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.

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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."</