Katehi Makes Brief Appearance to Large Audience on Quad


Students Who Were Pepper Sprayed Tell Their Stories


UC officials, who hoped the matter of pepper spraying students on the Quad of the MU last Friday would simply go away, were treated to a rude awakening as more than 5,000 people – students, staff, faculty and members of the community alike – jammed into the UCD Quad Monday afternoon.

No police were seen and none were needed as the large crowd policed itself and there were no known incidents.  Chancellor Katehi offered a brief word of apology and quickly fled, an appearance that will likely do little to quiet the calls for her resignation, that were heard loudly and clearly, with the English Department’s faculty joining the Faculty Association in calling for the chancellor’s resignation.

The highlight of the event was hearing those pepper sprayed recall the events of less than 72 hours earlier.  It was a show of raw emotions, hope and disgust.


“I’m here to apologize,” Chancellor Linda Katehi said, to a mostly polite response with a smattering of catcalls and resignation calls.  “I feel horrible for what happened on Friday. “

“When you tell me you don’t want to be students at a university like we had on Friday,” she said, “I’m just telling you, I don’t want to be the chancellor of the university we had on Friday.”

“Our university needs to be better than it is and it needs all of the community to come together to do that,” she added.

“I know you don’t believe everything that I say here today, and you don’t have to.  It is my responsibility to earn your trust,” the Chancellor said.

As soon as she was done speaking, she quickly left the scene without offering any specifics about what went wrong, what they will change, or how to go forward from here.

It was the students, their emotion raw with a sense of anger and betrayal, that captured the day.

One of the female students said that she was not sure what she was going to talk to talk about and mentioned the feelings that she had watching other students, her friends thrown to the ground, or the horror that she felt as she was about to be sprayed in the face.

“What I decided to speak about was 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,” she said.  “The thing that really stuck out to me when I read Katehi’s letter later that day talking about events, is that she talked about the safety of the community as she talked about events, and I ask you, what community does Katehi provide, what support does she give us that we can’t give each other?”


David Buchelle said that he attended his first protest in Mrak Hall last week. He explained the formation of their camp, describing it as one of the safest and cleanest camps he has ever seen, and Katehi’s letter that they had to disband by 3 pm due to safety concerns.  He noted that it did not list those concerns.

“Someone ran up yelling riot police, and we didn’t know what to do,” he said. “We threw all our stuff into the middle of the circle, we held hands and we started chanting.  We didn’t know what to do.”

The police, he said, started yelling something they couldn’t understand, and he assumed it was an order to disperse.  The tents were down at this point.

“They started pulling my friends, my friends from that circle and throwing them on the ground, putting them in handcuffs and dragging them away,” he continued.  “At that point there was no encampment, there was no camp, there was just stuff there, we were just kids sitting on the ground in a circle, singing.”

“But the cops didn’t leave,” he said.  “There were about 150 people standing around watching us and we yelled join us, join us, and in the proudest moment of my life, those kids came to us and they sat down with us – they joined us.”

“But it wasn’t over, because the cops kept picking kids up, throwing them on the ground and arresting us.”

KatehiFacesTheCroud_11-21-11-4-1Mr. Buchelle told the crowd that the police threatened that if they moved, they would be shot.  They were behind them with “paintball guns” but the police realized that shooting them from behind was not the best approach, so they shook up the can of pepper spray, and held it up for the crowd to see.

Someone yelled, he said, “Oh my God, pepper spray!”

He closed his eyes, held his girlfriend and he “entered a world of pain.”

“It felt like hot glass was entering my eyes, I couldn’t see anything, but every time I opened my eyes the pain got worse,” he added.  “I wanted to breathe but I couldn’t because my face was covered in pepper spray and every time I breathed I was nauseous.”

“I was afraid, I was no longer a protester, I was an object.”

A female student said that after the first two sprays, “I was singled out as an individual and sprayed in the face.”

“I was blind.  My skin was on fire,” she said.  “I didn’t know where I was, I was terrified.”

“I was carried to the ambulance, fortunately, someone found me with baking soda and began to treat my eyes,” she said.

“I was blind for about thirty minutes and my body was in excruciating pain,” she added.  “I was taken by ambulance to the hospital and I was given IVs to my eyes with saline solution.”

