UC Davis Campus Police, Pepper Spray, Etc.

Doubtless you’ve already been pointed to the video of the UC Davis campus police pepper-spraying the student protesters who were sitting on the ground, arms linked, in an effort to prevent the police from forcibly evicting some other students camping on the quad. In case you missed it, though, here’s the video:

I’m reminded of the incident from a few years ago, in which a UCLA student who refused to show his ID and then refused to leave the campus library was repeatedly zapped with a Taser by campus police (see 36 Views of Mostafa Tabatabainejad Being Tasered).

As in that incident, I can see things from both sides. As a former coworker of the UC campus police, I think I have a pretty clear idea of the mindset that led to this pepper spraying, and I have a certain amount of sympathy for the cops in question. With that said, I also feel a certain sympathy for the views expressed by UC Davis Prof. Nathan Brown, in his Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi:

I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.

Just as a strategic matter, I think it’s pretty clear that the student protesters “won” this exchange. By sitting down, linking arms, and refusing to relinquish their places, they placed themselves in the path of the authorities who would control their behavior. Those authorities, by resorting to force, and doing so in full view of lots of cameras, committed the same strategic error that was memorably depicted in the movie Gandhi, in the scene where non-violent protestors march on the salt works, knowing they will be clubbed, but marching anyway.

The next step for the UC Davis protestors is clear, and it’s the same next step I wrote about in connection with the Tabatabainejad tasering at UCLA: Go back to the same place with lots of buddies, sit down and link arms, and dare the authorities to spray pepper spray in your eyes again.

If enough of you are willing to do that, you win. If you really believe in your cause, believe in it strongly enough to stand up non-violently to those who would inflict brutal pain and, potentially, permanent injury or death, without being deterred (and, crucially, if there are cameras present, and if your actions are presented with sufficiently compelling production values to inspire others to follow your example), then you win.

Unfortunately, you also run a fair risk of being tasered, pepper-sprayed, bludgeoned, or killed.

If you watch the UC Davis video to the end, there’s a pretty compelling part where the cops are basically looking around at this angry crowd surrounding them, and you can see the thought going through their heads: This could really get out of hand.

You can see them get scared.

I’m not saying they were scared for their personal safety (though it would be silly to think that as human beings, they didn’t experience such fears). But I think they were certainly scared of being put into a situation that compelled them to escalate their use of force.

It’s at that point that the guy does his “Mic check!”, and the crowd, collectively, tells the cops: Hey, cops. You can leave. Why don’t you?

And the cops do.

Again, I’m not sure I’m totally on either side here. But it’s a compelling piece of video.

Update: Some good followup items:

35 Responses to “UC Davis Campus Police, Pepper Spray, Etc.”

  1. NorthernLite Says:

    What’s really interesting is that the folks over in the Middle East are watching with horror at what they’re seeing on CNN and the folks over in the US are watching with horror what they’re seeing on CNN…

    All seem to be protesting governments that are ignoring the plight of the lower and middle classes and catering to the super rich. Too much concentration of power at the top and the political process being manipulated by the rich and powerful.

    Very interesting indeed. If you guys had oil perhaps Canada would come and “liberate” you :)

  2. Smith Says:

    Texas has oil. Can the Canadians come and liberate us now, eh?

  3. NorthernLite Says:

    Well I just checked with my government on why we’re not standing up for protestors in the US and Syria. You guys both have pretty good armies and apparently we only go in when we know we can win (see: Libya).

    Also, Suncor, a major Canadian oil company, is building a $2 billion natural gas facility there so we can’t be disturbing that…

  4. enkidu Says:

    mmm mmm good!
    “it’s a food product, essentially”


    Please Canada, can the Rational States of America make a new country with you guys? Being joined at the hip with Dumbfukistan has been a royal pain in the @$$ (see US civil war etc) call or text me. No really, any time. Soon. pls
    kthx Real America.

  5. Smith Says:

    mmm mmm good!
    “it’s a food product, essentially”

    I have eaten hotsauce with a Scoville rating that is comparable to consumer grade pepper spray. It was good on pretzels and sandwiches, but terrible on spaghetti.

    Professional grade is a whole different ballgame.

  6. shcb Says:

    Ok now I’m confused (not a newsworthy event) this article says Fox claimed the miscarriage happened at the Seattle event, not the Davis event. Are there two women with the same story? Has she had two babies die because she put them in danger? Bad reporting? Of course she isn’t showing any proof of the medical procedures showing either the pregnancy or the miscarriage.


