On Friday, a group of University of California, Davis students, part of the Occupy Wall Street movement on campus, became the latest victims of alleged police brutality to be captured on video.
In the video, the officer displays a bottle before spraying its contents on the seated protesters in a sweeping motion while walking back and forth. Most of the protesters have their heads down, but at least one is hit in the face.
Some members of a crowd gathered at the scene scream and cry out. The crowd then chants, ‘Shame on You,’ as the protesters on the ground are led away. The officers retreat minutes later with helmets on and batons drawn.
“The UC Davis students were peacefully protesting on the quad,” said one student who took videos.
The filmmaker, a senior, asked that his name not be used for fear of retribution by campus authorities. “The cop gave them 3 minutes to disperse before he said they would come and disturb the protest. The main objective for them was removing the tents. … The students did have a right to be on campus, they were assembling peacefully and the campus was open at the time.”
This incident recalls the earlierÂ infamous pepper sprayingÂ by a New York Police Department official of several women who were seated and penned in.
Nathan Brown, an assistant English professor at the university,Â released an open letterÂ to the chancellor, calling for her resignation. He wrote, “You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt.”
Linda Katehi, the chancellor, said in a statement:Â “Yesterday was not a day that would make anyone on our campus proud; indeed the events of the day need to guide us forward as we try to make our campus a better place of inquiry, debate, and even dissent.”
She noted that a group of protesters stayed overnight Thursday despite repeated notices by university staff that their encampment violated university policies and they were told to disperse.
“On Friday morning, the protesters were provided with a letter explaining university policies and reminding them of the opportunities the university provides for expression.”
“Driven by our concern for the safety and health of the students involved in the protest, as well as other students on our campus, I made the decision not to allow encampments on the Quad during the weekend, when the general campus facilities are locked and the university staff is not widely available to provide support,” she said.
Linda P.B. Katehi initially did not criticize the police, but she said Saturday that she had since watched the video and reviewed more accounts from the scene.
“It left me with a very bad feeling of what went on,” Katehi said in a telephone interview. “There was enough information to show that we need to take a serious look at what happened.”
She said she authorized police to remove the tents, but not to use the pepper spray in the manner shown on the video. “Absolutely not,” she said.
At a news conference Saturday, UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said the decision to use pepper spray was made at the scene.
“The students had encircled the officers,” she said. “They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out.”
AÂ news accountÂ captured the officer on camera spraying the students. The account names the officer as UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike. He did not return a voice mail message nor an email left Friday night.