November 21st, 2011
03:47 PM ET

Overheard on Pepper spray, politics spark heated debates

Editor's note: Readers have a lot to say about stories, and we're listening. Overheard on 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 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 moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. s kel

    If all white males were neutered I would not have my nephew.

    November 22, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. Moses' wife was black

    @s kel. If Moses were neutered...and as if a persons skin color has aaything to do with anything. Fan those flames of racism before they burn-out on their own though. The only thing keeping them alive are people like you. Just because our first President was a black man doesn't mean that you yourelf are required to omit him from your own history.

    November 22, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    Did you read the whole thread and the comments?
    You are erroneous in your thinking that s kel is in any way, shape, or form.
    Going by one comment for your opinion was a disingenuous way to attack somebody...

    @s kel:
    Hi. How are you?

    November 22, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    Oops, in any way, shape or form a rascist.
    S kel didn't fan any flames, but Moses, you are.

    Matter of fact, s kel is one of the least racist people I know.

    November 22, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  5. bobcat ( in a hat )

    Wow, how did this discussion all of a sudden get to race ? Other than those couple of posts by tyrone, it's been pretty sane.

    Hi banasy, s kel, JIF

    November 22, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ArtistCHD

    OCCUPYNEERS Optimized Optional Objectives = our Spiritual Renaissance Movement MultiplexRacialBody March Multimillion men + women upon Washington DC Capitol Hill U.S. Presidential Oval Office + Federal Government, Divinely Decreed Deliberated “AIDS Day” of Justice Judgment, against the Legislative-Executive-Judicial branches + Senatorial-Congressional Elected Officials voted for or appointed. Virus Myths – HIV vs. AIDS HOAX = We The Public People Power Plan + Positive Population Protests!! = "Rethinking AIDS Conference" December 1-3....reveals COLOR KINGDOM New World Creative Arts.

    November 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
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