“Your silence sends a message that police brutality is acceptable.”

And now the police are attacking nonviolent students and faculty at the City University of New York:

A birds-eye view with more context:

Cathy Davidson of Duke University calls on college presidents to exercise moral leadership:

What will we do next? We are at a turning point, a Gettysburg Address moment, where moral leadership is required, where moral authority and moral force need to be eloquently articulated before this historical moment devolves into violence and polarization. […]

We need prominent, articulate leadership that concedes that students putting their bodies literally on the line are also raising profound issues about the future of education, which is to say the future of our nation. We don’t just need better “procedures” or “task forces.” We need Lincolnesque moral fervor that honors the courage of young students who have put themselves in peril, to date with remarkable self-control and self-organization. And with the awareness that the education they support is rapidly becoming something only the elite — 1 percent — will be able to afford.

Our students are not wrong in the content of their protests on behalf of education. Calling the police does not solve their problems; as we have seen too often, it can foster violence — with an ever-more-imminent potential for tragedy.

Please, dear college presidents, stop sending for the police. Our students face a difficult future. This should not be a time to beat them up, to spray them with mace or pepper juice, to kick and hit them. On the contrary, in the brochures and in the Web sites advertising our campuses, we promise that we will inspire students to “change the world.” Isn’t that what these students are trying to do?

And if we are to call for moral leadership on this issue, surely that’s a responsibility that President Obama must meet as well. As FlickFilosopher has pointed out, he has spoken eloquently enough on the need to respect free speech and human rights in other parts of the world:

“I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters. The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.” — Barack Obama

But on the matter of the suppression of these rights on American soil he has so far been frustratingly silent. An Occupy protester in New Hampshire has handed him a note, taking him to task:

Mr. President: Over 4000 peaceful protesters have been arrested. While bankers continue to destroy the American economy. You must stop the assault on our 1st amendment rights. Your silence sends a message that police brutality is acceptable. Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.

Yes. Are our rights not worthy of the same spirited defense as those of the people of Egypt or Libya or Syria, struggling bravely for their own freedom? Must lives be lost here, before our leaders can bring themselves to speak?

Shame on those who violate the Constitutional rights of free and peaceful citizens. And shame on those who keep silent about it.

(via The People’s Library)

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