With the local Occupy chapter resting and regrouping over the weekend, attention turned sharply to the West Coast after a video taken at the University of California, Davis, occupation showed police freely using pepper spray against peaceful protesters. In the brutal clip, cops in riot gear are seen pacing and prepping their spray as demonstrators sit calmly on the sidewalk with their arms linked in a show of nonviolent action against tents being removed from the quad. The protesters are then doused repeatedly with the orange liquid before police attempt to pull them apart. Two officers who used pepper spray have been placed on administrative leave, but that’s doing nothing to quiet the outcry.
University chancellor Linda Katehi announced on Saturday that a task force of students, faculty, and staff would “review the events and provide to me a thorough report within 90 days.” Katehi writes: “Our campus is committed to providing a safe environment for all to learn freely and practice their civil rights of freedom of speech and expression. At the same time, our campus has the responsibility to ensure the safety of all others who use the same spaces and rely on the same facilities, tools, environments and processes to practice their freedoms to work and study.”
But demands for her resignation continue, as illustrated in a letter from Davis assistant professor Nathan Brown. “You are responsible for the police violence directed against students on the UC Davis quad on November 18, 2011,” he wrote. “As I said, I am writing to hold you responsible and to demand your immediate resignation on these grounds.”
On Saturday night, Katehi was met with a chilling, silent protest as students and supporters watched her walk to her car:
In a statement Sunday, Katehi said, “I spoke with students this weekend, and I feel their outrage. I have also heard from an overwhelming number of students, faculty, staff and alumni from around the country. I am deeply saddened that this happened on our campus, and as chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident. However, I pledge to take the actions needed to ensure that this does not happen again.”
Today, at 12 p.m. PT, an Occupy rally is planned for the university quad. “Occupy UC Davis, in the vein of the greater Occupy movement, is an attempt to reclaim the public spaces, particularly in the sphere of education, which have come under attack by those in power,” the group writes. “Join us as we fight back against these attacks on students and citizens, and seek to create a society that truly allows liberty and justice for all.”
University of California president Mark G. Yudof said on Sunday that all ten of his school system’s chancellors would be meeting to discuss “how to ensure proportional law enforcement response to nonviolent protest.” He added, “The time has come to take strong action to recommit to the ideal of peaceful protest.”