Hell in an aerosol can, pepper spray creates a sensation of being set on fire and simultaneously suffocated. Sprayed in the face, it immediately inflames the mucus membranes of the eyes and nose, plus the mouth and lungs. Vision blurs, snot flows, and breathing becomes labored. Effects last anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours. It is awful.
And that non-lethal pain is exactly why it's so excellent that Berkeley City Council will allow police to use it on violent protesters.
The timing couldn't be more appropriate. For almost two decades, the city banned the use of pepper spray by law enforcement. But Ben Shapiro is slated to address students at the University of California, Berkeley on Thursday.
"Currently the Berkeley Police Department is hampered during crowd events in addressing coordinated groups of violent offenders," Chief of Police Andrew Greenwood wrote ahead of the event on Sept. 12, "because the only tools available are batons, less lethal projectiles, smoke, and tear gas canisters."
Fortunately, the city council obliged and police will now be allowed to pepper spray "individuals within a crowd who are committing acts of violence upon police or others." The chemical deterrent will be much needed.
Ahead of the sharp tongued conservative's visit, the administration has offered counseling to students who "feel threatened or harassed" because of Shapiro's conservatism. Others like Refuse Fascism, a subset of the violent left-wing Antifa movement, don't want to express their feelings verbally. They've planned a rally which, if history is any guide, will likely become a riot.
Last time a right-wing provocateur came to speak, 150 masked undergrads smashed and torched their campus, costing the administration more than $100,000 in damages. And just recently, an Antifa gang opened the school year by curb stomping a Trump supporter in the street. More of the same is expected for Shapiro.
The university has taken extreme precautions for the Shapiro event. Security will screen attendees who must pass through security barriers and show tickets. Anyone outside that perimeter who wants to riot, whether they're Antifa thugs or white supremacists, will have to deal with riot police.
Of course, no one wants undergraduates to be pepper sprayed. Nobody wants to send undergraduates back to their dorms blubbering with tears and snot running down their face. But political violence has no place on campus, especially not at Berkeley, which prides itself on sparking the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. Hopefully pepper spray will help police deter violence.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.