The above video was posted to YouTube yesterday evening, and it shows UCD Police Lt. John Pike pepper spraying a line of peaceful protesters at UC Davis. BoingBoing describes the officer’s casual nature “as if he’s dousing a row of bugs with insecticide,” and Gawker agreed, saying Pike’s behavior was that of “a gardener using pesticide.” We disagree; if you used that much insecticide, you’d poison your yard.
According to The Davis Enterprise, the showdown occurred after UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi had a letter delivered to the protesters demanding that their tents be removed. 10 People were arrested when they didn’t comply with the demands, and as police moved forward, a line of students sat on the sidewalk. What happened next can be seen in the video. The Davis Enterprise reports the aftermath:
UCD paramedics later treated with saline the eyes of 11 protesters; two were taken to Sutter Davis Hospital. Nearby, one young woman sat on her knees, crying with her eyes shut and pink streaks of Pepto-Bismol and water running down her cheeks.
Kristin Koster, a post-doctoral lecturer, used a scarf dipped in another home remedy, Maalox and water, to help Dominic Gutierrez, who was barely able to open his eyes.
He was sprayed, he said, when he tried to shield others with his jacket.
As a result of these events, Nathan Brown, an assistant professor in the Department of English posted an open letter calling for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation. You can read it here, but here’s an excerpt:
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.
No word yet on whether the police officers will be reprimanded, but it seems unlikely: UCD Police Chief Annette Spicuzza says she is “very proud” of them.