DAVIS (CBS13) – Law enforcement officials defended the tactics used Friday to dismantle an encampment set up by “Occupy Wall Street” sympathizers on the UC Davis quad, a raid that drew accusations of excessive force from students after sitting protesters were subjected to pepper spray at point-blank range.
UC Davis Police officers in riot gear warned “Occupy UC Davis” demonstrators to pack up their tents and leave the field located between the Memorial Union and Shields Library at about 3:00 p.m., and then moved in to take down the protesters’ tents a half hour later.
University officials had warned students several times since Thursday that camping would not be allowed on the quad.
A growing crowd filled the field as officers hauled away tents and a number of protesters linked arms and sat down on the path in the middle of the field, defying orders to leave. Shortly before 4:00 p.m., an officer used a can of pepper spray to coat the sitting demonstrators in the chemical dispersant before officers began taking students into custody one by one.
“I don’t think that was warranted,” one protester told CBS13. “It was non-violent protests, we were sitting, linking arms.”
UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said officers used force out of concern for their own safety after they were surrounded by students.
“If you look at the video you are going to see that there were 200 people in that quad,” said Chief Spicuzza. “Hindsight is 20-20 and based on the situation we were sitting in, ultimately that was the decision that was made.”
Authorities are still reviewing video of the incident, Spicuzza added.
Officers left the quad after making 10 arrests, nine of which were UC Davis students. Law enforcement retreated out of the field in a direction that was not obstructed by sitting protesters.
Protesters vowed to remain in the quad and reestablish their camp Friday evening, but as of 10:00 p.m. Friday, no demonstrators or tents were visible in the area.