Beefy, sneering guys in Blue use pepper spray on peaceful UCDavis protesters at close range

What is shown in this video — posted by TIME Magazine, here — is a very, very grave mistake, and an abuse of power and authority of the first degree. It is causing outrage locally, nationally and internationally.

Peaceful protesters are shown here being pepper sprayed at very close range by big beefy guys (and at least one little lady) in blue — official California police officers.

It happened at the end of last week on the campus of the University of California at Davis. The students were allowed to camp overnight, though there was a policy against it, then told to remove their tents by 3pm or face arrest. They decided to hold a sit-in. They were then pepper-sprayed with premeditation.

The video can also be watched on Youtube, here:

Then, these big beefy guys get nervous — two of them, at least, have their fingers on the triggers of big black automatic weapons that they are pointing at the crowd — as, outnumbered but not out-armed, they walk backward in a phalanx position to protect…themselves.

“Shame on you!”, the students chant.

Then, “You can go!”

An eyewitness description is posted in an interview published here.

Also from the same website, another view of UCDavis students being pepper-sprayed:

Photo from Boingboing.net

And, here are the guns, ready for use on an American university campus:

Another photo posted on Boingboing.net

UPDATE: An AP story on the outcry that followed circulation of this video reports that “The protest was held in support of the overall Occupy Wall Street movement and in solidarity with protesters at the University of California, Berkeley who were jabbed by police with batons on Nov. 9. Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department’s use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a ‘compliance tool’ that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters. ‘When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them’, Kelly said. ‘Bodies don’t have handles on them’. After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of ‘active resistance’ from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques. ‘What I’m looking at is fairly standard police procedure’, Kelly said. Images of police actions have served to galvanize support during the Occupy Wall Street movement … 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 the UC Davis protest, the officer, a member of the university police force, 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 several were hit directly in the face” This is published here.

Don’t they ever learn?

The same AP story also reported that “University of California Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said in a statement Saturday she was forming a task force to investigate the police action and the video images she said were ‘chilling’ … As the images were circulated widely on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter on Saturday, the university’s faculty association called on Katehi to resign, saying in a letter there had been a ‘gross failure of leadership’. At a news conference, Katehi said what the video shows is, ‘sad and really very inappropriate’ but defended her leadership and said she had no plans to resign”.

An open letter of protest to UCDavis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, written on 18 November by Asst Professor Nathan Brown, is posted here. This letter holds Katehi responsible and demands her resignation.

The letter from Asst. Professor Brown reads, in part:

    “Today you ordered police onto our campus to clear student protesters from the quad. These were protesters who participated in a rally speaking out against tuition increases and police brutality on UC campuses on Tuesday—a rally that I organized, and which was endorsed by the Davis Faculty Association. These students attended that rally in response to a call for solidarity from students and faculty who were bludgeoned with batons, hospitalized, and arrested at UC Berkeley last week. In the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, those protesters had linked arms and held their ground in defense of tents they set up beside Sproul Hall. In a gesture of solidarity with those students and faculty, and in solidarity with the national Occupy movement, students at UC Davis set up tents on the main quad. When you ordered police outfitted with riot helmets, brandishing batons and teargas guns to remove their tents today, those students sat down on the ground in a circle and linked arms to protect them.

    What happened next?

    Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.

    What happened next?

    Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

    This is what happened. You are responsible for it.

    You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt. Faculty get hurt … The fact is: the administration of UC campuses systematically uses police brutality to terrorize students and faculty, to crush political dissent on our campuses, and to suppress free speech and peaceful assembly. Many people know this. Many more people are learning it very quickly.

    You are responsible for the police violence directed against students on the UC Davis quad on November 18, 2011. As I said, I am writing to hold you responsible and to demand your immediate resignation on these grounds …

Asst Professor Nathan Brown’s letter calling on UCDavis Chancellor Katehi’s resignation continues:

    “I will leave it to my colleagues and every reader of this letter to decide what poses a greater threat to “a safe and inviting space for all our students” or “a safe, welcoming environment” at UC Davis: 1) Setting up tents on the quad in solidarity with faculty and students brutalized by police at UC Berkeley? or 2) Sending in riot police to disperse students with batons, pepper-spray, and tear-gas guns, while those students sit peacefully on the ground with their arms linked? Is this what you have in mind when you refer to creating “a safe and inviting space?” Is this what you have in mind when you express commitment to “a safe, welcoming environment?”

    I am writing to tell you in no uncertain terms that there must be space for protest on our campus. There must be space for political dissent on our campus. There must be space for civil disobedience on our campus. There must be space for students to assert their right to decide on the form of their protest, their dissent, and their civil disobedience—including the simple act of setting up tents in solidarity with other students who have done so. There must be space for protest and dissent, especially, when the object of protest and dissent is police brutality itself. You may not order police to forcefully disperse student protesters peacefully protesting police brutality …

    Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students. I deduce from this discrepancy that you are not, in fact, concerned about the safety of our students. Your actions directly threaten the safety of our students. And I want you to know that this is clear. It is clear to anyone who reads your campus emails concerning our “Principles of Community” and who also takes the time to inform themselves about your actions. You should bear in mind that when you send emails to the UC Davis community, you address a body of faculty and students who are well trained to see through rhetoric that evinces care for students while implicitly threatening them. I see through your rhetoric very clearly. You also write to a campus community that knows how to speak truth to power. That is what I am doing.

    I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately”.

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