Debra J. Saunders
You have to really work at it to get arrested at a University of California campus protest. University administrators look at protest as part of the education process -- and they frequently issue memos stating how much they agree with left-wing causes. Administrators don't want campus police to arrest students -- especially students who attend demonstrations against state cuts to higher education.

Thus, students have had to ramp up dissident behavior if they want to be handcuffed and detained. Campus activists have begun to follow Occupy Wall Street's lead and set up tents to create illegal encampments. When campus police have threatened to take away the tents, protesters have engaged in what some police departments call "active resistance" -- such as linking arms to prevent police from doing their jobs.

On Nov. 18, 2011, a group of demonstrators won a great victory for their cause. In flagrant violation of campus rules, they set up tents in the UC Davis quad. Police were sent to disperse the encampment. As officers began to arrest protesters, students surrounded police as they chanted, "If you let them go, we will let you leave." They linked arms and eventually goaded two campus cops to use pepper spray.

Video of the exchange went viral. The protesters had won. They could portray themselves as victims, their highest calling. They could point fingers at authoritarian law enforcement. Their 30 seconds of fame would launch -- not a disciplinary hearing that ends with a warning, as should happen -- multiple investigations that have combed through 10,000 pages of records and cost several hundred thousand dollars.

You may have read about the report by a task force headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso that leads with the conclusion, "The pepper spraying incident that took place on November 18, 2011 should and could have been prevented."

That is so true.

Campus cops repeatedly warned activists. UC Davis campus police Lt. John Pike told protesters that "pepper ball guns" would be "deployed" and that they should understand that if they stayed, then they would be "subject to the use of force."

Rather than do the smart thing and leave -- in order to be free to protest legally another day -- one activist taunted Pike: "You are going to shoot me for sitting here? Is that what you said, officer?" (Presumably, that activist had the smarts to get into UC Davis.)

Debra J. Saunders

TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Debra Saunders' column. Sign up today and receive daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.