    She does want a couple million… so, wouldn’t that put her close to that dreaded 1% she is protesting?

  7. enkidu Says:

    The news report said she went to the hospital? Hopefully there is some sort of admission record. I’ll wait to see. Looks like you’ve both already passed judgement based on your bias – no surprise there.

    SPD = Seattle PD, we were discussing pepper spray (and just how tasty it is, essentially). If this woman miscarried due to police actions, she has every right to sue the officers/SPD (good luck w that! eyeroll). Bringing up a potential murder (life begins at conception right?) partially due to pepper spray is a whole lot more on topic than suddenly bringing up, oh I don’t know, a batch of stolen emails on ‘climategate’? You’ll instantly believe a hacker vomiting up a bolus of bogus emails (how many are fabricated?) because they reinforce your bias.

    No surprise there.

  8. Craig Says:

    These two stories (UC Davis and Seattle) have gotten intermingled in this thread. The woman was in Seattle. Her story has not been disproven yet, but it does sound very suspicious.

  9. knarlyknight Says:

    I’d agree, when a foster mother tells the paper the woman is a habitual liar, its time to move the discussion elsewhere. However, justice will plod away about this elsewhere, in the event the woman is telling the truth this one time.
    shcb, I’d think that “the cause” might be to present a scientifically valid case, before jumping into your conspiracy theories again.

  10. Smith Says:

    “the second session of Climategate emails came out yesterday, more of the same”


  11. knarlyknight Says:

    “Rainbows!” LOL

  12. shcb Says:

    Knarly, top 1% wage earner averages $959,958.60, but the bracket starts at $344,000. Wealth is a little more tricky but it looks like about 9 million.

  13. Craig Says:

    More about the Seattle Occupier who claims a police-induced miscarrage (from live leak)

    Occupy Seattle protestor Jennifer Fox has publicly levied a serious
    claim against the Seattle Police Department; that two officers are
    responsible for the death of her unborn child. But now, as her claim is
    called into question and new information about the 19-year-old surfaces,
    she may come out of the ordeal being perceived as much more than a
    troubled teen desperate for attention.

    97.3 KIRO FM has learned that Fox was once suspected of trying to lure two young children away from their mother. In a police report dated August 3, 2011,
    a mother stated a young woman had approached her daughters at Seattle’s
    Pritchard Beach Park during a swimming lesson. Police sources confirm
    that woman was Fox.

    “(The mother) stated she observed (Fox) approach her children as they
    made their way from the lake to her car,” read the report. “(The mother)
    stated she could tell that (Fox) was asking the children questions by
    the way they were acting.”

    When the mother confronted Fox, Fox stated she was a swimming coach in Bellevue and was offering the children lessons.

    “Fox stated she had just returned from Greece where she had won every
    event she had entered in a swim meet,” according to the report. The
    girls told their mother Fox had asked them to leave with her, and had
    offered them a ride if they came to Bellevue to swim with her.

    Lifeguards at the facility decided to call police, who questioned Fox upon arrival.

    “(Fox) stated she had been trained as a swimming coach while on the
    ‘Special Olympics team.’ (Fox) stated she had 48 gold medals.”

    Officers determined Fox “may be suffering from a mental illness or drug
    addiction,” and allowed her to leave, with the condition that she not
    return to the park. But, the incident adds to the growing suspicion that
    Fox was not pregnant during the clash with Seattle police last week
    that she said resulted in a miscarriage.

    As 97.3 KIRO FM first reported Tuesday,
    Fox had told police she was three months pregnant in September when
    facing arrest, which would make it impossible for her to have been three
    months pregnant last week, as she claimed.

    On Sept. 22, 2011, Seattle police responded to a vacant building located
    in 1250 Denny Way where a security officer reported six squatters. One
    of those people, according to police sources, was Fox.

    According to the police report, Fox told an officer she was three months pregnant and began crying when arrested.

    “(Fox) began holding her stomach and was screaming when she was
    arrested,” read the report. (Fox) was treated at the scene and
    transported to HMC.”

    Fox’s former foster parents, Mike and Lark Stebbins, told 97.3 KIRO FM’s Dori Monson Show Wednesday that she has a history of telling damaging lies.

