s, as well too.
And when I listen to some politicians, it makes me feel like they want to go back to the 1880s or 1760s. To me, all of this is the same thing. They`re working as hard as they can, and Wall Street, the lobbyists running around Congress, to repeal the 20th century, so that the rich can get richer and the rest of us peasants can just have, you know, whatever it takes for us to go away.
SCHULTZ: And I have to ask you this. This is coming up later in the program. But I need to ask you, have you taken a bath today and do you have a job? I mean, what`s your response to Newt Gingrich when he says something like that to people who are exercising their First Amendment
LAGRECA: I think Newt Gingrich is a morally bankrupt example of the pervasive power of politics right now. I think he`s a career lobbyist who`s willing to say anything. I think Newt Gingrich as president will be exactly George W. Bush, only with more ex-wives.
SCHULTZ: Jesse LaGreca, thanks for joining us tonight. Appreciate your time.