by Will Butler
UC Davis got all shook up Friday following an incident in which campus police demonstrated that they, too, don't have a clue about how to deal with peaceful protesters. The video below centers on a group of campus police officers dispatched Friday to clear out the remaining occupiers who had camped overnight in the quad, after a week of peaceful demonstrations. In a shabby spectacle, an officer empties his pepper spray canister at close range on a small group of seated individuals. The victims, mostly students, bury their heads in their shirts for protection, eventually incapacitated enough to be easily carried away.
As the nearly-ten minute video progresses, though, it becomes clear that the group of officers has no exit strategy. With guns drawn, they are nearly surrounded by the overwhelming group of (still peaceful) protesters. In a rousing show of solidarity, a "mic check" is called. The protesters inform the police: "We are willing to give you a brief moment of peace; so that you may take your weapons, and our friends, and go. Please do not return. We are giving you a moment of peace." Thankfully, the cops take the hint, and slink away to the chant "you can go".
UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi issued a statement this morning promising a task force investigation and a reevaluation of how peaceful protesters are dealt with on campus. Her response is hardly more comforting that that of UC Berkeley's Chancellor Birgeneau, who simply expressed "regret" at the violent use of batons on his students last week, and promised a vague and standard "operational review" of UCPD tactics.
Update: In an open letter and petition to Chancellor Katehi, UC Davis English professor Nathan Brown described the aftermath of the police action shown in the video:
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.