UC Davis Police Pepper Spray Peaceful ‘Occupy’ Protesters; Female Student Hospitalized with Chemical Burns
University of California, Davis police attacked unarmed, peaceful student demonstrators with pepper spray at an ‘Occupy ‘ protest on campus yesterday, sending one woman to the hospital with chemical burns.
According to boingboing, KCRA 3 and the Huffington Post, the showdown between police and students came as University officials and police demanded that students remove the tents from their ‘Occupy’ encampment on campus. Some complied, others did not. Those who got in the way of officers sent to dismantle the tents were arrested.
The pepper spraying incident occurred when a group of protesters sat down on the university quad and formed a human chain. UC Davis police claim that they acted because students refused to cooperate with them in dismantling the encampment. But officers could have easily gone around or over the peacefully seated protesters. Instead, they chose to respond to nonviolent civil disobedience with brutal force– in this case, chemical weaponry.
“The UC Davis students were peacefully protesting on the quad,” the student who filmed the video posted below wrote to the Huffington Post. “The cop gave them 3 minutes to disperse before he said they would come and disturb the protest. The main objective for them was removing the tents. … The students did have a right to be on campus, they were assembling peacefully and the campus was open at the time.”
An officer identified as UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike brandished a pepper spray canister before unleashing a debilitatingly painful stream of pepper spray on the seated, peaceful protesters. KCRA 3 reports that one female protester was rushed to hospital in an ambulance for treatment of chemical burns.
Ten protesters were arrested.
Angry students chanting “SHAME ON YOU!” forced the officers to beat a nervous retreat after the attack. Students chanted “Whose quad? Our quad!” and cheered as the officers left.
Another video shot during yesterday’s UC Davis demonstration shows a protester being body-slammed to the ground by police in riot gear (this happens just after the 7:45 mark in this video):
UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza defended the brutality to KCRA 3, saying that camping on campus is “not safe for multiple reasons.”
UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi released a statement that read, in part: “We deeply regret that many of the protestors today chose not to work with our campus staff and police to remove the encampment as requested. We are even more saddened by the events that subsequently transpired to facilitate their removal.”
But according to the Huffington Post, at least one UC Davis professor, Nathan Brown, has called for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation. Brown wrote an open letter to “hold [Katehi] accountable for this police brutality.” “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,” he wrote.
Police use of chemical weapons (tear gas and pepper spray) has been widespread as authorities react to the swelling ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. One of the earlier images of police brutality shows NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna pepper spraying a group of netted female protesters at an ‘Occupy Wall Street’ demonstration in New York City. Protesters, including Moral Low Ground editor Brett Wilkins, attending an ‘Occupy Oakland’ event in California were attacked with tear gas on October 26. Scott Olsen, a US Marine Corps and Iraq war veteran, was hospitalized with a fractured skull after being shot in the head by a police tear gas canister at that protest. Dorli Rainey, an 84-year-old former mayoral candidate, was blasted with pepper spray at an ‘Occupy Seattle’ demonstration. A pregnant teenager was rushed to hospital after being attacked at the same protest. ‘Occupy Portland’ protester Elizabeth Nichols was shot directly in the face with a powerful blast of pepper spray on Thursday. These are but a handful of the many instances of police brutalizing unarmed, peaceful protesters with chemical weapons during ‘Occupy’ demonstrations.
What exactly does a pepper spray attack feel like? According to the European Parliament:
The effects of pepper spray are far more severe, including temporary blindness which lasts from 15–30 minutes, a burning sensation of the skin which lasts from 45 to 60 minutes, upper body spasms which force a person to bend forward and uncontrollable coughing making it difficult to breathe or speak for between 3 to 15 minutes.
Pepper spray can be fatal is used against people with respiratory problems like asthma. According to the Los Angeles Times, 61 people died in the United States after being pepper sprayed by police in one five-year period alone. Pepper spray is banned for use in war under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
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