November 21st, 2011
03:47 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Pepper spray, politics spark heated debates

Editor's note: Readers have a lot to say about stories, and we're listening. Overheard on CNN.com is a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community. We're trying something new today and featuring excerpts from five fascinating conversations taking place in our comments area.

We're hearing from a lot of readers today about an investigation into campus officers' use of pepper spray against protesters at the University of California at Davis. Powerful, meaty discussions ensued about the right to protest and the right to occupy a space for an extended amount of time. People have been talking about these issues for a while, but this incident  ignited the discussion.

1. California campus police on leave after pepper-spraying

Well-argued threads came in from people on both sides of the issue. This particular exchange was emblematic of the debate. On one side, there were many who thought police stepped out of bounds.

Th0ko: "That was definitely not minimum force required to get the job done. (and if pepper spray isnt physical force, then what is it?!) There is something fundamentaly wrong in using force on a peaceful protest. If the only point of police is to maintain law and order, at ANY cost, and they can use more or less any means they deem necessary, they take the role as a tool of oppression. The actions of American police are no different from the action of police in Iran, Syria and what used to be the Soviet Union. They all say 'protesters refused to move, so we just did our job.' Remember how in Iran a few years ago, student protesteres were assaulted by police? How is that different from happened now on these university grounds?"

On the other side of the debate, many commenters said they thought the protesters were overstaying their welcome and it was time for the camps to be forcibly removed.

rettiroen: " 'There is something fundamentaly wrong in using force on a peaceful protest.' But what about unlawful protests? You're not protesting when you set up camp somewhere, you're just taking up space. Plus, I imagine there are dorms for that campus, not like they can't march back out there each day. As for, 'it's public property they can stay as long as they like.' Keyword is 'public.' That means there are other people that have just as much a right to utilize that land as the protesters, either for their protests or rallies, or for other activities. Setting up camp for an extended period of time is essentially claiming ownership, something that none of the protesters have a right to do."

2. Gergen: Have they gone nuts in Washington?

Commentator David Gergen says Congress's failure to reach a debt agreement is "reckless," and our readers are inclined to agree. Thousands of comments poured in from people outraged that their government is having a hard time working things out.

iminim: "Democracy is, by its very nature, a government of compromise.  Absolutists do not work well in this model.  We need to remove anyone from Congress who has signed pledges or voiced intent to be unyielding on economic & political issues.  We can no longer afford to cater to that kind of arrogance.  We, the public, also need to quit screaming 'wishy-washy' when a Congressperson compromises for the good of our nation.  We say we want leadership then bash those who try to work with others and actually lead.  Democracy is a 'wishy-washy' form of government.  For it to be effective we all have to give & take towards an ultimate goal of improving our nation.  We also have to be willing to accept that there are other valid points of view beyond our own."

In response, jnkesrouan referenced a famous quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, and another commenter alluded to it:

CuriousEarth: "This is NOT a democracy. This is a republic and if we treated it that way, it would probably still be working. Democracy = two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner. Don't be a sheep."

3. On the college gridiron, grandad lives a dream, offers a lesson

CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin wrote about a college student playing football. But the student isn't a typical college athlete; he's pursuing his lifelong dream at age 61. We received a lot of positive feedback from readers about this story. Here's a sampling of what readers said:

sysprogram: "Thank you CNN and Eliott McLaughlin. This piece was heart warming, touching, and most importantly Inspiring. It is amazing to hear of this man's journey and reminds all of us that no matter your age, anything is possible. Your article was very well written and hard to put down. Thank you for such an awe inspiring story!"

ravenswaal: "One more thing ... This is a great story for a movie and I cast my vote for Tommy Lee Jones to portray Moore. Anyone else agree?"

midwestmatt: "As I approach 50, this man gives me hope. Not that I'll recapture some long ago dream of athletic prowess but rather that I can start a new chapter, no matter my age. Thank you for your service in Vietnam and for the example you've set for so many young men on your squad. In my book, you're a 'dude' and that's the highest compliment I can pay someone."

4. World's most hated airports

Everyone loves to rag on airports, and the discussion was quite spirited: Loved or hated this one, or did a 40-hour layover in that one. New York's JFK seemed to take a lot of heat, while readers were divided over Atlanta's international airport and others. We can't help but feel these two commenters have valid points:

52ppPassport: "I love them all.  It means vacation."

chemicalbank: "Any airport I am at is Number 1 [worst] for as long as I am there."