    “Jennifer has a tendency to exaggerate,” Lark said. “Jennifer doesn’t
    understand the ramifications of allegations towards people, and that’s
    my concern with this possible lawsuit against the Seattle Police

    The night Fox was pepper sprayed, Lark said she got a phone call from
    her. Fox was at Harborview Medical Center getting her eyes examined
    because of the spray, but did not mention any of the accusations that
    would later surface.

    “She did not mention having a bike thrown at her,” Lark said. “She did
    not mention that she was pregnant. She did not mention that she was
    kicked in the stomach.”

    When confronted about the September police report Tuesday, Fox denied remembering the incident.
    Then, she changed her story and said that the “police report must have
    been wrong,” because she told police she was one month pregnant at the

    So far, Fox has declined to provide medical records or further evidence
    or her miscarriage.

    Still not proof of her original story being wrong. But her police interactions have taken a rather creepy and dark turn, and begins to suggest a mental illness issue.

  14. shcb Says:

    Knarly, Craig can of course correct me, but, I think the purpose of his posts is to show that Enky jumped to a conclusion, not that the movement was corrupt or irrelevant because it includes one unbalanced individual. Every group of people contains a certain number of unbalanced people, unless they are carefully screened of course.

    You gave a breakdown of people involved in this movement. The purpose, I assume, is to show how normal the rank and file is, however, the people that have the time to spend months camped in a park or a lifestyle that includes stealing others property in the form of squatting aren’t in that “normal” range.

  15. knarlyknight Says:

    Craig, So there’s a gate to keep here at Lies.com? I thought we were to use our own judgement and that you might benefit from advice. Sorry if I hurt your pride.

    Also, to be fair please note that “the miscarriage issue may not have merit” were not my words, my words spoke of moving along and letting another venue, i.e. the courts, determine the truth. Even shcb seemed to agree: “But I think as a story it is pretty much dead.” http://www.lies.com/wp/2011/11/19/uc-davis-campus-police-pepper-spray-etc/#comment-258342
    Can’t get much clearer than that, unless of course your goal is to flog a dead fox.

    Enk, as Craig seems to think of me as the gatekeeper now, I must ask you to refrain from referencing factual history so as not to create confusion with the wwnj’s version of past events such as Ms. Palin’s account of Paul Revere’s ride “to warn the British.” Notwithstanding, I did appreciate reading about Bonus Soldiers, especially the entertaining names: “Walter W. Waters” & “Smedley Butler”. Names like them reek of American ingenuity.

    Warning to OWS sympathizers: there is a new front opening in the backlash against the movement, although the 1%ers have yet to crystalize their demands yet either: http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2011/11/28/111128sh_shouts_kenney?mbid=social_retweet

  16. knarlyknight Says:

    shcb, not to argue just for the sake of clarification a here are few more cents for you. If it is deemed necessary to disperse a violent crowd, then for the safety of the people to whom the non-lethal tear gas is directed, the canisters, are to be projected in a large arc. Best application would be a more open area slightly upwind of the protesters. It is inappropriate to shoot them 20 feet directly into a line of peope. For officer not clear on the concept: it is the tear gas that is the effective agent, not the cannister. In fact if the canisters are too close to the protesters they can be picked up and hurled away by the protesters, or thrown back at the police line especially if there is nowhere safe to throw it (the police are wearing gas masks and full armour so there is virtually no risk to them.)

    I believe the “no man’s land” was no such thing. People were free to enter or leave that space. It looked like the street between the police and the sidewalk bordering the park. It was closed to vehiclular traffic, so in effect it is a public place where a person could stand. It’s simply that the police chose to assemble a short distance from the protesters and Scott Olsen chose to stand nearly motionless in silent defiance (not unlike the Chineses student who stopped the column of tanks in Tiannamen sqare.) That is, Scott remained there at least until the attack and all hell broke loose…

    The main effect of the flash bang in this situation is to intimidate and to a lesser degree disorientate. However, throwing the flash bang onto a potentially mortally wounded Scott Olsen as people called for assistance and tried to help him is something else altogether: akin to evil.

