SAN FRANCISCO — "Chilling" video images surfaced online Saturday showing an officer at a California university calmly pepper-spraying a line of several sitting protesters, who flinch and cover their faces but remain passive with their arms interlocked as onlookers shriek and scream out for the officer to stop.
The chancellor of the University of California, Davis said she was forming a task force to investigate even as a university faculty group called for her resignation because of the incident Friday.
"The use of the pepper spray as shown on the video is chilling to us all and raises many questions about how best to handle situations like this," Chancellor Linda Katehi said in a message posted on the school's web site.
The officers' reaction to the protest, held in support of the overall Occupy Wall Street movement, and the ensuing video images, which were circulated on YouTube and widely online, prompted immediate outrage among faculty and students, with the Davis Faculty Association saying in a letter Saturday that Katehi should resign.
She was expected to speak at a news conference later Saturday.
Images of police evictions have served to galvanize support during the Occupy Wall Street movement, from the clash between protesters and police in Oakland last month that left an Iraq War veteran with serious injuries to more recent skirmishes in New York City, San Diego, Denver and Portland, Ore.
The forcible Oakland protest eviction, the first of its kind on a large scale, marred the national reputation of the city's mayor and police department while rallying encampments nationwide beset with their own public safety and sanitation issues.
Police chiefs and mayors held conference calls to discuss containment strategies in the days after the Oct. 25 Oakland eviction. The use of rubber bullets and tear gas dropped off, though police departments have turned to pepper spray when trying to quell large crowds.
Some of the most notorious instances went viral online, including the use of pepper spray on an 84-year-old activist in Seattle and a group of women in New York. Seattle's mayor apologized to the activist, and the New York Police Department official shown using pepper spray on the group of women lost 10 vacation days after an internal review.
In the video of UC Davis protest, the officer displays a bottle before spraying its contents on the seated protesters in a sweeping motion while walking back and forth. Most of the protesters have their heads down, but at least one is hit in the face.
Some members of a crowd gathered at the scene scream and cry out. The crowd then chants, "Shame on You," as the protesters on the ground are led away. The officers retreat minutes later with helmets on and batons drawn.Comment on this story
It's not clear from the video what agency the officer who used the pepper spray represents. Officers from UC Davis and other UC campuses as well as the city of Davis responded to the protest, according to Annette Spicuzza, UC Davis police chief. Davis is about 80 miles north of San Francisco.
Spicuzza told the Sacramento Bee (http://bit.ly/sKoP5T) that police used the pepper spray after they were surrounded. Protesters were warned repeatedly beforehand that force would be used if they didn't move, she said.
"There was no way out of that circle," Spicuzza said. "They were cutting the officers off from their support. It's a very volatile situation."