Well, it’s official. By utilizing ham-fisted crowd-control responses, the UC Davis police department took a minor situation and made it far, far worse. Turns out people don’t like it when protesters get pepper-sprayed for… well, umm… sitting down. Nor do they appreciate having guns pointed at non-violent protesters, or just general excessive force. And Chancellor Linda Katehi is in hot water for sending the police in the first place. She now says that she takes “full responsibility,” but that resigning at this time or be held accountable are not options. How is that taking full responsibility? Typical politician!
Well, Chancellor Katehi and the UC Davis Police Department have accomplished a major thing. They have gotten thousands of people off the fence. Until recently, I had mixed feelings about the Occupy protestors. I agreed with their anger about the massive fee increases (people should remember that the University of California system was designed to be free) while the richest one percent are shielded from any pain in the current recession. I wasn’t, however, sure that protests would win them a lot of sympathy. I now support them fully, and it seems like thousands of others do as well.
I attended the rally on the UC Davis Quad at noon today. Thousands of others did as well. I cannot really say how many thousands, as I am lousy at estimating crowd sizes, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 would not surprise me. The East Quad was a sea of people, with probably three-quarters of it densely packed. Many more people drifted on the periphery. And it wasn’t just students. Faculty, staff, retired staff and other “adult” Davis residents were plentiful.
I was pleased to see news vans of all the major networks present. The BIG vans with the BIG dishes — not the ones they usually send to Davis for a “local” piece. While I don’t watch TV, I think it is important that people see the size of the crowd, feel its anger and see it behaving in a peaceful manner.
And people were palpably angry. Justifiably so. Calls for Chancellors Katehi’s resignation and a wholesale liquidation of the University of California police were constant and everywhere. While the UCDPD still refuses to release the names of the two police officers who have been suspended, data mining on the internet has brought to light the name of one of them: Lt. John A. Pike. I guess one of the videographers or photographers at the scene got a decent shot of his badge. His name was on more than one sign. The pepper spray victims spoke on stage, about how the pain and nausea lasted for hours… about how they could not help but breathe in the lingering clouds of pepper spray. One young lady related how people were sprayed under their shirts, another was sprayed directly in the mouth and vomited repeatedly. One young man could not see for twelve hours…. Another was roughed up and seems to have sustained nerve damage to one of his hands…. It was heart-wrenching and sickening.
The only potential fireworks I saw was when a ROTC became upset with a protestor holding an upside-down American flag and tried to take it away. Hey! Remember freedom of speech? Private property? And upside-down flag signifies a state of emergency. I’d say than when we have a situation such as this, the protester may have a valid point. In any case, it is not for the ROTC man to decide.
There were no (uniformed) UC Davis police officers visible at the protest, which was probably wise.
And through it all the chancellor refuses to resign or be held accountable. She claims to be “sickened,” but then says we should “move forward. Right. Sure, two officers have been suspended. With pay. Sure UC Davis campus police chief Annette Spicuzza. With pay. Sure the Yolo County DA is investigating. But we are talking about Jeff Reisig. The man has personally failed me twice when I needed help. He is so damn busy with his single-minded crusade against West Sac Norteños that other things seem to fall through the cracks. He also doesn’t like going after cases where the conviction will be “difficult” (as with, say, a police officer). Maybe enough people are angry this time, and we can get some due diligence. I am not holding my breath.
See below for some of my pictures