In what could turn out to be a recruiting coup for the Occupy movement, a clip showing a UC Davis campus police officer blithely pepper-spraying a group of seated students is stirring outrage from all corners of the Web.

Like a magician beginning a trick, the officer waves his chemical canister in front of the anxious crowd before releasing the spray. Many of the students try to protect themselves by covering their faces. Some have their mouths forced open by officers who shoot the chemical into their throats. Others stumble away.

The crowd erupts in chants of “Shame on you!” as cops begin removing the sitters. The confrontation finally ends after officers arrest about 10 students and at least one woman is taken away to be treated for chemical burns.

Courts have deemed similar uses of pepper spray to disperse a peaceful crowd “excessive.” One brave UC Davis professor, Nathan Brown, demanded the resignation of Chancellor Linda Katehi following the incident, noting the discrepancy between her stated commitment to student safety and her decision to call in cops to forcefully end the protest:

I will leave it to my colleagues and every reader of this letter to decide what poses a greater threat to “a safe and inviting space for all our students” or “a safe, welcoming environment” at UC Davis: (1) Setting up tents on the quad in solidarity with faculty and students brutalized by police at UC Berkeley? or (2) Sending in riot police to disperse students with batons, pepper-spray, and tear-gas guns, while those students sit peacefully on the ground with their arms linked? Is this what you have in mind when you refer to creating “a safe and inviting space?” Is this what you have in mind when you express commitment to “a safe, welcoming environment?”

No one answered when I tried to contact the officer who sprayed the students, Lt. John Pike. His voice mail inbox was full. I left a message with the UC Davis press office and will update this post if I hear back.

— Alexander Reed Kelly



If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface. We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.

Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.