Report: Evidence Doesn’t Support UC Davis Claims of Outside Actors in Protests
By Carlton Purvis
Created 04/16/2012 - 14:49
By Carlton Purvis
An investigation into the police pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis last November finds no evidence to support the university's claims that police were protecting students from nonstudents, according to a task force report.
The University of California—Davis responded to protestors with force last November because administrators were focused on protecting students from nonstudents among them trying to piggyback the protests, school officials said. But the school never actually investigated if nonstudents were a part of the protests and evidence doesn’t support its claim, according to the investigative report of the incident.
The school’s heavy-handed police response was criticized nationally after a video of a campus police officer spraying students in the face with pepper spray as they sat peaceably on the ground blocking a sidewalk went viral. University of California President Mark Yudof charged a task force, led by former Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, to investigate.
UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi told investigators in an interview after the November 18th incident that the school was worried that people from off campus were joining the protests and that the university would be in violation of policy if it didn’t protect its students.
“We were worried at the time about that [nonaffiliates] because the issues from Oakland were in the news and the use of drugs and sex and other things, and you know here we have very young students . . . we were worried especially about having very young girls and other students with older people who come from the outside without any knowledge of their record,” she said in an interview with Kroll Inc., a risk management firm the college brought on to collect facts about the incident. Just days after the incident, both faculty and staff were calling for Katehi's resignation.
Campus police reports supported her comments, noting that a substantial number of protestors were not students. One officer said that the majority of protestors he observed on the night of November 15th, during protests at Mrak Hall, were not affiliated with the university, but were part of the Occupy movement. UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said as many as 80 percent of protestors in the UC Davis encampment were not students – a claim challenged by the office of Student Affairs and not supported by any evidence, according to the Reynoso Task Force.
The section of the investigation report addressing the issue says the claims of nonaffiliates participating in the protest have not been substantiated. “Status of the protesters arrested on Nov. 18 does not support the contention that many non-affiliates were involved in these events,” the report states.
A student volunteer said all of the protestors at Mrak Hall were students. Assistant Vice Chancellor Griselda Castro said later that the only nonstudents she saw were people from the interfaith communities providing food . . . and they were not spending the night.”
The report also says Lieutenant John Pike bears primary responsibility for his decision to spray a group of seated protestors – the incident that sparked the investigation (see video above). There is no evidence to support Pike’s belief that he was trapped by the line of protesters sitting one deep on the sidewalk or that any arrestees were in danger, the report says. Officers were able to move freely through the crowd, sometimes stepping over protestors.
Additionally, the pepper spray that Pike and the UC Davis Police were issued was not authorized. The officers were not trained to use it. And the type of pepper spray used by Pike was for large crowd dispersal with a minimum application of six feet, not point blank range as it was used during the protests.