    As for your last sentence, that’s one perspective. Another is that the protests are nothing like a NASCAR race. The protesters want the police to understand that they are on the same side, they are part of the 99%, and that there is no reason to hurt anybody. Seems to me that attacking a peaceful movement in military armour using violent weapons and tactics is akin to a declaration of war. To their credit, the protestors have continued to plead for non-violence and have made great efforts through their General Assemlies and special workshops to educate people about the issues. Such enlightenment would be unthinkable amoung the tea party if faced with a similar situation or similar attacks by the police.

  17. knarlyknight Says:

    “As for your last paragraph…” is what I meant.

  18. shcb Says:

    When the target is that close I think the proper procedure is to bounce the canister off the ground, an arc like you are talking about would produce a mortar round, I wonder if the officer firing the canister was aiming at an open space in the crowd many yards away that would bounce off the street. I think I’ve seen that described as the procedure on Discovery Channel or such.

    This 1% vs 99% is a crock, just a way to divide the country, the police understand this.

    The police also understand there is a small minority of this movement that are just there for the rush of the event. Look at the crowd down the street when the reporter is telling of being gassed, there is guy jumping up and down telling his friends of his daring adventures, he’s having the time of his life!

    The problem the police have is this these young drunk men that are a very small minority of the movement in the day light hours, but they condense to a larger more violent group in the evening hours, they want to be gassed, they want to break windows, they want to burn cop cars. They could care less whether it’s about this 1% garbage or a championship their team either won or lost.

  19. shcb Says:

    Knarly, I watched the Maddow piece. This is the problem with fighting a war as a police action. As we discussed years ago, this war against the Arabs falls in the grey area of war and crime. I think Obama is right, a new system needs to be developed, but I think this is one place where it should be done internationally, as another Geneva conference if you will. Rules need to be in place for these people that fight outside the confines of a nation, that fight for an ideal, and yes that would apply to right wing groups as well.

    If he is reelected and really wants to have lasting impact on the world we live in this would be a good cause for him to take up.

  20. NorthernLite Says:

    Hmm… could this be something in which all of us agree on?!

    It’s been a while since that happened :-)

  21. knarlyknight Says:

    shcb, Yes I can understand my comments imply that I have an overly romantic view of who those people are. In truth I do not, I would agree that some of society’s dregs will be attracted to these occupy sites if for nothing else the free food, other handouts and comaraderie – and to relieve the excruciating boredom of not being a productive part of the economy / society. For many of them it’s a chicken and egg thing – their position in society limits their options and drastically impacts their choices, their choices keeps them at a disadvantaged position in society.

    My impreession is that you have an overly negative view of who these people are, in that you’re focussed on any miscreants and apparently oblivious to the enormous number of regular folks who come out to support OWS movments at rallies and many, many times that number who are supportive but choose not or cannot attend in person.

    It seems obvious that in this case the truth is somewhere between my overly romantic statements and your excessive dismissals of the movement.

  22. knarlyknight Says:

    NL – are you referring to prolonged detention (decades perhaps) for potential crimes that authorities think a person intends to go through with? If so, no I do not agree.

  23. shcb Says:

    Knarly, I think I would have a better respect for these OWS types if they had a plan to achieve their goals, hell just to have goals would help. I probably wouldn’t agree with them but I would at least respect them a little. For instance I didn’t have a lot of respect for the peace activists in the 60’s that just wanted peace at all costs everywhere, that is unattainable. But I had more for those that wanted us out of Vietnam, even if I didn’t agree with them. I also understood there was a huge overlap of the two groups.

    NL/ Knarly, that is what I don’t like about Maddow, as brilliant as she is, and as well spoken as she is, whenever I listen to her I end up saying to myself “yeah but…” she doesn’t seem to understand there are portions of this problem that are war in nature and some that are police/civil liberties in nature. Also, when a president, any president says “I’m going to ___” it quite often means he is going to try and get congress to do it so he can sign it, not always, but usually. She doesn’t even seem to give him the benefit of the doubt that that is what he is saying.

  24. knarlyknight Says:

    Fact: You are not at war.
    Engage Iran and/or China militarily and you will know war.
    Obama’s proposal is intellectually medieval.

  25. knarlyknight Says:

    Final comment, re: OWS plan & goals. Your inability to comprehend the current plan and how it is evolving and the general goals as set out does not negate their existence.

