Videos Show 'Occupy' Protesters Pepper Sprayed, Beaten

A video of students being systematically pepper sprayed was called "chilling."

ByABC News
November 19, 2011, 6:00 PM

Nov. 19, 2011— -- Police and protesters have frequently gone toe-to-toe at Occupy camps across the country, however three recent videos that show protesters, including a veteran being roughed up and students being pepper sprayed, are causing many to question whether police have overstepped their bounds.

In the last two days, incidents between police and demonstrators at the University of California at Davis, Portland, Ore., and Oakland, Calif., have surfaced, bringing a renewed attention to the question.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi announced she had formed a task force to probe Friday's pepper spraying incident on campus, which was captured on camera by several onlookers.

"The use of pepper spray as shown on the video is chilling to us all and raises many questions about how best to handle situations like this," Katehi wrote in a statement posted on the school's website.

Several videos shot from different vantage points show Occupy UC Davis students being doused with pepper spray while trying to protect their encampment, which Katehi had ordered them to remove, citing a no camping ordinance on university grounds.

When an estimated 35 to 50 officers showed up in riot gear, students began linking their arms around the perimeter of the camp.

"Within five minutes of coming, they started yanking people out of the circle and arresting them," said Chris Wong, a community development and Spanish major at the university. "That created a spectacle."

According to Wong, students and even some spectators began to link arms and form a circle around police and the handful of students who had been arrested.

"We shouted, 'Set them free! Set them free!'" Wong said.

Sarena Grossjan, a sophomore who was filming the scene from a tree, said she hopped down, handed her camera to someone, and joined in to link arms and protect the camp.

At that point, one officer aimed pepper spray at the protesters, who remained locked in solidarity.

"I covered my face with my scarf and sweatshirt, but I couldn't breathe," Grossjan said.

She was hit with the spray and said it didn't stop burning until Saturday morning.

"The part that hurt the most was the pepper spray in open sores," she said. "My eyes weren't that bad. My tears cleaned that out."

Wong said he was grazed by the pepper spray and used his hoodie to cover his face.

Annette Spicuzza, the UC Davis police chief, said the use of the pepper spray became a last-resort tactic for officers, who were surrounded by the demonstrators.

"There was no way out of that circle," Spicuzza told the Associated Press. "They were cutting the officers off from their support. It's a very volatile situation."

Police across the country said they've had to put up with being antagonized by protesters, too.

"You see people pushing officers; you see people hitting our horses; you see people flipping officers off," Portland, Ore., police spokesman Lt. Robert King told ABC affiliate KATU-TV.

King was responding to a viral video of Elizabeth Evon Nichols, 20, who was pepper sprayed, doused with water and then arrested for disorderly conduct after ignoring police orders to disperse at an Occupy Portland protest on Thursday.

"One of the officers put the baton up to my neck," Nichols told KATU after she was released from jail. "It was literally cutting in on my airway. Once she backed off I started yelling at her. Then all of a sudden, in the middle of me yelling at her ... they ended up spraying me with pepper spray full blast."