UC Davis police: say it, don't spray it

Pepper spray cop
Illustration by Sara Donchey

While it has been almost two weeks since the pepper spray incident at UC Davis, the excessive actions taken by police against unarmed protestors remains ingrained in the minds of many.

About 200 students were in the quad of UC Davis Friday, Nov. 18, at about 3:30 p.m. when between 10 and 15 students sat, arm-to-arm, blocking a walkway to the Occupy Davis encampment. They were pepper sprayed by university police Lt. John Pike,  known on the Internet as the “pepper spray cop.” He is now on leave along with university police Chief Annette Spicuzza and another unnamed officer.

The police were wrong to pepper spray the non-violent protesters who were exercising their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. The events of that day disregarded basic civil rights and the foundation our country was built on.

Students put the Constitution into action to fight tuition hikes and higher education cuts and were sprayed like weeds on a sidewalk.

This overreaction showed the world that the police and the university have no tolerance for dissenting voices. Note the tear gas at Occupy Oakland, or the batons jammed into midsections at Occupy Cal as further evidence of inept police “enforcement.”

To make matters worse UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi can’t make up her mind about her role in the pepper spray incident. She called for the police action against the protest in the first place, but takes no responsibility for the actions that happened as a result of the police presence.

She is now retreating from her original stance to stop the protests because her plan blew up in her face and on YouTube.

After the events she claimed the expression and safety of students is “paramount.”

Since when is a chemical agent in the face and throats of students promoting a “safe” environment. What is it opposites day at UC Davis?

Katehi has appointed a task force, compiled of faculty, staff and students, to review what happened that Friday. After a 30-day investigation it will give recommendations. In addition, a UC-sponsored investigation will be led by former Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, and the Yolo County Sheriff and district attorney will lead another probe into the whats of that day.

To hire an outside source to find out what happened that day seems pointless. Just watch the YouTube video and see from four different angles exactly what happened. Peaceful protesters were pepper sprayed sitting in the quad that their tuition money helps to maintain.

A power trip by the cops is not a good reason to treat 11 people for injuries and send two to the hospital.

Let the protestors camp to prove their point.

Demonstrators shouldn’t need a permit to do this, it defeats the message of defiance.

And isn’t defiance the reason why law enforcement exists?

It should know how to handle these situations without casing more harm.

The police, the people who are supposed to be protecting students, are the ones who seem to be hurting them the most.

Instead of keeping a watchful eye, police are inserting themselves into these situations. They are supposed to keep the peace, not become one of the aggressors.

They should be retrained to deal with protests. The demonstrations as of late have not been seen in cities and college campuses since the ’70s, and the dynamic of this generation is completely different.

Unfortunately Chancellor Katehi and the police officers of the UC Davis incident have become the example of what not to do during a protest. The question of the “right” way to protest has become a difficult one to answer because no matter how peaceful or hostile the protest, there is still a risk of being sprayed, gassed, or prodded.

Note to police: say it, don’t spray it, unless all other options have been exhausted.