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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UC Davis’ president, police officers should be removed after protest fiasco

    It’s time for new leadership on UC Davis’ campus.

    A campus police officer at the University of California at Davis pepper sprayed around 20 college students in November. The students were sitting, linking arms and peacefully protesting their rising tuition costs.

    UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi ordered officers to make the protestors take down their tents because overnight camping is forbidden on campus. How the incident went from asking students to take down tents to pepper spraying seated protestors is beyond comprehension. A senator for the Associated Students, University of California, Davis said by the time the pepper spraying started, the tents were already down and the crowd was confused and shocked when Lt. John Pike casually took out a canister and started spraying students.

    The officers in question have been on administrative leave since, and Katehi is supposedly working with UC officials to move forward. This is too little, too late.

    A report released Wednesday shows that the officers used a type of pepper spray weapon they were not authorized to use, were not trained to use and did not appear to use correctly. How did they get these weapons? Are campus police officers all over the country walking around with weapons they aren’t authorized or trained to use?

    Pike claims he used the weapon because he felt trapped by a “hostile mob,” according to the recently released report. There were more students surrounding the seated protestors — but they were at a reasonable distance from the officers, not pushing forward or talking to them. And Pike didn’t target the standing, larger group of students, he targeted the small, quiet group, walking back and forth as calm as if he was spraying pesky weeds on his front lawn.

    He should have been fired immediately, and the idea that there is even a possibility he can come back from his suspension is ludicrous. He clearly does not respect students, their right as citizens to peacefully assemble or the safety of those on campus.

    And Katehi should not continue to lead the school either. The report showed she moved immediately to stop the protest before it could start because administrators feared non-affiliates would bring sex, drugs and violence to campus. But the First Amendment guarantees every citizen’s right to peacefully assemble. A college official who wants to stop protests for what they bring to campus should be removed.

    While the world focuses on the atrocious actions of the police officers, everyone seems to be forgetting that the idea to send them there came from the Office of the Chancellor. Katehi told officers to remove the protestors’ tents, ignoring their warnings that doing so during the day would have a higher risk of backlash and potential violence.

    The report also suggests that there should be accepted rules for regulating campus protests.
    The first step to doing this is removing the person who ignored the First Amendment, police warnings and the safety of her students. And Pike deserves more than just a slap on the wrist for his part in the debacle.

    “Free speech, including nonviolent protest, is part of the DNA of this university, and it must be protected with vigilance,” said Mark G. Yudof, president of the University of California, in a statement released Wednesday. “I implore students who wish to demonstrate to do so in a peaceful fashion, and I expect campus authorities to honor that right.”

    Well, students should expect their regents to recognize a bad leader and to implement immediate staff changes to protect their rights.

    — Michelle A. Monroe is the perspectives editor. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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