  26. shcb Says:

    Wellll… we are at war, when a group of people send missiles that kill thousands, you are at war. But you’ve hit on the problem, it’s not a conventional war, and conventional rules don’t apply. Now since the enemy doesn’t abide by the conventional rules we aren’t either, that is why we have indefinite detention. Actually we are playing more closely to the rules of war since we aren’t holding them indefinitely, just until the war is over, the war that hasn’t started since it doesn’t fit the neat confines of the definition of war, kind of a vicious circle. What NL and I are saying is we need new definitions so we know when we are playing within the rules, and if they continue to play outside those rules, well, ^*&(^*&^ em.

    Please enlighten me to the OWS goals and plan, as far as I can see they just want other people’s stuff without paying for it.

  27. knarlyknight Says:

    what part of “final comment” are you unable to compehend?

    “new rules” = draconian authoritarianism in which anyone can be held indefintly on suspicion they may commit a crime.

  28. knarlyknight Says:

    re: “new ules”

    re:OWS – new tactic


  29. knarlyknight Says:

    it’s not a war, its an action against “terrorism” which is tactic and a crime, Likewise, the war on drugs is not a war, both are a decision to take extreme ation or over-react to perceived problems. War is a series of battles between nations or defined enemies, not a decision to declare virtually anyone a potential criminal and therefore withdraw the protection of human rights from everyone. That is a police state.

  30. knarlyknight Says:

    Can start at the 3:10 minute mark http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pwd1QEZG3NY

  31. shcb Says:

    I only watched about 10 seconds of the video, hope I didn’t miss anything. I’ve already been through this last week with a friend of my daughter. I usually don’t get into politics on Facebook, certainly no with a friend of my daughter but this one pushed me over the edge. Other than being kind of a useless pot head she’s a good kid, her family are nice people, mom is a high school teacher, dad’s a union electrician, very liberal, looks like she’s following in their footsteps.

    So I followed her links and after a couple levels found a link to the actual bill. One of the sections they were bitching about doesn’t even exist, it obviously did at one time but it doesn’t now. I didn’t bother to go to the revision version to find what was struck, but it ain’t there now. The other section that they were complaining about was clearly only applicable to this war with Islam, they don’t cover Americans involved in any other crime.

    Now, we are at war, 911 was an act of war, killing OBL was an act of war, we invaded a country and killed he and anyone that got in our way without prejudice. Police actions only work when you are dealing with countries that have similar laws and are willing to work together, this is not the case with this war with Islam. You are right, the war on terror is a misnomer, terror is a tactic. We are fighting Arabs and we are fighting the religion of Islam.

  32. knarlyknight Says:

    okay, lets say you are fighting a war against Arabs and Islam. How do you define victory or defeat?

  33. knarlyknight Says:

    How does one determine if a person is a member of Al Qaida? Is there a proof of membership card? If I can show that someone gave an expensive birthday present to a member of Al Quaida or that someone is associating with people who associate with members, can I get that person locked up until the end of the war?

    Is the war powers act in force now?

  34. shcb Says:

    That’s the problem, that is why we need some new rules. yes we are still at war with islamic radicals, Bush and the congress in power at the time declared it and Obama hasn’t repealed anything but a few items around the edges.

  35. knarlyknight Says:

    Uh huh, good luck with that (developing some “new rules”.)

    The thing you seem to be missing is the increasing militarization of your entire society, couple that with an alleged war on terror and its plain to see how dangerous it has become to exercise your supposed “freedoms” in America.

    Plenty of examples here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/radley-balko/police-militarization-use-of-force-swat-raids_b_1123848.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

    A couple interesting excerpts here:

    The Politics of Force

    The amount of force the government uses to uphold a given law is no longer determined only by the threat to public safety posed by the suspect. Now, it appears to give an indication of how serious the government is about the law being enforced. The DEA sends SWAT teams barreling into the offices of doctors accused of over-prescribing painkillers not because the doctors pose any real threat of violence, but because prescription drug abuse is a hot issue right now. The feds sent SWAT teams into marijuana dispensaries not because medicinal pot merchants are inherently dangerous people, but because officials believe the dispensaries are openly defying federal law. It is, to put it bluntly, a terror tactic. Sending a couple cops with a clipboard to hand out fines and shut down a dispensary doesn’t convey a strong message. Sending a bunch of cops dressed like soldiers to point guns at dispensary owners and their customers certainly does.

    “It isn’t difficult to see how we get from here to pepper-spraying and beating peaceful protesters, particularly if the protesters are becoming a thorn in the side of politicians or are losing support from the public.”

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