Crowds Gather At UC Davis To Protest Pepper-Spraying Of Students
DAVIS (CBS13/AP) – An angry crowd of more than 2,000 people at the University of California, Davis heckled the school’s chancellor off the stage Monday when she tried to apologize for campus officers using pepper spray on seated student protesters.
Chancellor Linda Katehi made a brief appearance at a demonstration where students, faculty and community members chanted slogans and called for her resignation over the spraying of students at an Occupy encampment.
“I’m here to apologize. I feel horrible for what happened Friday,” Katehi told the crowd. “If you think you don’t want to be students of the university we had on Friday, I’m just telling you, I don’t want to be the chancellor of the university we had on Friday.”
She asked the assembly to work with her as she strives to earn the trust of the campus. Then, as the demonstrators yelled at her to step down as chancellor, staff members escorted Katehi away to a car.
University officials and campus police have been the target of angry reprisals since widely circulated videos showed riot police dousing pepper spray on a row of students while they were sitting passively on the ground with their arms linked.
With no uniformed officers in attendance, students who were pepper-sprayed opened Monday’s protest, saying they now feel unsafe on campus.
Mechanical engineering student David Buscho, 22, of San Rafael, described being paralyzed with fear as he felt the spray sting “like hot glass.”
“I had my arms around my girlfriend. I just kissed her on the forehead and then he sprayed us,” he said. “Immediately we were blinded … He just sprayed us again and again and we were completely powerless to do anything.”
Before the assembly broke up, the crowd voted to hold a campus-wide strike on Nov. 28 to coincide with a meeting of the University of California governing board.
Nine students hit by pepper spray were treated at the scene, two were taken to hospitals and later released, university officials said. Ten people were arrested.
Earlier Monday, Katehi announced that UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza was put on paid administrative.
On Sunday, the two UC Davis police officers accused of using cans of pepper spray at point-blank range on a line of demonstrators sitting peacefully on the UC Davis quad were also put on leave.
“As I have gathered more information about the events that took place on our quad on Friday, it has become clear to me that this is a necessary step toward restoring trust on our campus,” said UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi in a statement released Monday morning.
The raid immediately drew accusations of excessive force from fellow UC Davis students and people around the state after video of the incident was shown on CBS13 and posted on the Internet.
>> CBS13 news photographer witnesses pepper spraying
Law enforcement officials say they used force out of concern for their own safety after they were surrounded by students.
In a letter to Police Department staff, Vice Chancellor John Meyer said that the decision to place Chief Spicuzza on leave was to allow “a fact-based review of events, assist in calming the community environment, and allow the department to focus on its current and substantial demands.”
On Sunday, Katehi said she also asked the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office to investigate the Police Department’s use of force.
Katehi also set a 30-day deadline for her school’s task force investigating the incident to issue its report. The task force, comprised of students, staff and faculty, will be chosen this week. She earlier had set a 90-day timetable.
The UC Davis faculty association called for Katehi’s resignation, saying in a Saturday letter there had been a “gross failure of leadership.” Katehi has resisted calls for her to quit.
The pepper-spraying event at UC Davis has prompted the president of the University of California system to call for an assessment of law enforcement procedures on all 10 campuses.
“Free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history,” UC President Mark G. Yudof said in a statement Sunday. “It is a value we must protect with vigilance.”
Protesters from Occupy Sacramento planned to travel to nearby Davis on Monday for a noon rally in solidarity with the students, the group said in a statement.
The ACLU said it is investigating the incident. It issued an open letter to Chancellor Katehi condemning the police actions and requested a copy of several documents including the department’s policies relating to pepper spray, dealing with protesters, and correspondence regarding the decision to take action against demonstrators.
Read the entire letter.