The UC Davis Quad has been reoccupied following a rally of around 5,000 people on Monday at noon. The rally was held in solidarity with non-violent student protesters who were pepper sprayed during a protest on Friday.
The East Quad was completely covered in students, alumni and community members listening to speeches made by students and faculty. News vans parked near the fountain, and media outlets rushed to broadcast. Slow internet stifled the KDVS 90.3 live stream. Twitter updates and text messages took minutes to load.
“The whole world is watching Davis,” a speaker said during the General Assembly.
Speeches were followed by a formal consensus-based meeting, in which participants voted in support of holding a general strike on Nov. 28. A second proposal, to “declare campus as an autonomous sanctuary space based on international historic model” and to disband campus police, did not pass.
Monday evening, students joined together to build a 15 foot tall dome and reoccupy the Quad with tents.
Student speakers described their personal feelings on Friday’s police actions and encouraged the audience to continue to be non-violent.
“They started pulling my friends from the circle, and throwing them on the ground and putting them in handcuffs and dragging them away,” said senior mechanical engineering major David Buscho. “At that point, there was no more encampment, there was no more stuff there. We were just kids, sitting down in a circle singing.”
First-hand experiences of being pepper sprayed garnered an emotional response from the crowd.
“My friends buried their faces into their chest and then it happened. At that point I entered a world of pain,” Buscho said. “It felt like hot glass was entering my eyes. I couldn’t see anything, I wanted to open my eyes but every time I did, the pain got worse. I wanted to breathe, but I couldn’t because my face was covered in pepper spray.”
“I want us to take back this university brick by brick, and we will do it with dignity and respect!” Buscho said.
“Should I talk about the fear that I felt when I saw my friends thrown to the ground by brutal police officers for standing, linking arms peacefully?” said Deanna Johnson, a sophomore environmental horticulture and urban forestry major, who was also pepper sprayed by UC Davis police.
“Should I talk about the fear that I felt when I heard the crowd scream before the pepper spray hit my face? But what I decided to speak about today is not the horrible violence that I experienced, but the community that I felt when I stood in solidarity with my fellow students, supporting our university,” Johnson said.
In lulls between speeches, the crowd chanted “Whose university? Our university!” Many held signs that read “Katehi resign.”
The controversy over police action against UC Davis students follows accounts of police brutality on the UC Berkeley campus, in which students were hit by police with batons. Videos of both incidents have gone viral online, reaching people all over the world and causing public outrage.
“I’m from UC Berkeley and I just want to say we stand in solidarity with you. Rise up! We’re all in this together,” said a student speaker who identified himself as Joe Fenton from UC Berkeley.
After his speech, the crowd broke out into the chant “UC, UC, UC solidarity.”
Similar incidents have been reported at McGill University in Montreal. According to the McGill Daily and Le Délit, during a campus demonstration against tuition hikes in early November, students began throwing things at police officers and riot police were called in. The riot police then used pepper spray and tear gas on students.
Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi followed through with her promise and attended the General Assembly. She was asked to wait in line like the other speakers. The crowd booed as she approached the stage, but many chanted “let her speak.”
“I am here to apologize. I feel horrible for what happened on Friday. If you think you don’t want to be students in a university like we had on Friday, I am just telling you, I don’t want to be the chancellor of the university we had on Friday,” Katehi said, fighting back tears.
“Our university has to be better than it is, and it needs all of the communities to come together to do that. We need to work together,” Katehi said. “And I know that you may not believe anything that I am telling you today and you don’t have to. It is my responsibility to earn your trust.”
After Katehi spoke, UC President Mark Yudof talked with all 10 UC chancellors via teleconference to discuss the rights of student protesters.
The crowd dwindled as the afternoon went on. After Katehi left, many audience members and media followed. By The General Assembly, there were 1,729 people voting. An open mic, to give more students the chance to speak, ended the rally.
By nightfall, 30 tents had been pitched and volunteers worked to build a 15 feet-tall and 30 feet-wide dome structure.
California State Assembly Speaker John Pérez visited the tent occupation to talk to students. Pérez is also an ex officio UC Regent.
“As I told the students, I’m very impressed by their tenacity, their organization skills and the fact that they kept themselves focused on raising the issues they’ve been talking about,” Pérez said.
STRUMWASSER, PETERSON and SWARTZ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.