19 November 2011

Police Brutality and Lies at UC Davis

If you don't come to democracy, democracy will come to you.

studentactivism.net | 19.11.2011 | NEDERLANDS

Yesterday afternoon, after UC Davis police dismantled an Occupy encampment on their campus, making several arrests, a group of students sat down.

That’s it. They sat down in a wide ring around the officers, and bowed their heads. Some linked arms. Many did not. Officers were positioned behind the line and in front of them, and — video shows — were able to move past them easily in either direction.

In order to clear the demonstrators police pepper-sprayed the line. Just sprayed the entire line of students with a casual sweeping motion. Video shows that within eight seconds of the first use of spray, the line was broken up and no longer restricted police action at all. (One student on the scene says that police sprayed the thickest section of the line and that there were gaps in it at other points. That it was always, in other words, a symbolic rather than actual barrier.)

Students. Sitting down. With bowed heads. On university property. Police freely moving around them, pepper spraying them, facing no resistance whatsoever. Within eight seconds the students represented no impediment to anyone. They were just students sitting on the ground.

Here’s how a Davis faculty member who was on the scene describes 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.

Not all of this account is corroborated by video, but much of it is. Cameras caught police kneeling on students’ backs and spraying them directly in the face. Local media reported that at least one female student was taken from the scene in an ambulance “for treatment of chemical burns.”

In Seattle, police penned protestors onto the sidewalk before pepper spraying–protestors who included 84 year-old Dorli Rainey and a pregnant woman.

The chief of the UC Davis police department told the local CBS news that officers began spraying, in the station’s paraphrase, “out of concern for their own safety,” a claim that video and photos of the incident demonstrates to be completely false. She told the Sacramento Bee that officers “officers were forced to use pepper spray when students surrounded them,” that — and this is a direct quote — “there was no way out of that circle.” But video shows, again, that officers were moving freely throughout the incident. The officer who sprayed first, in fact (identified online as Lt. John Pike) was standing inside the circle immediately before he began spraying, and stepped past the students, out of the circle, in order to spray them.

UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi released a statement last night in which she said she “deeply regret students’ actions yesterday, actions that “offer[ed] us no option but to ask the police to assist in their removal.” But of course you can’t regret something that someone else did, something you had no control over.

For the actions she did have control over, and will have control over in the future — the violence of her police — Katehi expressed no regret. She was, she said, “saddened.” She was “saddened to report that during this activity, 10 protestors were arrested and pepper spray was used,” and “saddened by the events that subsequently transpired to facilitate their removal.” No regret. Not even an active voice.

Just sadness at what those awful students made her do.

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