“That night I couldn’t sleep, I felt unsafe, I felt terrified,” she added, “This is disturbing to me, I should not feel unsafe on my own campus.”

Another female student who was pepper sprayed told the crowd she had spent the summer in Palestine and saw demonstrators there pepper sprayed and “I never ever thought that I would come back to Davis and experience that again.  I was horrified.”

“I had no idea I was sprayed, I saw poor David [Buchelle] come out and he was in pain,” she said.  “I broke the link and I helped him…  It was a horrifying experience seeing him like that screaming ‘my eyes, my eyes, I can’t see please someone help me.’ “

Ian Lee, a freshman, was one of those hit with the pepper spray,  andhe said he has never been one to make a speech, but after watching the interview on Sunday night with Chancellor Katehi he believed he needed to address what he called an interview “filled with lies.”

He asked the chancellor if she would send in riot police if the outdoor club camped on the quad, “So you have to admit the only reason that you sent in riot police was because of the political intentions of our movement.”

“You have to admit that you sent in riot police because you are scared of our right to speak and assemble,” he added.

Another student proclaimed that not only did being peppered sprayed “hurt” but he called the actions “unexceptional.”

“Video of us being pepper sprayed has circulated worldwide because, only because, people don’t expect nice, non-violent students at a major university at DAVIS to be victims of police violence,” he said.  He noted that poor people and people of color experience this violence daily, referencing Oscar Grant.

The Occupy movement is often criticized for its lack of leadership and demands, but this student turned that criticism on its head.

He argued, “This movement has energized people in a way unseen for decades because we do not ask for the authorities to make small adjustments to a cruel system.  We do not demand that they change the system that they created.  We change the system!”


Another female student addressed the issue that the camp was unsafe because non-UC Davis community members were there.

“That’s a tactic of fear, teaching us to fear our community members,” she said.  “What do we have to fear from the people who live in Davis? Absolutely nothing, they’re here to support us not hurt us.”

“I want to define a community member as someone who will protect me, someone who will hold my hand and make me stronger as riot cops approach,” she said.  “UC Davis riot cops are not my community and I don’t want to see them on our campus ever again.”

A male student got up and said, “I’m a student at UC Davis and I was arrested last Friday.”

He added, “I’m also a military veteran and after ten years I figured it was my right to be able to sit down and support my fellow students and a right to assemble.  And for that I was brutally pulled from the line and arrested by UC Davis riot police.”


Nathan Brown, an Assistant Professor in the English Department, sent an open letter to the Chancellor calling for her resignation.

He spoke to Chancellor Katehi through his speech, telling her, “What we see in the chancellor’s statements are the same techniques  of backpedaling and obfuscation that are used by the powers that be every time there is an act of police violence in this country.”

“They are efforts to defer and displace criticism,” he added, as well. “Defer and displace calls for her resignation.  Those calls now number in the tens of thousands.”

“There is no place on our campus for administrators who order the use of force against peaceful protestors,” he said.


He would later be joined by the English Department faculty who also called for the “chancellor’s immediate resignation and the end of the practice for forcibly removing non-violent student, faculty, staff and community protesters by the police on the UC Davis campus.”

Davis’ two representatives in the legislature would issue statements to the media today, though neither were attendance at the rally.

Senator Lois Wolk said, “Freedom of speech is as essential to academic life as the air we breathe.  I urge Chancellor Katehi to reaffirm the values of UC Davis and the campus community.  The investigation should be concluded rapidly and trust must be restored on campus.  The policies and practices that resulted in such a disproportional use of force need to be changed.”


Assemblymember Mariko Yamada added, “The disturbing pepper-spraying of non-violent UC Davis students is now under independent investigation.  As fact-finding proceeds, I commend the students and the greater campus community for coming together and advancing the discourse peacefully.”

“Since Friday, students, alumni and community members have contacted our office about the incident and its aftermath. I can assure you that our office continues to monitor the situation closely,” she said.

Assemblymember Yamada concluded, “All of us are angry about the public disinvestments in higher education; children and seniors, healthcare, housing, transportation and public safety have also been hard hit.  With ‘trigger cuts’ looming, this discussion is far from over.  How we join forces to refocus our spending priorities is our biggest challenge ahead.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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27 thoughts on “Katehi Makes Brief Appearance to Large Audience on Quad”

  1. SODA

    I put the following note on the other thread earlier.

