We talked yesterday about the pepper-spray brutality on UC Davis students whose only crime seemed to be sitting quietly where the police didn’t want them. The shocking video of the event did not go unnoticed.
As some faculty members called for her ouster, the chancellor of UC Davis launched an inquiry Saturday into the pepper-spraying of apparently peaceful Occupy Davis protesters by campus police.
A video of the Friday incident that went viral on the Web showed a police officer dousing the protesters with a canister of pepper spray as they sat huddled on the ground. The police had been attempting to clear the university’s Quad of tents and campers.
Faculty and students reacted with outrage. Nathan Brown, an assistant professor of English, said in an interview that the episode was the latest example of “the systematic use by UC chancellors of police brutality” to suppress protests.
In an open letter, he wrote: “Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.”
University Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi did not criticize the needless use of pepper spray, at least at first, but referencing the video, she conceded, “There was enough information to show that we need to take a serious look at what happened.” As pressure increased, Katehi later added, “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.”
The school’s faculty association is now demanding Katehi’s ouster.
A spokesperson for the UC Davis police, meanwhile, said the non-lethal weapons were used because the police had been surrounded by students and lacked a way out. It would appear in the videos, however, that officers were moving around freely and were in no danger.
Which is more than we can say about the peaceful student-protesters who got sprayed in the face.
On a related note, the Monthly published an online exclusive yesterday from sociologist Peter Moskos, a former cop-turned-academic, who offers a helpful perspective on what transpired. He blames, among other things, “dumb-ass training” of the officers involved.