November 18, 2011 UC Davis Police Response to Occupy UC Davis

     (Redirected from UC Davis Students Pepper-Sprayed)

spraying.jpgA police officer casually pepper-sprays peaceful, seated protesters, 18 November 2011. Photo by Louise Macabitas, used with permission.

  1. Major Events
    1. UCD Police Pepper Spray Seated Protesters
    2. Explanations and Immediate Aftermath
    3. The Silence Heard Round the World
    4. November 21 Rally
    5. Continued Community Response
    6. General Strike of November 28, 2011
  2. Concerns and Unanswered Questions
    1. Concerning Chancellor Katehi's resignation
    2. Rolling Heads or Paid Vacations?
    3. Internal Investigation of the events of 18 November 2011
    4. "Independent Investigation" of the events of 18 November 2011
      1. Appointment of William Bratton to lead fact-finding effort
      2. Appointment of Cruz Reynoso to Lead Task Force
      3. Yolo County Investigation
    5. Second officer?
    6. Man in a Gray Suit?
  3. Resources
    1. Video
    2. Photos
    3. Poster
    4. Personal accounts
    5. Full Text Letters
    6. Media Coverage
    7. Timeline
      1. 2011
      2. 2012
      3. 2013
      4. 2014
    8. Other websites
  4. Make a Comment

Major Events

In mid-November, a group consisting primarily of students began to gather on the UC Davis campus to protest tuition hikes, express solidarity with the Occupy movement, and to protest the November 10 police response to Occupy Cal, where protesters had been beaten with batons. This group, tentatively referred to as Occupy UC Davis, began with a November 15 rally. On November 17, tents were set up on the Quad, following the model of Occupy protesters around the nation. The protesters were informed that they were not permitted to stay on the Quad overnight, but camped out anyway. The events that occurred the next day between the protesters and the police put UC Davis under international scrutiny and provoked an immense reaction, both within the University community and in discussions around the world. One of the officers involved became a momentarily famous pop icon representing the abuse of authority, and the ramifications locally put campus law enforcement and the administration into a position of having to account for their decisions and actions, with a large outcry for the Chancellor to resign. You can more read about the findings of the official investigation of the pepper spray incident on the Reynoso report page.

UCD Police Pepper Spray Seated Protesters

On November 18, 2011, UC Davis Police were dispatched to the Quad to break up the Occupy UC Davis protest because some people were camping out in violation of university policy. That afternoon, the UC Davis Police Department called in mutual aid from Davis Police Department, UC Santa Cruz, UCSF, and UC Berkeley to help them evict the campers. This means that some of the officers who beat protesters with batons at Berkeley were present at Davis' protest of their behavior. Equipped in riot gear, they gathered on the quad and approached the protesters. At approximately 2:30 [WWW]this video, which is the first of a 3-part series, it appears that a few tents remain set up in the center of the quad, with a line of protesters standing in a ring, arms linked, around the tents. At approximately 4:40 in the same video, a speaker announces that the police "will only use chemical weapons if you use force against them." It is unclear whether this information was represented to protesters by the police. At approximately 8:30 in the video, UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike addresses protesters through a loudspeaker.

At around 11:00 in [[WWW]the same video, police arrest a small number of protesters from the crowd; they do not appear to arrest anyone around the tents. A chant of "stop beating students" picks up at about 12:00 in the video, although, at least from this perspective, there is no sign of any students being beaten (but [WWW]this video shows the arrests happening fairly violently. It has been stated previously that students and/or tents were struck with batons. By approximately 1:30 in the second video, about 16-1/2 minutes after the incident began, there were no more tents standing on the quad. At this point in the incident, there is a sizeable but widely dispersed crowd.

In [WWW]the second video in the series, which picks up where the first left off, 15 minutes after police arrived, protesters begin to gather more densely. At approximately 4:30, there is something of a U-shaped mass of protesters. The area to the south, behind police from the camera's perspective, is clear of protesters. At around 6:20, large numbers of protesters begin moving. By 7:15 in the video, a thin ring of protesters goes most of the way around the officers, with the officers grouped around a small number of handcuffed protesters. A number of the officers look nervous at this point, holding their batons at the ready. At around 7:45 in the video, the protesters nearest the officers all sit down. By 8:00 in the video, the same officers who looked nervous appear much more relaxed.

At approximately 8:57 in the video, a man off-camera addresses the police, repeated by other protesters acting as a human microphone, stating, "if you let them go, we will let you leave. If you let them go, we will continue to protest peacefully." This has been interpreted by critics as a threat to the police.

At about 9:14 in the same video, an officer is seen leading one of the handcuffed protesters away. They pass off-camera and apparently pass through the protesters without camera. The police repeat this process with other arrested protesters, and at 10:00, someone near the camera comments that "they're taking them away one by one." At about this time, the camera shows one officer looking very on-edge, standing with a paintball-type gun half-raised with his finger on the trigger(note: from the angle of the video it appears as though he does not in fact have his finger ont he trigger and this is completely subject to opinion. And at 14:45 it appears that his finger is resting across the trigger not on the trigger itself.) A chant of "don't shoot them" begins at 10:35.

Throughout this period, police show a range of demeanors. Some officers have their visors lowered, covering their faces, others have them raised. At 13:22, an officer right in front of the cameraman seems quite relaxed, chewing gum and looking around impassively with his visor raised and his baton lowered. The officer next to him, on the other hand, has his feet spread, his visor lowered, and his baton held higher. At 13:35, two officers take away another cuffed protester, leaving without any difficulty.

A few minutes later, shortly after 3 pm, the UC Davis Police sprayed the seated non-violent protesters with chemical riot control agents. Photos (click here) and video (click here), now published by major media outlets around the world, clearly depict UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike [WWW]pepper spraying protesters who are seated with their arms linked. Pike sprayed at close range, in the protesters' faces, using several spraying passes that ended up coating the protesters' faces with pepper spray. A second officer who has not been publicly identified (but see [WWW]this article, which identifies him as Alexander Lee), seen in [WWW]this video, joined in spraying the protesters. Under [WWW]federal legal precedent, the use of pepper spray on nonviolent trespassing protesters violates their civil rights and constitutes excessive force.

The pepper spraying of peaceful students provoked intense emotional reactions around the world. Within 24 hours, there were public calls for the resignation of the UC Davis police chief and chancellor. Students, faculty, staff, and the public at large expressed their outrage, and thousands came out to support the protesters at subsequent events. Within a few days two separate inquiries began into what had actually occurred, and the university [WWW]announced it would pay for the immediate medical bills of injured protesters.

Explanations and Immediate Aftermath

Initially, officials essentially claimed that the officers were defending themselves. UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza [WWW]stated that the officers' safety was a concern. She [WWW]told the Sacramento Bee that "There was no way out of that circle . . . They were cutting the officers off from their support. It's a very volatile situation." Video evidence proving otherwise quickly went viral. At approximately 2:10 in [WWW]this video, for example, you see that Lt. Pike calmly and without any opposition stepped over the ring of protesters, exiting the circle. He then began spraying them in the faces a few seconds later. Critics of the protesters have viewed a statement from the protesters that "if you let [handcuffed protesters] go, we will let you leave" as a threat to the police, corroborating police safety concerns. This statement was made just under 10 minutes before Pike began spraying protesters. A counterpoint to the impression of this threat is that the seated protesters (specifically those who were subsequently sprayed) made no verbal or physical attempt to stop Officer Pike as he steps over and past them just before applying the spray.

The day after the pepper spraying, Chancellor Katehi [WWW]interview told the L.A. Times, Katehi that she authorized police to remove the tents, but not to use the pepper spray in the manner shown on the video — "Absolutely not." At a news conference Saturday, UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said the decision to use pepper spray was made at the scene. In [WWW]this video, an unidentified officer can be seen talking on a cell phone and then apparently relaying a message to Officer Pike (3 minutes and 40 seconds into the video). A moment later, Pike walks up to a student named Kase, to warn him that he will soon be pepper-sprayed. This turn of events raises the strong possibility that the officers at the scene may have very well been following direct orders as opposed to coming up with the decision on their own. A portion of the conversation between Pike and Case is discernible in some of the videos of the incident and has been transcribed:

On November 23 Katehi [WWW]stated that she only told the campus police "to remove the tents or the equipment." She stresses that she told them "very specifically to do it peacefully, and if there were too many of them, not to do it, if the students were aggressive, not to do it. And then we told them we also do not want to have another Berkeley" (referring to the UC Berkeley protesters who were jabbed with nightsticks the week before, spurring the Occupy UC Davis movement).

Additional details emerged ten days after the initial incident when Linda Bisson, Chair of the Academic Senate, e-mailed UC Davis faculty. According to Bisson, Chancellor Katehi was meeting with the Executive Council of the Academic Senate at the time pepper spray was deployed against protesters. Katehi told the Executive Committee that she had asked for the tents to be removed and that this was happening as they were being told of her decision; there was no consultation with the Senate regarding this decision. Katehi assured the Executive Committee at that time that although the police had been told to remove the tents, she had clearly instructed them to do it peacefully and without force unless physically threatened or attacked (thus substantiating the claim that Katehi made on 11/23). Bisson stated that the Chancellor was seated next to her and that she did not receive any communication from the field. At some point during the meeting the chancellor was called to the hallway. She soon returned, and her report of what had happened was identical to the statement she subsequently made to the press. When Bisson asked the Chancellor the next day (Saturday) about that statement, the Chancellor said that she had repeated what she had been told by her staff concerning the events of the quad, and it was not until later that she saw video of the event herself.

The Silence Heard Round the World

One of the most powerful, memorable moments to spring from this incident evolved from a press conference scheduled by Chancellor Katehi and the campus Police Board for the afternoon of November 19. By 4:00 pm, the scheduled time for the press conference, some six hundred protesters had gathered at the campus television studio. The conference began as planned, but ended within about 15 minutes. Davis Patch [WWW]reports that Ms. Katehi remained inside the building for two hours with police representatives, while members of the public were escorted out. Apparently, Ms. Katehi feared for her safety if she left the building. As detailed in [WWW]this account, mediators spoke with Ms. Katehi and the protesters, and those gathered outside agreed to remain silent during Katehi's departure.

As seen in [WWW]this video, at approximately 6:50 pm, almost three hours after the conference began, Katehi walked from Surge II to her waiting car through a stunning and remarkably moving silence. Following what has been called her walk of shame, Katehi responded to a reporter's question, saying that she would address students at the General Assembly planned for Monday. Police remained two blocks away during her departure.

November 21 Rally

rally_from_air.jpgThe rally from a helium balloon. Thanks to Stewart Long, Liz Barry, MicheleTobias, and Alex. Photo CC-By-SA [WWW]Public Laboratory.

On November 21, the Monday after the incident, an estimated 6,000 students, faculty, staff, and community members showed up for a rally on the Quad. Many speakers took the stage, including Ms. Katehi, who spoke for about two minutes. Choking up a bit, she pointed to a sign that said "November 17, 1973," telling the crowd that she remembered that day. It turns out that Katehi was present at a Greek university on that day when a revolt was violently put down. The event brought attention to her [WWW]recent role in having the police return to Greek campuses.

Following the rally, the university issued a [WWW]press release announcing chief Spicuzza's placement on administrative leave. In the release Katehi also took "full responsibility for the events on Friday." It also stated that Katehi had called on the Yolo County District Attorney to investigate the use of force on protesters. The District Attorney agreed to conduct an investigation in conjunction with the county sheriff's department, but after a brief review of the issues they [WWW]wrote a letter asking Attorney General Kamala Harris to take over the investigation; see this [WWW]Vanguard article for more details.

Continued Community Response

On 22 November 2011 there was a General Assembly on the Quad at 11 AM. There was also a Town Hall in Freeborn Hall from 5 PM until around 7:40 PM, open to all students, faculty and staff; a recording of part of the meeting is [WWW]here. The Chancellor made opening remarks, followed by questions and comments from the community. [WWW]UC Davis announced that the Chancellor has asked Acting UC Davis Police Chief Matt Carmichael to work with the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office to drop all criminal charges against the 10 individuals — nine of them students — who were arrested on November 18. Also, UC Davis has decided to pay immediate medical and emergency bills of students who were pepper-sprayed by police. A second Town Hall meeting for faculty and staff was held on November 29.

General Strike of November 28, 2011

strike.jpg 1_page_flyer_11_28_UCD.jpg At the November 21, 2011 General Assembly there was a vote of 1729 for and about 30 against the motion for a General Strike for Monday, November 28. At least [WWW]56 other universities honored the strike. The San Jose Mercury News [WWW]liveblogged the event; it is very detailed and covers events at the other participating UCs. Occupy California [WWW]gives a briefer timeline.

The Occupy UC Davis movement used cell phones to help coordinate actions; anyone could text Text "UCDACTION" to 23559 for updates on major strike actions.

The poster at the right identifies the ARC as the location of the Regents Meeting, and calls for students, faculty, and staff to begin assembling in front of the building by 7:30 AM. However, the [WWW]Davis Enterprise reports: "Whether any appointed regents actually will be on campus remains up in the air... because their presence likely would prompt additional security... it’s up to each regent to choose which venue to attend." Indeed, the only Regents to attend were the student regents. The Enterprise article also notes: "People entering the ARC facility should expect metal-detecting security wands and possible pat-downs." If so, there's a question of why they would work to prevent violence when none has occurred — or even been threatened — by any students or Occupy supporters. It's a bit like patting down all attendees of a survivors of violence meeting.

Here is a rough timeline of the day's events: Public comment was taken in the ARC from 9-10 AM; video is [WWW]here. The UC Office of the President [WWW]insisted that a tuition increase was not on the agenda for the meeting, and indeed, it was not. Students began the day by unfurling a banner that read "Solidarity against the 81 percent fee increase" outside the ARC. By 8:50 AM, about 50 students were waiting to get into meeting. By noon, protesters had shut down the meetings at UCLA, UCSF, and UCD by making enough noise so that the meetings could not continue. Most protesters then proceeded to the Quad for a General Assembly, and then to the financial aid building, Dutton Hall. About 500 students occupied the building. A big banner over the front door read, "General strike, no more fee hikes." Nathan Brown conducted a teach-in inside. It should be noted that the Regents meeting reconvened, and despite claiming to be on the side of the students, they [WWW]voted to raise several administrator salaries as much as 22%. Yudof and the Regents also continued to blame state disinvestment, rather than acknowledging legitimate concerns voiced during public comment about bloated administrative salaries, mismanagement of funds, investment of student fees in capital projects unrelated to academic instruction, fee hikes in excess of those necessary to compensate for state cuts, etc.

Teach-ins were held all day and continuing throughout the week — see schedule of teach-ins [WWW]on this Google doc and flyer below. Please note that the flyer below does not include all scheduled workshops and the Google doc is much more comprehensive. Also, times and dates may be updated/changed, topics may be added, etc., so check back from time to time if you are interested.


Concerns and Unanswered Questions

Concerning Chancellor Katehi's resignation[WWW] on the day of the rally, 2011-11-21.

Rolling Heads or Paid Vacations?

On 20 November 2011 two of the officers involved in the incident were [WWW]placed on paid administrative leave. The next day, campus police chief Annette Spicuzza [WWW]joined the list of officers on a university-funded vacation (which is the [WWW]first step toward firing police officers, though this usually precedes less serious sanctions or no sanctions at all). Katehi also said that she would have a task force of faculty, students, and staff convene immediately and give a recommendation in 30 days, rather than the 90 days she had specified the previous day.

Internal Investigation of the events of 18 November 2011

An internal investigation of the incident began while the officers were on paid administrative leave. According to an [WWW]article in the Atlantic, state laws prohibit the resulting report from ever being read by the public, even though it would be the only report used to make the determination of which, if any, of the officers would be fired. The investigation was led by Ed McErlain and Deborah Maddux Allison, with extra assistance by Charles "Sid" Heal.

"Independent Investigation" of the events of 18 November 2011

As this investigation has absolutely no bearing on any possible disciplinary actions, its main purposes seem to be about creating the illusion of transparency in a process not accessible to the public, as well as to provide recommendations on how to avoid incidents in the future.

According to [WWW]this Davis Vanguard article, the UC Davis Police Department has not been cooperating as fully with investigations as expected. After much negotiation, they agreed to allow police officers uninvolved in the pepper spraying to be interviewed.

Appointment of William Bratton to lead fact-finding effort

William Bratton, former Los Angeles Chief of Police, [WWW]was appointed as an Independent Investigator by UC President Mark Yudof. However, many faculty have written letters objecting to Bratton's appointment, saying that his background shows that he endorses, implements, and promotes the very same militarized security policies responsible for the initial violent suppression of peaceful protesters last week. They are also concerned that this was a person picked by Yudof. In other words, they are concerned that this will not be a truly "independent" investigation. Instead, the investigator should be picked with input from members of the community (students, staff, and faculty) and should report to members of the community.

Here are some calls for a truly independent investigation:

Appointment of Cruz Reynoso to Lead Task Force

On November 28, 2011 [WWW]President Mark Yudof announced that he was appointing former Justice of the California Supreme Court and UC Davis School of Law Professor Emeritus Cruz Reynoso to lead the task force investigating the events of November 18, 2011. Chief Bratton will still be doing a fact-finding investigation that will report to this task force.

The other members of the task force appointed by President Yudof are:


Yolo County Investigation

The Yolo County District Attorney's and Sheriff's Offices are conducting a separate review of the incident. In a letter (here:LTRtoAG.pdf) dated Novemer 29, 2011 they request that the [Attorney General] conduct the investigation. The Attorney General's Office declined to do so on December 14, 2011. See response here:LTRfromAG.pdf. In the response, a reference to Governor Brown's request to review peace officer training material can be found [WWW]here. The document referred is the [WWW]2003 Crowd Management and Civil Disobedience Guidelines, which provides a list of considerations for each agency to set their own protocol according to their jurisdiction.

Second officer?

pig2.jpgThe second police officer who pepper sprayed non-violent protesters. He was supposedly suspended for his actions, along with John Pike. Can you identify this man?

secondofficer.jpgThis photo clearly shows the second officer as being an "A. Lee." There is an Alexander P. Lee who works for the UCDPD as a "security guard" but that might not be a sworn position so it might not be the same person.

The Vanguard has [WWW]identified the second officer as Alexander Lee.

Man in a Gray Suit?

Bisson's email to faculty also noted that many people had asked her about a man in a gray suit standing with the police and filming the crowd. Bisson said she asked the Chancellor about this man, but that the Chancellor told her that she does not know who that individual is nor why he was filming the crowd. One speculation is that he was monitoring the protest in order to have a record of who was there, as [WWW]had been alleged with earlier protests. As revealed in the Reynoso report, this man is Ben McNulty, a non-sworn analyst who works for the UC Davis Police Department.

mystery man 2.jpgDo you know who this person is or why he was there? mystery man.jpg




Pig pepper spraying students sitting on the ground.JPG Civility.jpgUC Davis' web page shortly after the incident. If this is civility, I'd hate to see what happens when this community loses its cool. Upload new image "Cell updates.jpg" rally.jpgJust a portion of the crowd at the noon rally on the quad, 21 November 2011. In the center of the rally, November 21.JPG


poster.jpg posterpic.jpg

This image was distributed as a poster prior to the November 21 rally. It is freely available to replicate and modify, and you can contact its creator for a blank version. An 18" x 24" color print is $23 at Kinko's; black and white is much cheaper. UCD Reprographics might also be cheaper.

Personal accounts

Full Text Letters

The full text of a number of letters on this issue, including Chancellor Katehi's letters, letters from the Academic Senate, and letters from the Graduate Student Association can be found here.

The Chancellor's office also produced a [WWW]"Fact Sheet on Recent Demonstrations at UC Davis", giving answers to the following questions: What happened? What investigations are being conducted? Who oversees the UC Davis Police Department? What is UC Davis' policy with regard to protecting Free Speech? There are five investigations listed: a. Comprehensive investigation By UC Davis, b. Yolo County District Attorney’s Office and Yolo County Sheriff’s Department Review, c. UC Office of the President-Led Task Force, d. UC Office of the President Systemwide Review of all Campus Police Policies, e. UC Davis Academic Senate Review

On December 9th, an article under Linda Katehi's byline appeared in the Huffington Post. Titled [WWW]Our Students Are Not Protesting in a Vacuum, it laid out her view of the situation, and what she had done to address the situation and the underlying complaints of Occupy UC Davis. The comments under the article were quite negative.

Media Coverage Front Page, 19 November 2011

GoogleNewsScreenShot.pngThe pepper-spraying of peaceful protesters was the top story on Google News, 19 November 2011 hufpo_screencap.pngHuffington Post Front Page, 19 November 2011

November 18

November 19

November 20

November 21

November 22


flowers_on_quad_2011_11_20.jpgFlowers on the Quad on 2011-11-20. Photo by Suzanne Phan, used with permission.

The following is a timeline of events. When an article relays an open letter, the date of the letter (not the date of the article) is used if it is stated.





Other websites

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