    I heard the Chancellor interviewed on KQED Forum and then went to the quad assembly at noon where she spoke. The interview was less than illuminating. She stated she was not at the protest because she doesn’t ‘go to rally’s.
    Her short speech at the noon assembly was even less impressive. She said nothing really, took no accountability and said she wanted to meet with students. Very unimpressive in my opinion.

  2. Michael Harrington

    This Chancellor comes from University of Illinois, where her department, I believe, was responsible for “special” admission to the sons and daughters of wealthy and connected alums. She was right in there, but claimed to have no knowledge.

    Here, she again is not connected with her own police department, and claims not to know what was going on. (Same story?)

    Is she over her head as Chancellor? You have to wonder now?

  3. Gunrock

    Oh no! Not the English Department!!! Obviously it is time for the Chancellor to step aside if she has lost the steadfast support of the heroes at the department of marginally employed hippies hoping for a return to the 60s.

    Seriously, this has gone beyond stupid… the idiots swore at the campus police, acted like retards and got sprayed. I concede that the campus could have done it better (waited for nightfall, turned the sprinklers on first and then moved the remains away later)…

  4. Bill Ritter

    [b]The following is an open letter to the Davis City Council, Davis Police Chief Landy Black, UC Davis Chancellor Katehi, CA Governor Jerry Brown, CA Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, UC President Mark Yudof , UC Board of Regents, University-wide Academic Senate Chair Robert Anderson, Assistant UCD Professor of English Nathan Brown, CA Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Speaker of the CA State Assembly John A. Perez.[/b]

    [quote]We the undersigned are former chairs of the City of Davis Human Relations Commission and civil rights activists in Davis. We are outraged with the violent reaction that the UC Davis Campus police used by pepper spraying students in the face who were peacefully protesting.

    According to Assistant UC Davis Professor in the Department of English and Board Member of the Davis Faculty Association, Nathan Brown:

    “These students attended that rally in response to a call for solidarity from students and faculty who were bludgeoned with batons, hospitalized, and arrested at UC Berkeley last week. In the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, those protesters had linked arms and held their ground in defense of tents they set up beside Sproul Hall. In a gesture of solidarity with those students and faculty, and in solidarity with the national Occupy movement, students at UC Davis set up tents on the main quad.”

    In the likeness of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez the students exercised their First Amendment rights and protested nonviolently, but were met by police who were in full riot gear at the direction of Chancellor Katehi and UCD Police Chief Annette Spicuzza.

    In a letter addressed to the Cal Aggie Alumni Association last evening Chancellor Katehi states:

    “Our campus is committed to providing a safe environment for all to learn freely and practice their civil rights of freedom of speech and expression.”

    Contrary to the Chancellor’s words, the peaceful, non-violent actions of the student protesters were met with a violent response from university police, ordered by the administration. These actions were needless, unnecessary and appalling. The university’s response was an unlawful assault on the student protesters and violated their Constitutional Rights of freedom of speech and assembly. Chancellor Katehi, UCD Police Chief Annette Spicuzza and the officers who deployed the pepper spray (UCD Lt. John Pike, who together with another officer pepper sprayed the students in the face) should all be held accountable for this atrocious act.

    The only way to insure the safety of our students, faculty, staff and future alumni is to have them resign immediately.


    Past Chairs, City of Davis Human Relations Commission:
    Gay Powers, Tansey Thomas, Carlos Matos, Bill Ritter, Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald, Rick Gonzales and Davis civil rights activist Carolyn Cliver[/quote]

  5. Observer

    This reminds me of the incident in Davis of the cops looking for the child molester who had moved a year earlier. Some people just want to be Rambo, and unfortunately too many of them become cops. I mean, it was cold Friday night; they all would have gone home by sunrise. How much more stupid can they be? At least it isn’t Kent State; no one is dead, and that is something to be thankful for this weekend.

  6. medwoman


    At least it isn’t Kent State; no one is dead, and that is something to be thankful for this weekend.

