Letters to the Editor: Response to UC Davis Protests

Letter #1:

I watched the actions of Friday unfold on my Twitter feed. Saturday morning, I woke up to see the name of my university on the front page of The Huffington Post and on the pages of countless other national news outlets.

I would have hoped UC Davis had found the cure for cancer or a way to help solve world hunger. No. We are famous for police brutality.

I must admit that I’ve tried to ignore the protests and rallies that have been happening in the last few months. When protesters interrupted my class in Wellman on Thursday, I was upset. While I support free speech and the right to protest, I am here to learn, not to be shouted at. I have papers to write, two jobs to work and exams to study for.

But after Friday, I can no longer close my eyes to the events happening around me. Instead of working on final papers this weekend, I’ve been glued to the internet, watching and waiting for a proper reaction from the UC Davis administration.

Protestors on Friday were wrong not to comply with police. But the police took the prize when they refused to comply with the basic codes of humanity.

I do not pay for a police department that will pepper spray peaceful protestors. I do not pay for a school that then must clean up the mess by sending the fire department to wash out my peers’ burning eyes and throats. I have not committed to years and years of future student debt so that I can watch my fellow students writhe in pain in a YouTube video.

The last time I checked, this was a public university in the United States. My professors teach me about free speech and the importance of non-violence. We use our words, not our weapons. We use our pens, not our pepper spray.

UC Davis is my home. UC Davis is a place where people are friendly and welcoming. UC Davis is not a place where brutality should be or will be tolerated.

Chancellor Katehi, how could you possibly let this happen?

Corrie Jacobs
Junior English major

Letter #2:

I am writing to express my sadness and horror in response to the images from the Nov. 19 incident at the UC Davis campus. I graduated from one of my state’s public universities, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I cried as I watched people I consider fellow students react in pain to the unprovoked spraying of pepper spray at close range. I will be reading The Aggie for updates and will be on the lookout for any opportunities to help and support.

Abigail Franklin
Sandwich, MA

Letter #3:

Chancellor Katehi,

I once had the pleasure of participating at an event at UC Davis and was amazed by the wonderful campus community. What I witnessed today by the UC Davis police was shameful, unnecessary and will forever change my impression of the beautiful UC Davis campus.

Your remarks in the press are unfortunate at best. I agree with the calls for your resignation and I expect several members of the so-called police force to be prosecuted themselves. What a dark and sad day for an otherwise wonderful community.

Scott Barnwell
President, Mountain GIS Consulting

Letter #4:

I respect the university’s right and obligation to ensure safety on its campuses, subject to and in accordance with applicable laws. I believe that the university has violated those laws, both at the recent protests at Berkeley and Friday at Davis, but that is not my primary reason for writing you today. In our time of deep financial cuts, I am very concerned that the university’s interest in stopping protests through violence will harm the public’s view of the university and, therefore, have the unintended consequence of impacting fundraising.

I am a donor to the university and, while I continue to support the university, I have to say that I do factor in the university’s behavior when doing so. By acting with violence on non-violent protesters, the university may solve its immediate problem but it loses in the long run if donors withhold funding as a result.

I urge you to stop the violence and start thinking strategically. Yes, the whole world is watching.

Matt Burrows
UC Berkeley class of 1987

Letter #5:

I’m a retired New Haven detective with 27 years of service. I was among the officers in the ’70s assigned to the Vietnam War and Black Panther trial as thousands demonstrated, including Yale students, publicly expressing their convictions. I did not witness the misuse of justice due to the leadership of then Chief James Ahern. He clarified the constitutional rights of the participants and ordered that it be respected. It was a proud period.

The spraying of pepper spray in the face of anyone by a police officer is a defensive action that should be used only when necessary to protect another or the officer. Decisions by leadership thus far are confirmed invalid by the presence of videos –– thus undermining the creditability of the institution itself.

Our constitution is not to be denied for the sake of convince or political preference.

Thomas F. Morrissey, Jr.
Cheshire, CT

Letter #6:

I was a lecturer at UC Davis for 38 years, retiring in July 2009. After watching the video of Chancellor Katehi’s exit from Surge II, I can honestly say that I have never been so proud of UC Davis students as I am today.

Disciplined non-violence in response to violence is the most powerful speech there is.

Congratulations, folks. Keep on keeping on.

Bay Butler
Retired lecturer, agricultural economics

Letter #7:

The incident of non-violent protesters being pepper sprayed has sent shock waves here in Canada. It is a disgusting incident which puts shame on your institution and frankly, your country as well. How can you call yourself a place of higher learning when you respond to protest in this manner?

Linda Katehi should resign, plain and simple. She is responsible for this incident and her continued employment at the university adds insult to injury.

SHE HAS TO GO!

Roberto Rosenman
Toronto, Canada

Letter #8:

Dear Chancellor Linda Katehi,

Like tens of thousands of UC Davis alumni, my family and I were appalled by the behavior of campus police last week. The image of peacefully submissive people being  pepper sprayed will become iconic for our troubled times. The fact that it happened anywhere is tragic, but on the UC Davis campus is particularly horrifying to those of us who recall the atmosphere at Davis 1968-70. When, after the tragedy at Kent State, university and college campuses in California were closed for four days to avert violence during student demonstrations, Chancellor James H. Meyer encouraged a campuswide dialogue on the Vietnam War for the remainder of the quarter.

More than 40 years later, I have students from that era and their children and grandchildren in my classes at Cal Poly speak of that time as the most formative in their education.

Friday’s pepper spraying goes far beyond raising “many questions about how best to handle situations like this” as you put it in Saturday’s letter to the campus community. It was simply unacceptable from any standpoint. It’s not something than can be resolved by a process of policy review in the echelons of power. Such a breakdown of the uses of authority in the university setting came close to destroying higher education in America during the 1960s. As you walked through the three blocks long gauntlet of silence from the university community you must have recognized that only genuine contrition for what has occurred and openness to a new set of solutions can resolve this impasse.

You still have an opportunity to follow your predecessor, Jim Meyer’s example by encouraging dialogue with the Occupy movement’s justifiable critique of economic inequality in America. A real discourse can only exist in an environment where all parties feel safe and legitimate freedom of expression is guaranteed. That’s what a true university is all about.

To achieve this you need to immediately suspend all members of the university security force and line of administration who were involved in the incident. Impartial disciplinary hearings need to be convened in an atmosphere of complete transparency.

Open leadership in all sectors of society is the only hope for America. Please reach out to the campus

Daniel E. Krieger
Ph.D. UC Davis, 1973
Professor Emeritus, Cal Poly State University

Letter #9:

To the Davis City Council,

Whether you agree or disagree with the various manifestations of the “Occupy” movement throughout our community, our country and our world, one thing is indisputable: the use of violence in the face of nonviolent, peaceable assembly is unconscionable. It is the mark of dictatorship and not the face of freedom.

In light of recent events, it is your moral responsibility to reinforce this principle for the City of Davis to the world now watching us.

Those who choose to ignore an important fact — that the well-being of the greater Davis community is inextricably linked to the economic, social and cultural welfare of the UC Davis campus community — may say that what transpired last Friday does not pose a moral issue for the City of Davis at all. After all, the police response involved at the UC Davis demonstration was outside the city limits, with apparently only members of the UC Davis Police Department wielding riot gear and pepper spray at UC Davis students.

However, as you are probably aware, members of the City of Davis Police Department were in fact on the scene, playing a secondary, supporting role as a responder to UCDPD’s request for “mutual aid.” Despite this secondary role, our City peace officers were seen by millions around the world participating in the suppression of students who, while passively resisting, were actively engaged in exercising their constitutional freedoms to speak out. Secondary or not, it is our obligation as a freedom-loving community to clearly and formally articulate our values so that there be no misunderstanding.

In short, going forward, the city must make a public commitment to deal with non-violence non-violently, whether it be at the Occupy Davis protest at Central Park, the Occupy UC Davis protest on campus or beyond. I ask that all concerned community members join me in this call.

Lamar Heystek
Former Davis City Council member

Letter #10:

Dear Chancellor Katehi,

I am writing to you in protest of the unnecessary police brutality that occurred on the UC Davis campus. Having participated in a peaceful change of government in Serbia as a student in the ’90s, I was struck by the video of UC police, funded by the citizens of California, attacking peaceful student protestors with pepper spray. This kind of barbaric behavior is worse than I have ever experienced, even when dealing with a police force that was protecting an autocratic regime. I feel that this type of action is absolutely unacceptable, as is your defense of the act.

While I understand that part of your responsibility is to maintain a productive working environment on your campus, your commitments to the freedom of speech, non-violence and your students should come first, and I request that you do everything in your power to identify and punish the members of the UC police who ordered and carried out the despicable acts on your campus.

Dr. Milan Mashanovitch
UCSB adjunct professor, electrical and computer engineering

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