The Davis Enterprise wrote:Police remove Occupy UC Davis camp, arrest 10
UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray to move Occupy UC Davis protesters who were blocking officers' attempts to remove arrested protesters from the Quad on Friday afternoon. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo
Police arrested 10 protesters and pepper-sprayed perhaps a dozen more Friday while clearing the Occupation UC Davis encampment from the Quad.
The eight men and two women, all but one a student, taken away by police were arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct, for lodging without permission, and failure to disperse. They were cited for the misdemeanors and released.
The confrontation took place after UCD held off on enforcing a camping ban overnight Thursday. On Friday morning, a Student Affairs representative delivered a letter from Chancellor Linda Katehi asking the protesters to take down their tents by 3 p.m.
The bulk of the protesters chose not to budge.
In a second letter, sent to the campus community on Friday night, Katehi wrote that protesters “(offered) us no option but to ask the police to assist in their removal.”
“We deeply regret that many of the protestors today chose not to work with our campus staff and police to remove the encampment as requested. We are even more saddened by the events that subsequently transpired to facilitate their removal,” she added.
As the Quad emptied in a light rain, protester Eric Lee said that the administration and police were “shooting themselves in the foot.”
“What they’re doing is taking off their masks. They’re making it blatant that social equality is not something that they want,” said Lee, who graduated from UCD in June with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
“It also shows that the First Amendment is worthless. Here we are addressing government grievances — tuition has gone up 300 percent in the last decade — and this is how we get treated when we sit down and peacefully protest.”
At 3:30 p.m., about 35 officers wearing helmets and carrying batons on their hips, some with guns filled with pepper balls, crossed the quad as about 60 protesters chanted “Shame on you!”
“We’re fighting for your children’s education!” yelled one.
Shouting into the crowd noise, Lt. John Pike three times ordered them to clear out under section 409 of the California penal code. The law requires that those taking part in an unlawful assembly disperse.
By the time Pike ordered the police skirmish line forward, the crowd of onlookers had swelled to perhaps 150, many recording the slow-motion confrontation on cell phones.
Officers almost immediately drug three protesters to the ground and pinned them. Many in the ring sat down, arms locked, chanting, while supporters pulled away the tents.
Police took down more protesters, tightening plastic restraints around their wrists.
Some onlookers joined the protesters, chanting “Set them free!” They rose as a group, then, moving to surround the officers, who drew their batons.
Having at least once ordered the sidewalk cleared, so that those arrested could be dragged away, Pike later pepper-sprayed seated protesters blocking the officer’s path from point-blank range.
“Whose quad? Our quad!” the crowd chanted as the police moved off the Quad, about a half hour after they moved in.
UCD paramedics later treated with saline the eyes of 11 protesters; two were taken to Sutter Davis Hospital. Nearby, one young woman sat on her knees, crying with her eyes shut and pink streaks of Pepto-Bismol and water running down her cheeks.
Kristin Koster, a post-doctoral lecturer, used a scarf dipped in another home remedy, Maalox and water, to help Dominic Gutierrez, who was barely able to open his eyes.
He was sprayed, he said, when he tried to shield others with his jacket.
Koster said that she was “horrified” by both the actions of police and the inaction of staff and administrators standing nearby who did not seek medical assistance for those hurt until asked.
“In a way it’s very abstract to be protesting about money or debt,” Koster said. “There’s really nothing like the moment when they find out that the university — and all these smiling ladies, who are supposed to be there to protect you — will protect the university from you, with pepper spray and guns. They will injure you and injure your friends.
“When you protect the things you believe in with your body, it changes you for good. It radicalizes you for good.”
Gutierrez, a junior mechanical engineering major from Sacramento, had never been much of a protester until he saw the video of Berkeley police striking students and professors.
That and a UC proposal to increase tuition by another 8 to 16 percent each year from 2012 to 2016 pushed him to take action.
During a rally, an overnight occupation of the campus administration building and marches through campus this week, other UCD protesters echoed the Occupy Wall Street movement, railing against the financial and political power wielded by corporations and the rich.
“When they see us on the quad, a student might think that maybe there are weird people camping on the Quad,” Gutierrez said. “Once they see this, all they see is cops hitting students. They might have thought, ‘Those are people different than me, I would never (protest).’
“Now they see this is awful, and they’ll come out for the same reason I came out.”
In her letter to protesters on Friday morning, Katehi wrote that she sympathized “with the profound frustration” expressed by protesters in trying difficult economic times.
However, she continued, the administration is responsible for ensuring all “can live, learn and work in a safe, secure environment without disruption.”
“We take this responsibility seriously,” Katehi wrote. “We are accountable for what occurs on our campus. Campus policies generously support free speech, but do included limited time, place and manner regulations to protect health, safety and the ability of students, staff and faculty to accomplish the university mission.”
The chancellor wrote that while she appreciated the peaceful nature of recent protests, liability concerns and limited staffing to supervise protesters meant the encampment must come down.
“Our resources must support our core mission to educate all students,” she added.
At about 2:30 p.m., UCD Police Chief Annette Spicuzza delivered to about 60 to 70 protesters an order to take down the remaining 29 tents. Those who did not would risk losing their possessions and arrest.
In the final minutes before the deadline, a few among protesters assured the group that those arrested would have legal backing and would not lose their financial aid.
Some tents were packed up. About a dozen were pushed into a tight circle ringed by the protesters, who locked arms before police moved in.
“The camping was really a priority for us,” Spicuzza said later. “I appreciate that the tents are gone, and now we (the police) are gone.”
Spicuzza, who observed the events on the Quad, said that she was “very proud” of her officers.
“This was a tough scene to walk into,” she said. “This was 50 people and before you knew it, it probably grew close to 200. When you encircle a group of officers that are just trying to do their jobs, it’s kinda scary, but they did a great job. I don’t believe any of our officers were hurt, and I hope none of the students were injured.”
In contrast to other campuses, protests at UCD have been sometimes disruptive but largely peaceful affairs since the UC Board of Regents began approving of series of tuition hikes aimed at backfilling slashed state funding.
Friday’s confrontation led to the largest number of arrests since 53 tuition-hike protesters were arrested at a Mrak Hall sit-in, in November 2009.