A UC Davis police officer was caught on video spraying pepper spray at a group of students sitting on the ground during an Occupy Wall Street protest at the University of California, Davis on Friday.
In the video, the officer is seen walking toward the group of students sitting on the ground while dozens of onlookers surround the sitting protesters. Standing in front of the students, the officer is seen displaying the red pepper spray bottle to other protesters before swinging it down and spraying the yellow mist in the face of about a dozen students as he walked up and down the line.
The students tried to hide their faces as the officer shot the pepper spray in their direction.
The onlookers started booing and shouted “shame on you” at the pepper spray-wielding officer. Others screamed “Don’t do it, don’t you do it,” but to no avail.
For some protesters it brought back memories of when an NYPD officer pepper sprayed several women at the Occupy Wall Street protests.
In a statement released by the chancellor of the school, she explained that campus officials notified students that campus rules doesn’t allow them to set up an encampment on university grounds.
The chancellor, Linda Kathei, said several groups of protesters took down their tents in accordance with campus rules, but others refused to dismantle their tents, forcing campus officials to request that police assist in removing them.
“We are saddened to report that during this activity, 10 protestors were arrested and pepper spray was used,” she said. “We will be reviewing the details of the incident.”
Kathei added: “We deeply regret that many of the protestors today chose not to work with our campus staff and police to remove the encampment as requested. We are even more saddened by the events that subsequently transpired to facilitate their removal.”
Kathei said on Saturday that the university will launch an investigation into the “chilling” pepper spray incident. She will be forming a task force made up of students and faculty to review the events that transpired on Friday. The task force will have to provide the chancellor with a report within 90 days, she said.
In response to the alleged police brutality, an English professor released an open letter demanding the chancellor’s immediate resignation. “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. Faculty get hurt,” the professor said in the letter.
He added: “You are responsible for the police violence directed against students on the UC Davis quad on November 18, 2011. As I said, I am writing to hold you responsible and to demand your immediate resignation on these grounds.”
UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza told a Sacramento radio station that officers were concerned for their protection because there were nearly 200 protesters in that quad.
“If you look at the video you are going to see that there were 200 people in that quad,” she told the local CBS station. “Hindsight is 20-20 and based on the situation we were sitting in, ultimately that was the decision that was made.”