UC Davis on Tuesday released thousands of email messages related to last November’s pepper-spraying of unarmed Occupy UC Davis protesters.
The documents are the result of public records requests from The Enterprise and other media outlets dating back to the days after the Nov. 18 incident during which about a dozen protesters were pepper-sprayed and 10 others arrested.
A first look found scores of calls for the resignation of Chancellor Linda Katehi or messages aimed at then-UCD police Lt. John Pike, who sprayed students who refused to move from a sidewalk on the campus Quad.
Much of the email Katehi received came from the online petition site Change.org, where more than 116,000 people signed a petition calling for her to step down.
Other messages were more personal. A self-described UCD graduate, parent of UCD students and Davis resident wrote:
“No amount of backpedaling will get you out of your personal responsibility for what happened. I read your emails last week and over the weekend and realized that not only do you neglect to put students first, you don’t tell the truth. Your second in command is no different. Your chief of police is a puppet. You seem closer to a fascist than an educator. ”
Still others drew a line between the chancellor and the police force, offering Katehi advice or giving her support.
Wrote Julian Youmans, an emeritus professor of neurological surgery, “Many of us are pleased and proud of your firm and even-handed approach in your efforts to maintain the safety, health and welfare of our entire academic community.
“We are with you,” he added.
A handful of the emails say that the protesters “got what they deserved” for not complying with police.
Katehi has weathered the storm, facing a booing crowd of thousands three days after the pepper-spraying, worldwide news coverage and two grillings from state legislators. She received strong backing in a faculty no-confidence vote, but later was censured by the Academic Senate’s Executive Council.
Outside investigators and a student, staff, faculty and alumni panel led by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso later placed the blame both on her administration and the police for their decisions, including moving in without legal standing, poor planning and botched execution.
Hackers posted Pike’s personal information online in the hours after the incident. His voice mail and email inbox quickly filled with irate, often vulgar messages in which he was called a “coward,” “bully” and a “disgrace.”
Many demanded that he turn in his badge. Over and over in emails, he was asked, “What is wrong with you?”
“Seeing you holding that canister, as if you were trying to spray some roaches, or disinfect an outhouse, rather than deal with your fellow human beings in a rational way, is something I will not soon forget,” wrote one person.
“Take out your rage on something else, like killing yourself,” reads another.
A third reads, “People should find your family and make them kneel and we will pepper-spray them all.”
The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office charged neither the protesters nor the police.
Pike and another officer, Alexander Lee, who also used pepper spray, are no longer employed by the university. Pike was fired, by one account. Police Chief Annette Spicuzza resigned while under investigation.
UC has reached a $1 million settlement agreement with 21 students and alumni who were pepper-sprayed or arrested, and the campus and the system have paid out more than $1 million more for legal fees and consultants.
— Reach Cory Golden at email@example.com or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden