UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi remained inside Surge II for nearly three hours Saturday after hundreds of protesters surrounded the building, interrupting her news conference about the pepper-spraying of protesters by campus police the day before.
Protesters showed up minutes after the 4 p.m. conference began. Their voices could be heard within the building.
Many of those who had gathered outside said they believed Katehi did not give the UCD community sufficient notice and that the choice of venue was unfair because it did not permit the general public inside.
“After what happened yesterday, everyone is really, really angry,” said Steve Cox, a UCD graduate student. “It’s kind of unfair for her to hold a press conference in a really small venue with very short notice to try to exclude the student body. We have just as much of a right to be there as anybody and she needs to answer to us.”
The protesters formed lines leading away from the building, leaving a pathway to permit the chancellor’s exit, but the chancellor did not leave immediately following the conference.
“It didn’t seem like we would be allowed to leave,” said Mitchell Benson, assistant vice chancellor for university communications. “There was quite a loud, and I would hazard to say, hostile crowd outside both of the doors of the building and it didn’t seem that she would be able to get out in a safe manner, so she stood put for a couple of hours.”
While protesters chanted outside for, among other things, her resignation, Katehi stayed inside.
“I didn’t have a sense that it was an appropriate atmosphere or an appropriate environment to walk out of the building at that time,” Mitchel continued. “There was no rush to leave.”
The protesters, however, felt that they were acting peacefully. According to several protesters, they wanted to show their disapproval of the chancellor’s decision to have the students removed from the Quad the day before.
“We are here at this point to put bodies and faces to the emotion and the shock that was felt yesterday,” said Bob Blaine, a graduate of Cal State Sonoma, “and basically to not let her leave or come onto campus without knowing that she’s pissed off a lot of people here.”
Cox wanted to make it clear that they were not trying to keep the chancellor from leaving.
“We’re not barring the doors and keeping her in there,” he said. “We’re OK with her leaving, all she has to do is walk past us. We’ve already agreed on both sides to link arms and leave a path for her to leave, but she doesn’t want to walk out.”
Several representatives of the protesting group entered Surge II to discuss terms on which the chancellor could peacefully and safely leave.
At about 7 p.m. both parties came to an agreement.
Katehi emerged a few minutes later to a line of protesters running all the way down the building’s parking lot out onto Hutchinson Road.
Katehi, accompanied by several of her staff members, walked in silence to her car, got in and left.
While a few police officers could be seen about a block away, they kept their distance and never made contact with protesters during the incident.
— Reach Tom Sakash at email@example.com or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash