UC-Davis Tries To Get Out From Under Pepper-Spraying Controversy

The use of pepper spray last Friday by University of California-Davis campus police on nonviolent student protesters engaged in the Occupy movement has aroused the ire of people across the nation. Now the university is trying to dig itself out from underneath a mountain of criticism and clear UC-Davis’ reputation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The university’s chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi, tried to the diffuse the situation in a speech on Monday and was met with a mixture of boos and support from her audience, some of which had been victims of the pepper spray themselves, the article noted. Katehi, who has been criticized not only for the incident itself, but also for the university’s handling of the incident’s aftermath, apologized to the waiting crowd and said she felt "horrible" that the pepper spraying had occurred. She announced that the campus police chief herself had been placed on administrative leave. Two campus police officers who were believed to have been directly involved in spraying the protesters had already been placed on administrative leave over the weekend, the article said.

Last Friday’s pepper-spraying incident only adds to the feeling of unrest felt by many UC students who have had to cope with a spike in tuition as a result of state cuts in funding for higher education, the article explained. In the U.S., the nationwide Occupy movement has spread to most large cities, focusing on protesting corporate greed and other various woes and championing the cause of the "99%" who are not among the very rich. But at UC-Davis, the Occupy movement only adds fuel to the fire of a student population that included many who were already angry about increased tuition, the reported.

The incident was captured on a video that eventually went viral over the Internet. It depicted police officers pepper spraying students in the face who were sitting on the ground with their arms linked together. Many hold Katehi responsible since she has reportedly said she had ordered the Occupy students’ tents removed from the location of the protest. Katehi told the crowd this past Monday that she had not given the officers permission to use the pepper spray in the manner it was used, the article noted. The university has indicated it would investigate who did, in fact, give the order for the pepper spray to be used on protesters.

Some members of the crowd on Monday called for Katehi’s resignation, but she appeared to ignore the requests, the article explained. Various educational groups from across the nation, as well as state politicians, other UC officials, and civil liberties groups have denounced the incident, but not all are specifically calling for Katehi’s ouster. More scrutiny of the incident and those involved with it is expected in coming weeks.

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