UC Davis Pepper Spraying: Cops Suspended

Occupiers call for U.C. Davis' chancellor to resign after police stand-off.

ByABC News
November 20, 2011, 10:40 AM

Nov. 20, 1011— -- Two campus police officers caught on video using pepper spray on seated Occupy protesters at University of California, Davis, have been put on administrative leave, the school announced today.

"I spoke with students this weekend, and I feel their outrage," UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said in a statement released today. "I have also heard from an overwhelming number of students, faculty, staff and alumni from around the country. I am deeply saddened that this happened on our campus, and as chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident.

"However, I pledge to take the actions needed to ensure that this does not happen again," she said. "I feel very sorry for the harm our students were subjected to and I vow to work tirelessly to make the campus a more welcoming and safe place."

Katehi said that she had also accelerated the timetable for a task force to investigate the events surrounding the arrests, including communications from the police to the administration. She set a deadline of 30 days for the task force to issue its report.

Katehi said the task force will be chosen this week, and will include faculty, students and staff.

Katehi's announcement comes as faculty and students began calling for her resignation over the incident, which occurred Friday and was captured on video that was postd on YouTube.

At a teleconference Saturday, Katehi said she didn't think it's "appropriate" for her to resign, the Modesto Bee reported.

She initially voiced support of the police, who wore riot-gear during the stand-off, having given them to order to dismantle the UC Davis Occupy encampment because camping on college grounds is officially forbidden, but then said she would form a task force to probe the incident.

"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.

Los Angeles attorney Okorie Okorocha called the pepper spraying unreasoned and excessive.

"Tear gas you spray in the area you want people to move away from," Okorocha told ABC News. "Pepper spray is to keep the people from being able to mount an attack. Here the police officer is trying to disperse a crowd. Why would you incapacitate them?"

To control crowds and remove demonstrators from their open-air encampments, police in various cities have been using pepper spray and tear gas, including a canister that fractured the skull of one Occupy Oakland protester.

He is still recovering.

After the UC Davis Occupy was disassembled Friday, students on Saturday resumed their protest with a night time rally on the roughly 31,000-student campus.

"I covered my face with my scarf and sweatshirt, but I couldn't breathe," said Sarena Grossjan, a sophomore who hopped from a tree, where'd she'd been filming the confrontation, to link arms with other protesters.

The stinging and burning sensations from being sprayed lingered 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."

ABC News' Alyssa Newcomb contributed to this report.