UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident Raises Ire & Questions (VIDEO)

UC Davis Pepper SprayThe video of peaceful students at the University of California Davis being blasted in the face with pepper spray on Friday is horrifying to watch. It has been circulating on the Internet all weekend, raising cries of police brutality and calls for the resignation of the university's president, Linda Katehi.

Like most, I was shocked when I saw it, but I'm also skeptical by nature. I wanted to believe the police were justified in their action somehow, that they wouldn't use such a violent tool unless absolutely necessary. I thought surely that there must have been some reason that it got to this point. Unfortunately, the more I read, the more outrageous and indefensible the incident seems.


The back story is that students were gathered on campus in conjunction with the Occupy Wall Street movement. According to CNN, about 25 tents were set up, even though overnight camping is against school policy. Police were called in to break up the crowd, and while most of them removed their camping equipment, a few didn't. Instead about a dozen of them sat down in a row, linked arms, and were determined to stay. That's when the police brought out the pepper spray and unleashed it on them.

Now, if they weren't supposed to be there and were breaking the law, then I don't necessarily disagree with police efforts to remove them. But I see no defense for spraying pepper spray at close range right into the face of someone peacefully protesting. I would have rather seen them bring out the handcuffs and start arresting people or writing tickets if laws were being broken than something as physically violent as pepper spray.

One victim, Geoffrey Wildanger, described what it was like to be sprayed to the Los Angeles Times: "It hurts a lot. You feel like your whole body is on fire."

The police are defending their actions, but their defense doesn't seem to match up with what is shown in the videos. UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza told reporters Saturday, "The students had encircled the officers. They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out."

The ones they sprayed didn't seem to be doing any encircling. They are just sitting there. Even more disturbing are the increasing reports that this isn't an isolated incident; that police regularly act in this manner, in this country.  I want to believe that we here -- in the land of the free -- are better than this, but the more I read, the more doubts I have.

The officers involved in the UC Davis incident have been placed on leave, and an investigation has been launched. While I'm not sure there are going to be any answers that are good enough to explain what happened, hopefully it will help fuel a bigger discussion about police force and protests in this country because it certainly raises many, many big questions.

Do you see any way the police were justified in using pepper spray on these students?

Image via YouTube


Read More >