At a time when some faculty members have been demanding the removal of the Linda P.B. Katehi, the University of California, Davis Chancellor, over Friday's pepper spraying of students sitting passively on the ground, while in the midst of an Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest, the chancellor has finally launched an inquiry into the matter.
A video showing a police officer pepper-spraying protestors went viral Saturday. The police had been trying to remove tents and campers from the university's courtyard.
Katehi, who initially did not criticize the police, said on Saturday that she had watched the video and reviewed more accounts from the scene.
It left me with a very bad feeling of what went on, the Los Angeles Times quoted Katehi as saying, There was enough information to show that we need to take a serious look at what happened.
According to her, while she did authorize police to remove the tents, she did not tell them to use pepper spray.
The use of pepper spray as shown on the video is chilling to us all and raises many questions about how best to handle situations like this, said Katehi in a statement announcing the formation of a task force to investigate the matter.
Addressing a news conference on Saturday, UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said the decision to use the pepper spray was taken on the spot.
The students had encircled the officers, Spicuzza said, They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out.
Meanwhile, faculty members and students have reacted to the matter with outrage. Nathan Brown, an Assistant Professor of English at UC Davis, told Los Angeles Times in an interview that the incident was the latest example of the systematic use by UC chancellors of police brutality to repress protests.
In an open letter, Brown demanded the immediate resignation of chancellor Katehi.
I have also taken an active role in supporting the student movement to defend public education on our campus and throughout the UC system. In a word: I am the sort of young faculty member, like many of my colleagues, this campus needs, Brown wrote in the letter, I am an asset to the University of California at Davis. You are not.
I write to you and to my colleagues for three reasons:
1) to express my outrage at the police brutality which occurred against students engaged in peaceful protest on the UC Davis campus today
2) to hold you accountable for this police brutality
3) to demand your immediate resignation
According to him, the students were sitting on the ground without any provocation whatsoever. The police pepper-sprayed them, Brown claimed, regardless of their passive behavior, directly in the face, and also used batons to the push the students apart.
Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground, Brown wrote.
Police sprayed in my ears and my nose. It hurts a lot. You feel like your whole body is on fire, Geoffrey Wildanger, a graduate student in Art History, told the Los Angeles Times. Two other students were reportedly treated at a hospital and released, while several others were arrested.
The Davis Faculty Association also issued a letter on Saturday, demanding Katehi's resignation. According to the Association, by approving police force to remove the Occupy Davis tents, Katehi became a gross failure of leadership.
Read the entire letter by Nathan Brown here.
Watch the video below: