UC Davis Pepper Spraying and Call for Chancellor’s Resignation

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So, I’m posting here the astounding 8-minute video of UC Davis police pepper spraying student protesters, and the crowd reaction afterwards. If you follow the Occupy movement at all, you’ve probably already seen it, but if not, watch the whole thing.

And keep in mind, these students are there protesting the police brutality that occurred at previous protests, where UC students were beaten with batons and hospitalized.

[UPDATE (via Mother Jones): Just FYI, the main pepper sprayer is Lieutenant John A. Pike, who received a salary of $110,243.12 in 2010.]

And here’s a shorter video (with the spraying, but without the crowd reaction) taken from a different angle.

Here are a few of the things that I take away from these videos:

  1. The police are being used to brutalize and intimidate protesters. Note that the cops went out of their way to spray protesters who were way off to the side, who were not actually blocking the path. This is about physically punishing people for dissent.
  2. A few of the police (here and elsewhere) seem to take an attitude towards inflicting pain on other people that is at best indifferent, and at worst psychopathic. The vast majority of the police, I think, are not like this, but nor do they seem to be doing anything to stop their colleagues from brutalizing the students.
  3. Peaceful, non-violent confrontation can work. It seems fairly clear in the first video that the protesters won the day. And they did it by taking the high road, while at the same time not backing down.
This morning, Nathan Brown, an Assistant Professor, posted this open letter calling for the resignation of Chancellor Linda Katehi. In the letter, he details the events captured in the video, as well as incidents of police brutality leading up to this particular protest. Here’s an excerpt describing the police dismantling of the tents on the UC David Quad:

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.

What happened next?

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

The whole letter is well worth reading. And if you have any association with UC (e.g., as faculty, staff, student, or alum), add your voice.

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