5. Giant Mars rover set for Saturday launch

It was great to read the informed exchanges between readers. We have a community that enjoys reading about space and technology on the Light Years blog, and their enthusiasm was palpable.

Mel: "This is exciting stuff. It is a pity that according to the report the instruments won't be able to find life in samples, only if there are the chemicals needed for life, so we will have to wait till a later mission for that to be done. But it is good that the scientists are doing things in a layered sequence and not letting the impatience to know get in the way of meticulous science. Who knows if there were a huge asteroid going to hit earth centuries from now, a base there would be handy to re-establish life back on earth afterwards. (Disregarding the obvious problems of living on low gravity, high radiation and low water planet!)"

What's your take? Join the conversation below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport. If you've witnessed an Occupy Wall Street protest, share your perspective on the open story.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. ronvan

    BOO HOO HOO. WAMBY PAMBIES! 1. Students had "authorization"? to demonstrate. If so then WHY, WHO got the campus police involved? 2. WHO gave the order to use pepper spray, and what was the reason given? 3.When ANY police officer gives someone a "lawful command" to do something, by law, if not unlawfull, they have to follow it.
    So what do you expect them to do when they were told to disperse/leave and they decided to sit down and interlock arms? 4. For some of these comments I guess they were suppossed to shake their hands or give them a kiss to leave? 5. Find out WHO gave the orders to use the spray, they are responsible! IF the officer did it on his own then he needs to find another job, and not in the police business!

    November 21, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Beam Me Up Scotty

    re pepper spray: There is no debate among rational people. Only people who would be comfortable in Germany in the '30s would see this justifiable to maintain "order".

    November 21, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    NOT jIF@7:26.

    November 21, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Never mind the joker above. I did post @ 7:26 and I want to reiterate the fact that this country is going in the wrong direction as we blindly g down the path of right-wing extremism!!!

      November 21, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    Ronvan:
    There is nothing 'namby pamby' about being shot full in the face at close range with pepper spray.

    November 21, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    Wamby Pambie, rather.

    November 21, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    You are absurd, Patton. That is NOT JIF@7:56, and you know it.
    You are not half as intelligent as JIF, and you know it.
    Quit stealing people's usernames.
    You have a right to your opinions, but you haven't a right to post them under stolen u/n's.

    Nicole, is there anything CNN can do about *this*?

    November 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    NO, NOT JIF:
    !!!
    @ George Patton,
    Give it up.
    @ banasy:
    Thanks for having my back.

    November 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    @JIF: You're welcome.
    Anytime.

    November 21, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. s kel

    TYRONE!!! I HATE WHAT THOSE PUNK CAMPUS COPS DID !BUT TO SAY SOMETHING STUPID AND IGNORANT AS YOU SAID REALLY PUTS A DARK DAMPER ON WHAT THESE PROTESTERS WERE THERE FOR,NAMELY COST OF ADMISSIONS!!! YOU NEED TO BE NEUTERED!

    November 22, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  10. s kel

    I read what RONVAN wrote, lol what a limited thought process some people have.

    November 22, 2011 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
  11. larck

    You would believe you could easily make $200 to $1,000 a day trading Gold? Want some proof? and watch our free demonstration coming up....Gold trading academy.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©

    @larck:
    Your advertising budget is very, very low, isn't it?

    November 22, 2011 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mayors refuse to allow permits

    The mayor of our city has began refusing us permits to peacefully protest the Fed's illegal manipulating of our economy.(aka protesting "On Wall Street") Of course he has no credible reason for not allowing us permits....but by the time the ensueing legal battles are fought, the OWS protest fires will have been snuffed out. Next protests: OBP protests wheree millions of US protest Big-Pharma for not even telling us what they put in pharmaceuticals. (visit http://www.truthinlabeling.org and read what over 3 million Americans have to say about Big-Pharma on just this one of many websites just like it)

    November 22, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. Get-in on the Ground Floor

    Millions of American citizens are organizing to protest Big-Pharma's illegal way of getting US addicted to prescription medications. Visit http://www.truthinlabeling.org and read about how they have been putting MSG (a highly-addictive substance banned by the FDA long ago) into many prescription medications. There are even Big-Fooda corporations who put MSG in infant formulas. Protests on Bog-Pharma are right around the corner. Who's side are you on?

    November 22, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. s kel

    I wish Tyrone would say more ignorant statments on here. Hi Banasy.

    November 22, 2011 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
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