    I couldn’t agree more. And given the rare, but potentially life threatening effects of pepper spray, I believe would should all be particularly thankful for our good luck that none of these young people appears to have been susceptible to the worst consequences of pepper spray. Once again, I would stress to those of you who feel this is
    “only pepper spray” that this is a chemical weapon with potential lethal toxicity. It should not be used unless absolutely necessary to restrain violent protesters or criminals.

  7. Mr.Toad

    Thanks for the summary I was not able to attend. I am still hoping that someone will ask Katehi what her taking responsibility means? What consequences can we expect to see for her?

  8. wdf1

    If you’re into psycho-historical analysis, then this might be for you. Something I picked up on the internet, but can’t offer appropriate attribution. It is more or less consistent with the wikipedia account at [url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athens_Polytechnic_uprising[/url]
    [quote]Linda Katehi, chancellor of UC Davis, was present when students broke the back of the Greek Junta. Athens NTUA (aka Polytechnic) was the site of a ground-breaking student strike from November 13-17, 1973. The Greek Junta rammed the gates of the University with a tank, killing students, and sealing the end of the dictatorship scarcely 6 months later. To this day, Nov. 17 is a national student holiday in Greece, and the sacrifice of the brutalized students is recognized as the central spark that brought the Junta down. Linda Katehi graduated from NTUA in 1977, and was present at the time of the student strike.
    Katehi knows viscerally that a student rising, and bungled political suppression can spell the end of the regime. She appears to be of “mainstream” political views, not overtly reactionary, but dislikes the trajectory of modern Greek politics in favor of a more technocratic or corporatist guidance….[/quote]
    And here’s an article on Katehi from the USA Greek Reporter this past April: [url]http://usa.greekreporter.com/2011/04/09/chancellor-linda-katehi-in-a-tell-all-interview/[/url]

  9. hpierce

    For those worried about pepper spray being potentially lethal, so are peanuts, peanut butter, and bee stings… that being said, the UCD police were WRONG in their actions…

  10. Rifkin

    Crilly: I think the transposition of Pike into famous paintings meme is a good one. But I don’t think the choices of paintings in that Today display worked very well. Off the top of my head, I think it would have been funnier to see Pike spraying Michaelangelo’s “David” in the privates.

  11. Noreen

    Gosh, if the UCD English Department, joined by the former chairs of one of Davis’ more inbred and ridiculous bodies (the Davis “Human Relations” Commission), can take time out from its irrelevant and boring “deconstructionist” activities to whine about Katehi, et al., do they have a chance?!!

  12. jimt

    In reviewing several articles and discussions on this forum, as well as newstories elsewhere, it is not clear to me to what extent Katehi was involved with directing particular police tactics. What is her authority with regard to directing the police in their tactics; and did Katehi and the police cheif have discussions about how best to deal with the Occupy movement on campus?

    I’m sympathetic to the student occupy movement and it seems to me using pepper spray was not warranted; however I do not know that Katehi had any involvement with directing the level of enforcement to be used.
    Maybe she did; maybe she didn’t but should have been working more closely with the police cheif in the early days of the occupy movement; a possible misjudgement on her part.
    I thought that her public appearance on Monday before a hostile audience on campus was gutsy; that helps her earn some respect points from me (others too, I suspect).

  13. medwoman


    Agreed. But no one is forcing peanuts, peanut butter or bee venom into the faces of non violent protesters.
    Actually those might make for more interesting memes for those whose computer skills are superior to mine.

  14. AdRemmer

    MW – [quote]“only pepper spray” that this is a chemical weapon with potential lethal toxicity[/quote]

    Yes, the same substance the Mayo Clinic cites as a topical medication…

    Funny how that works, huh?

  15. Moravecglobal1

    University of California Chancellor Birgeneau surpasses UC Davis Chancellor in brutality applied by his campus police on his students protesting student debt. Campus UCPD report to chancellors and take direction from their chancellor. University of California campus chancellors vet their campus police protocols. Chancellors knowledgeable that pepper spray and use of batons included in their campus police protocols.

    UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and UC Davis Chancellor are in dereliction
    of their duties.

    UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and UC Davis Chancellor need to quit or be
    fired for permitting the brutal outrages on students protesting tuition increases
    and student debt

    Opinions? Email the UC Board of Regents marsha.kelman@ucop.edu

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