A shocking footage of police forcefully pepper spraying a group of Occupy demonstrators staging a sit down protest the University of California, Davis, has emerged.
The images of the tense standoff between police and students show an officer using pepper spray on a group of protesters who appear to be sitting passively on the ground with their arms interlocked.
Witnesses watched in horror as police moved in on more than a dozen tents erected in the campus quad drenching demonstrators with the burning yellow spray and arresting 10 people, nine of them students.
The footage shows how the officer displays a bottle before spraying its contents on the seated protesters in a sweeping motion while walking back and forth. Most of the protesters have their heads down, but at least one is hit in the face.
Some members of a crowd gathered at the scene scream and cry out. The crowd then chants, “Shame on You,” as the protesters on the ground are led away. The officers retreat minutes later with helmets on and batons drawn.
It’s not clear from the video what agency the officer who used the pepper spray represents.
Officers from UC Davis and other UC campuses as well as the city of Davis responded to the protest, according to Annette Spicuzza, UC Davis police chief. Davis is about 80 miles north of San Francisco.
Annette Spicuzza told the Sacramento Bee that police used the pepper spray after they were surrounded. Protesters were warned repeatedly beforehand that force would be used if they didn’t move, she said.
“There was no way out of that circle,” Annette Spicuzza said.
“They were cutting the officers off from their support. It’s a very volatile situation.”
The tents went up on Thursday, and protesters were apparently warned on Friday morning that they had until 3:00 p.m. to take them down or they would be removed.
On Friday, the university’s chancellor Linda Katehi released a statement saying the police had no option.
“Following our requests, several of the group chose to dismantle their tents this afternoon and we are grateful for their actions. However a number of protesters refused our warning, offering us no option but to ask the police to assist in their removal.
“We are saddened to report that during this activity, 10 protestors were arrested and pepper spray was used. We will be reviewing the details of the incident,” Linda Katehi told the New York Daily News.
On Saturday, the chancellor had harsher words for the officers, saying that her office would be launching an investigation into the incident.
“The use of the pepper spray as shown on the video is chilling to us all and raises many questions about how best to handle situations like this,” Linda Katehi said.
“The university lacked the resources to keep the protest site from becoming a public health hazard,” she said.