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Ten Things You Should Know About Friday’s UC Davis Police Violence

By Angus Johnston | Student Activism | November 20, 2011

1. The protest at which UC Davis police officers used pepper spray and batons against unresisting demonstrators was an entirely nonviolent one.

None of the arrests at UC Davis in the current wave of activism have been for violent offenses. Indeed, as the New York Times reported this morning, the university’s administration has “reported no instances of violence by any protesters.” Not one.

2. The unauthorized tent encampment was dismantled before the pepper spraying began.

Students had set up tents on campus on Thursday, and the administration had allowed them to stay up overnight. When campus police ordered students to take the tents down on Friday afternoon, however, most complied. The remainder of the tents were quickly removed by police without incident before the pepper spray incident.

3. Students did not restrict the movement of police at any time during the demonstration.

After police made a handful of arrests in the course of taking down the students’ tents, some of the remaining demonstrators formed a wide seated circle around the officers and arrestees.

UC Davis police chief Annette Spicuzza has claimed that officers were unable to leave that circle: “There was no way out,” she told the Sacramento Bee. “They were cutting the officers off from their support. It’s a very volatile situation.” But multiple videos clearly show that the seated students made no effort to impede the officers’ movement. Indeed, Lt. Pike, who initiated the pepper spraying of the group, was inside the circle moments earlier. To position himself to spray, he simply stepped over the line.

4. Lt. Pike was not in fear for his safety when he sprayed the students.

Chief Spicuzza told reporters on Thursday that her officers had been concerned for their safety when they began spraying. But again, multiple videos show this claim to be groundless.

The most widely distributed video of the incident (viewed, as I write this, by nearly 700,000 people on YouTube) begins just moments before Lt. Pike begain spraying, but another video, which starts a few minutes earlier, shows Pike chatting amiably with one activist, even patting him casually on the back.

The pat on the back occurs just two minutes and nineteen seconds before Pike pepper sprayed the student he had just been chatting with and all of his friends.

5. University of California Police are not authorized to use pepper spray except in circumstances in which it is necessary to prevent physical injury to themselves or others. 

From the University of California’s Universitywide Police Policies and Administrative Procedures: “Chemical agents are weapons used to minimize the potential for injury to officers, offenders, or other persons. They should only be used in situations where such force reasonably appears justified and necessary.”

6. UC police are not authorized to use physical force except to control violent offenders or keep suspects from escaping.

Another quote from the UC’s policing policy: “Arrestees and suspects shall be treated in a humane manner … they shall not be subject to physical force except as required to subdue violence or ensure detention. No officer shall strike an arrestee or suspect except in self-defense, to prevent an escape, or to prevent injury to another person.”

7. The UC Davis Police made no effort to remove the student demonstrators from the walkway peacefully before using pepper spray against them.

One video of the pepper-spray incident shows a group of officers moving in to remove the students from the walkway. Just as one of them reaches down to pick up a female student who was leaning against a friend, however, Lt. Pike waves the group back, clearing a space for him to use pepper spray without risk of accidentally spraying his colleagues.

8. Use of pepper spray and other physical force continued after the students’ minimal obstruction of the area around the police ended.

The line of seated students had begun to break up no more than eight seconds after Lt. Pike began spraying. The spraying continued, however, and officers soon began using batons and other physical force against the now-incapacitated group.

9. Even after police began using unprovoked and unlawful violence against the students, they remained peaceful.

Multiple videos show the aftermath of the initial pepper spraying and the physical violence that followed. In none of them do any of the assaulted students or any of the onlookers strike any of the officers who are attacking them and their friends.

10. The students’ commitment to nonviolence extended to their use of language.

At one point on Thursday afternoon, before the police attack on the demonstration, a few activists started a chant of “From Davis to Greece, fuck the police.” They were quickly hushed by fellow demonstrators who urged them to “keep it nonviolent! Keep it peaceful!”

Their chant was replaced by one of “you use weapons, we use our voice.”

Six and a half minutes later, the entire group was pepper sprayed.

If you’d like to stay in the loop as I continue to cover this story, feel free to follow me on Twitter.

November 21, 2011 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Solidarity and Activism


  1. The students are learning. The police never will. The Regents of the University of California have always been right-wingers. The UC has been a committing crimes against students exercising their Constitutionally Protected Rights over the past 50 years, that is well documented. Students have been murdered on campus by soldiers following unlawful orders to do so.

    Sitting like a fool to be beaten, when you know you will be beaten, is unacceptable! Self-defense is the ultimate right that no one should surrender! To do so, is submission to tyranny, it is political rape in fact, and as with sexual rape, the victim most certainly has every Right to strike back in self-defense of themselves and others. That is the law, those hiding behind the “color of law” are the criminals, armed and dangerous; and have no credibility as a group or individually, until and unless they stop their fellow “officers” from perpetrating violent crimes against people exercising their Rights to disagree with government policy, both domestic and foreign.

    As for; ‘…… a few activists started a chant of “From Davis to Greece, fuck the police.” They were quickly hushed by fellow demonstrators who urged them to “keep it nonviolent! Keep it peaceful!”’ — That was bullshit to ‘hush’ a potent statement in what is protected by the First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech. Take it to the classroom too. Make the instructors address the geopolitical issues, let them bear witness too. Demand that the fascist police chief be fired and sued, and or, the UC.

    College students today, as a whole, were kids on 9/11, and it is the excuse for all the wars of aggression and internal domestic repression here in the USA too. I advise the students to look deeply into 9/11 in regard as to who did it and why; and the consequences makes that pretty fucken evident!

    Comment by | November 21, 2011

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