UC Davis pepper spray incident goes viral
Police at UC Davis used pepper spray to disperse peaceful demonstrators at UC Davis, setting off a firestorm of protest, the suspension of two officers, and calls for the school’s chancellor to resign.
Police use of pepper spray to disperse “occupy” demonstrators at UC Davis has set off a firestorm of protest, the suspension of two officers, and calls for the school’s chancellor to resign.Skip to next paragraph
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Video of the incident at the University of California campus, showing demonstrators sitting peacefully on a sidewalk as officers sprayed them with a red mist of pepper spray at very close range, quickly went viral.
UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, who initially voiced support for the officers Friday, soon backtracked.
“I spoke with students this weekend, and I feel their outrage,” Chancellor Katehi said Sunday in a statement announcing that two officers had been put on administrative leave.
“I have also heard from an overwhelming number of students, faculty, staff and alumni from around the country,” she said. “I am deeply saddened that this happened on our campus, and as chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident. However, I pledge to take the actions needed to ensure that this does not happen again. I feel very sorry for the harm our students were subjected to and I vow to work tirelessly to make the campus a more welcoming and safe place."
Katehi said she is accelerating the timetable for a task force to investigate the events surrounding the arrests of 10 protesters Friday, including communications from the police to the administration, according to the university statement Sunday. She set a deadline of 30 days for the task force, which will include representatives of faculty, students and staff, to be chosen and convened this coming week.
Such contrition and quick response was not enough for many in the UC Davis student body and faculty.
After a Saturday evening press conference, Katehi had to wait two hours before walking through a gantlet of students that had been chanting for her resignation. The board of the Davis Faculty Association quickly organized a petition campaign calling for Katehi’s ouster as chancellor.
The story began Thursday when students set up tents on the UC Davis quad as part of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and also in protest of recent state university and college tuition and fee hikes officials say are necessary in light of California’s dire budget situation.
Setting up overnight encampments violates university policy, and the initial police action was to remove tents after a Friday afternoon deadline. That’s when several hundred demonstrators gathered, some of them sitting down on a paved walkway.