Our View

Pepper spraying was an overreaction

By From page A12 | November 20, 2011

The issue: Police action on UC Davis Quad went beyond necessary force

We add our voice to the growing chorus of members of the Davis and UC Davis communities who are deeply concerned about the pepper-spraying of protesters Friday on the university Quad.

Watch the video. Look at the photographs. Read the account of what, until that point, had been a relatively peaceful manifestation of students’ growing frustration at years and years of tuition increases. We think you’ll come to the same conclusion we have:

THE PEPPER-SPRAYING by a UC Davis police lieutenant of people — mostly students — who were sitting cross-legged in a sign of peaceful protest was an overreaction to the situation.

Chancellor Linda Katehi, expressing sadness over the events leading to Friday’s arrests of 10 protesters, has called for the creation of a task force to review those events. Its members will be faculty, students and staff; the task force will report back to her within 90 days.

Katehi also called for a review of university policies regarding overnight camping. Such camping is not allowed; the university justifiably is concerned about liability and about the staff resources necessary to supervise overnight activities. But protesters were allowed to stay overnight Wednesday in Mrak Hall and Thursday in a small enclave of tents pitched on the Quad.

The university’s patience clearly had worn thin by Friday. Katehi sent a letter to the campers at 11:30 a.m., informing them that she sympathized with their efforts but telling them they would have to pack up and leave.

That message was reiterated by UCD Police Chief Annette Spicuzza at 2:30 p.m., and was reinforced by police orders to disperse at 3 p.m. Then, over the course of the next 30 minutes, events unfolded, almost in slow motion.

Protesters were dragged to the ground and pinned, their wrists bound with plastic restraints. Then officers, who were encircled by students, ordered the sidewalk cleared so those arrested could be taken away. The protesters refused to move, and were pepper-sprayed at close range.

THE IMAGES ARE shocking. The reactions in our community and online are of outrage, sadness, disappointment and shame.

The creation of a task force is all well and good, but protesters plan to reassemble on the Quad on Monday to again raise their voices. It will require immediate leadership to allow them to do so while preventing a repeat of Friday’s events, which have left a stain on the reputation of a great university.

Debbie Davis

Debbie Davis

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