US Davis students protest use of pepper spray

By Judy Lin

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Nov. 21 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

Student David Buscho, 22, speaks to the crowd during a rally on the University of California, Davis campus in Davis, Calif., Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 after police pepper-sprayed peaceful demonstrators during a protest on Friday. He was pepper sprayed on Friday.

Paul Sakuma, Associated Press

DAVIS, Calif. — Students at the University of California, Davis on Monday protested the use of pepper spray at an Occupy encampment, as university officials scrambled to ease tension on the Northern California campus.

Nearly 2,000 students and residents gathered at the main quad to hear speeches and chant slogans against police and university officials.

They were spurred on by widely circulating videos of riot police using pepper spray Friday as they broke up the Occupy UC Davis encampment. Police sprayed students who were sitting passively with their arms linked.

Students who were pepper-sprayed opened the protest on Monday, saying they now feel unsafe on campus.

"We were just kids sitting down in a circle singing," said mechanical engineering student David Buscho, 22, of San Rafael. "It felt like hot glass ... I was paralyzed with fear."

Students used pink and purple chalk to scrawl messages of peace such as "One Love" on sidewalks. Another message protested the latest proposal to raise tuition at UC campuses, proclaiming "I am not a cash cow."

Buscho said students were yelling at police Friday that they were peacefully protesting.

"I had my arms around my girlfriend. I just kissed her on the forehead and then he sprayed us," he said. "Immediately we were blinded ... He just sprayed us again and again and we were completely powerless to do anything."

The protest Friday was held in support of the overall Occupy Wall Street movement and in solidarity with protesters at the University of California, Berkeley who were rammed by police with batons on Nov. 9.

Nine students hit by pepper spray at UC Davis were treated at the scene, two were taken to hospitals and later released, university officials said. Ten people were arrested.

Mark G. Yudof, president of the University of California system, said Sunday he was "appalled" by images of protesters being doused with pepper spray and plans an assessment of law enforcement procedures on all 10 campuses.

Meanwhile, UC Davis police Chief Annette Spicuzza and two officers were placed on administrative leave.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, speaking on KQED Radio on Monday, said she had not authorized officers to use pepper spray and called it a "horrific incident." She said she takes full responsibility but will not step down.

She said the police were supposed to come in to remove the encampment but not the students.

"They were not supposed to use force; it was never called for," she said. "They were not supposed to limit the students from having the rally, from congregating to express their anger and frustration."

UC Davis said it was necessary to place Spicuzza on administrative leave to restore trust and calm tensions. The school refused to identify the two officers who were placed on administrative leave.

However, one was a veteran on the force and the other "fairly new" to the department, Spicuzza previously told The Associated Press. She would not elaborate further because of the pending probe.

Both officers were trained in the use of pepper spray as department policy dictates, and both had been sprayed with it themselves during training, the chief noted.

Katehi said in an earlier statement that she set a 30-day deadline for a school task force investigating the incident to issue its report. The task force, comprised of students, staff and faculty, will be chosen this week.

The UC Davis faculty association has called for Katehi's resignation, saying there had been a "gross failure of leadership."

"Chancellor Katehi needs to immediately investigate, publicly explain how this could happen and ensure that those responsible are held accountable," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in a statement.

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