The video, shot on Friday, showed UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike pepper spraying students who were sitting on the ground with bowed heads and linked arms. By all video and photo indications (below), the students did not appear to be physically threatening the police officers.
(Photo courtesy of Louise Macabitas)
Pike was liberal with his pepper spray dosage and injured several protesters, including a few (at least two, according to the Davis Enterprise) who had to be hospitalized.
UC Davis Assistant Professor Nathan Brown claimed that “when students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats.”
He claimed one student was hit with so much pepper spray down his throat that he was still coughing up blood 45 minutes later.
The police officers forcibly removed these students because the students defied the university’s order to remove tents from the protest site.
Initially, the police and UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi defended their forceful actions.
UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said she was “very proud” of the way her officers behaved, citing the difficulty and fears of dealing with a crowd of 200 people, according to the Davis Enterprise.
In her first statement about the incident, Katehi justified the police’s action by stating that the protesters offered her “no option but to ask the police to assist in their removal.”
Soon after the incident, however, criticisms poured in from both near and far.
Assistant Professor Brown called for Katehi’s “immediate resignation.”
“Pay attention, America: The rising police brutality against our students,” tweeted magazine Mother Jones.
UC Davis’ Facebook page has been flooded with critical comments. Below are some of them:
- Interesting to see how you treat your own students exercising their right to peacefully assemble, as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. Shame on you.
- The last couple days have made me ashamed to be a UCD alumni.
- The actions of the UCD-backed police are shameful, and if not legally criminal, they're morally reprehensible. Officer Pike is a sadistic man and should be charged with assault and battery.
- Shocking and disgusting. And systemic. Shame, UC Davis. Shame.
On Saturday, Katehi issued a second statement on the pepper spray incident.
She reiterated that she was driven by her “concern for the safety and health of the students involved in the protest” in her decision to remove them.
However, she said “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.”
She announced the formation of a task force to provide her with a thorough report of this incident within 90 days.