Two unnamed UC Davis Police officers have been placed on administrative leave, according to a statement issued by the UC Davis News Service on Sunday morning. This followed a press conference on Saturday, where UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi addressed police activity during a protest that took place on the UC Davis Quad on Friday.
The press conference was slated to last until 4:30 p.m., however it ended early due to protesters chanting outside and flooding the hallways of the building. Protesters were there in response to police action on Friday, when officers arrested 10 individuals and pepper sprayed student protesters who were sitting on the Quad linking arms.
During the press conference, which took place on campus in Surge II, Katehi and UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza fielded questions from the press. “Our hope was that that the camp would go away and the students would remain to continue their rally and to continue with their expression of the issues. The intent was not to disperse the rally, because that is allowed. The intent was just to remove the equipment,” Katehi said.
During the press conference the chancellor said that she would be attending the rally that protesters are holding today at noon on the Quad.
Katehi also announced that the university would be forming a task force to look into the events that took place on Friday. The task force will consist of faculty, students and staff, and it will review the events and report on them within 90 days. Katehi acknowledged that some university policies may need to be reconsidered after this task force completes its investigation.
The press conference took place among calls for the chancellor’s resignation, specifically by UC Davis assistant professor Nathan Brown and the UC Davis Faculty Association Board. When asked if she plans to resign, Katehi said no.
Approximately seven minutes before the press conference was supposed to end, protesters’ chants could be heard from outside. Protesters managed to get inside the building, and some forced their way into the room the press conference was being held in.
After being asked to leave the building, a group of an estimated 700 people stood outside, forming a human pathway for the chancellor to walk through, which they called “the walk of shame.”
The group of protesters included undergraduate and graduate students, alumni and community members.
“I came out because I felt the way the students were being treated was inappropriate. The violence that was put on them was unnecessary because they were not doing anything, they were just protesting. Even if it was an issue of having tents on campus, it was inappropriately dealt with,” said Neda Yousefian, a UC Davis graduate student.
Shannon Giammichele, sophomore UC Davis student, was one of the protesters who was pepper sprayed by the police.
“I quickly covered, and next thing you knew you just heard the sound of spray going off and felt it in your mouth and your nose,” Giammichele said. “I accidentally slipped the lower part of my cover and inhaled pepper spray, so I ended up being transported to the hospital because I have asthma, and I had an asthma attack as a result. It was all over my hands so I go it in my eyes.”
Many protesters on Saturday echoed Giammichele’s sentiments, and a general sense of disbelief and confusion was evident among the crowd.
“I don’t understand why they did it. We were just sitting there so peacefully, it’s just really hard to understand,” Giammichele said.
Throughout Saturday afternoon and evening, the group chanted things such as, “You can leave in peace” and “Chancellor, if you can hear us, we will not harm you, we have the world as our witness.”
The protesters focused on making the event peaceful, chanting “This is not a negotiation, this is not a hostile situation.”
AggieTV and other local news outlets kept a live stream of the events online. By the time Katehi exited the building, the stream was being viewed by over 600 people. Major news sources such as CNN covered the event, and both Twitter and Facebook were used by protesters to spread the word.
After select protesters negotiated with officials inside, the chancellor’s husband moved her car from right outside the building to farther down the road.
At 6:50 p.m., approximately two hours and 20 minutes after the press conference ended, the protesters sat on the ground in complete silence as Katehi left the building and walked to her car. Katehi walked past hundreds of people, making eye contact with individual students. Participants described the scene as haunting.
As Katehi neared her car, someone asked her if she still felt threatened by students. She said no, got into her car and was driven away.
Protesters rejoiced afterward, chanting “Whose university? Our university!” and rushed into the street.
“I think that now it’s a matter of the university realizing that it’s not just a few students that are protesting, but it’s a mass of students who are upset with this and disagree with their policies,” Yousefian said.
In a statement released by University of California President Mark Yudof Sunday morning, Yudof denounced actions taken by police officers on UC campuses in response to protests.
“I am appalled by images of University of California students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with police batons on our campuses,” Yudof said. “I intend to do everything in my power as president of this university to protect the rights of our students, faculty and staff to engage in non-violent protest.”
Editor’s note: This article was originally posted on theaggie.org on Nov. 19. The article has been edited to reflect updates.
HANNAH STRUMWASSER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.