Investigation Launched After Police Pepper Spray Occupy Protesters

Video shows Occupy protesters at UC Davis sitting peacefully before the incident.

Posted: 11/21/2011 06:30 AM EST
Occupy Davis pepper spray

Occupy Davis protestors are pepper-sprayed by campus police while blocking their exit from the school's quid, Friday in Davis, California.  (Photo: AP Photo/The Enterprise, Wayne Tilcock)

The scenes of anti-Wall Street protesters caught in bloody clashes with police have captivated the nation, but it’s the image of seemingly peaceful protesters being subdued with pepper spray that leaves the University of California Davis wanting answers.

 

A shocking video taken Friday from the UC Davis campus in Davis, California, shows about a dozen protesters of the Occupy UC Davis movement seated peacefully in a row before at least two officers in riot gear take turns spraying them with pepper spray. At least one woman left by ambulance for treatment of chemical burns and ten people were arrested.

 

The president of the University of California system said he plans to review law enforcement procedures on all 10 UC campuses. Two police officers were placed on administrative leave in the incident.

 

"Free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history," UC President Mark G. Yudof said in a statement Sunday. "It is a value we must protect with vigilance."

 

UC Davis officials won't release the identities of the two officers who were placed on leave but one was a veteran of many years on the force and the other "fairly new" to the department, the school's Police Chief Annette Spicuzza told The Associated Press.

 

On Thursday, about 25 tents had been erected in the school’s quad. Police told KCRA-TV that students were given until 3 p.m. on Friday to clear their tents from the area. The university had previously told protesters that they could stay in the quad for as long as they wanted, but were not allowed to camp there.

 

"Police came and brutalized them and tore their tents down and all that stuff. It was really scary. It felt like there was anarchy everywhere," said student Hisham Alihbob.

 

UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi issued an open letter on Saturday expressing her sadness over the incident. Katehi said that she will instruct a task force, consisting of faculty, students and staff, to review those events and report back within 90 days.

 

Protesters from Occupy Sacramento plan to travel to Davis on Monday for a noon rally to show their solidarity.

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