An Officer Acting Out Of Concern For His Own Safety, According To UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza

UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said officers used force out of concern for their own safety after they were surrounded by students.

“If you look at the video you are going to see that there were 200 people in that quad,” said Chief Spicuzza. “Hindsight is 20-20 and based on the situation we were sitting in, ultimately that was the decision that was made.”

Here’s the situation Chief Spicuzza was describing:



It’s disquieting to consider that both Chief Spicuzza, and Lieutenant John Pike, the brave wielder of pepper spray in the video, doubtless consider their actions reasonable, measured and justified.

(Via.)

UPDATE: Be sure to read Myca’s full comment in the comments: “Though of course the unnecessary, casual, cruel brutality of the police is something important in this video, and should not be ignored, what I find as important and interesting is that if you watch to the end of the video, the protesters win. They fucking win.”

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58 Responses to An Officer Acting Out Of Concern For His Own Safety, According To UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza

  1. 1
    Solo says:

    Honest question, if protesters (in general) occupy a piece of real estate that the police (for whatever reason) don’t want them on, are there any methods you feel they can use or are the police to never attempt to ever break up a protest?

    I’m thinking of a hypothetical non-violent anti-abortion crowd camping at a hospital’s main door. I’d can’t say I would want the police to let them stay there indefinitely, even if they don’t block the emergency rooms.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    I have no problem with the police arresting protesters who are breaking the law by not moving. But you can arrest protesters without pepper spraying them; it’s done all the time.

  3. 3
    squirrel says:

    if anything, the concern for their own safety comes after the pepper spray, when the crowd becomes noticeably more unified and hostile towards the police presence – with good reason.

  4. 4
    Myca says:

    Oh thank goodness. I was just coming over here to post this video.

    Though of course the unnecessary, casual, cruel brutality of the police is something important in this video, and should not be ignored, what I find as important and interesting is that if you watch to the end of the video, the protesters win. They fucking win.

    They link arms and chant and advance slowly towards the cops, constantly videoing the confrontation on a thousand phones. The cops fall back nervously into a tight knot, glancing at one another and raising their weapons uncertainly. And then … then … then comes one of the most wonderful moments come out of the Occupy movement (and there have been more than a few). The protesters stop advancing. They chant, “This is a moment. This is a moment of peace. We are giving you a moment. You can choose to leave, and we won’t follow you.”

    And the cops looked at one another uncertainly, and looked at the crowd, and looked at one another … and fucking left.

    The brutality of the police was met with kindness. The protesters were the adults here, and met the petulant toddler’s bite-and-kick flailings of the police with a mature response.

    The cops knew that in order to continue to carry out their “just following orders” job, they’d have to do further violence than even these men were willign to engage in. And they backed down. This is how nonviolent resistance is supposed to work.

    “It’s okay. You can go now.” Fucking awesome.

    —Myca

  5. 5
    Myca says:

    Here’s a a letter from an assistant professor to the UC Chancellor calling for her resignation.

    A selection:

    Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

    In a just world, the police would be facing charges for aggravated assault, but we just barely have reached the point where the open execution of an unarmed black man, caught on film, might cause a little trouble for an officer’s career, so I’m not holding my breath.

    —Myca

  6. 6
    CaitieCat says:

    This video was my moment of clarity. I’ve contacted my local Occupy, and I’m getting involved, disability or no. It’s too much.

  7. 7
    Myca says:

    So, as it turns out, I know the fellow leading the “this is a moment of peace” moment. His name is Tom Zolot. He’s a leader in the UC Davis Unitarian Universalist Young Adult group.

    Also, one of my ministers, Marcus Liefert, was just arrested at Occupy Oakland.

    Pria, one of my youth group members, is at Occupy SF, and another, Alexa, is at Occupy Oakland.

    I’m thinking about writing a post on this.

    —Myca

  8. 8
    hf says:

    are there any methods you feel they can use or are the police to never attempt to ever break up a protest?

    I’d answer, but I don’t actually want you to know which methods work. (Because then they might work.)

  9. 9
    Squire Bond says:

    What’s amazing is how brazenly the Police Chief lies like she knows no one will call her out on it. There is gonna be blood in this thing. More of it unfortunately. People are fed up being manhandled by the corporate owned government and their police forces.

  10. 10
    chingona says:

    I’d really like to see this department’s use of force guidelines and then see the chief take us through this video and explain how this cop’s actions qualify.

    And Myca is right. The crowd here is amazing. (I feel like a shout out for cell phone cameras is also in order, but technology is only as good as the use you make of it — and they make great us of it. The way they advance with their cameras out in front of them …)

  11. 11
    mythago says:

    I’m thinking of a hypothetical non-violent anti-abortion crowd camping at a hospital’s main door.

    I have seen this done (Operation Rescue protesting at an abortion clinic). Nobody was pepper-sprayed. Nobody was beaten or tear-gassed. The police simply and quietly arrested people and led them peacefully away.

    Of course, the OR protesters weren’t dirty fucking hippies.

  12. 12
    Solo says:

    @mythago:
    In the 1990s? Maybe it wasn’t common but Google says police did use pepper spray on OR protesters at San Mateo, California.

  13. 13
    mythago says:

    Without more than “Google says” to go on, I can’t tell what you’re referring to.

    I’m talking about in the late 1980s, when OR was actually a big deal (before Randall Terry divorced his wife to marry his mistress) and regularly protested clinics.

  14. 15
    mythago says:

    Googling “operation rescue pepper spray san mateo” is not advanced research.

    It’s very kind of you to do Solo’s research for hir.

    It’s not clear from the article why the protesters were pepper-sprayed. Obviously, if it was anything like the UC Davis situation – where peaceful protesters who could have been arrested without incident were just pepper sprayed by a cop with power issues – that is utterly wrong.

    Anecdatally, I, personally, have witnessed police arresting OR protesters blockading a clinic, and doing so peacefully and without using chemical agents or any kind of violence, even though said protesters were illegally blocking a business and some of them were, frankly, a little wack. There would have been no need to do anything other than cuff them and lead them away (which is exactly what the cops did).

  15. 16
    Charles S says:

    It is clear such a thing happened. It isn’t clear why. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the police were wrong to pepper spray Operation Rescue protesters in San Mateo in 1993 ( can conceive of conditions in which pepper spray could be legitimately be deployed against protesters, but it is at the point where they are in the process of rioting and doing bodily harm- if OR protesters in San Mateo had been rioting, I expect google would turn up more hits with more details than it does).

    Solo and Robert, are you both willing to join me on this limb and say that what was done by the police at UC-Davis was wrong? Would you be willing to say that it was criminal?

    Unlike the pepper spraying here in Portland (which I expect will be very costly for the police department in court settlements), I think this action should be treated as a criminal offense by Lt. Pike. In Portland, the CO should be retrained to not pursue confrontation with peaceful protesters, but the front line officer probably did feel threatened and like he was losing control of his environment. He (a) shouldn’t have been put in that situation, and (b) fucked up, but I don’t think he acted with malice. Lt Pike clearly thought he could do as he pleased and that he was allowed to brutally assault peaceful protesters who represented no threat whatsoever to anyone, merely because they failed to obey his orders. That falls well outside what I want police to be free to do.

    How about you?

  16. 17
    Robert says:

    Oh hell yes, Charles, I am in complete agreement with you. I am, in general, quite hostile to the state’s predilection for shutting down dissent, even dissent I think is stupid. The only shred of justification for shutting down Occupy protests is on the grounds that camping out (as opposed to just rallying) deprives other people of the use of the parks, etc., and even that is case by case.

  17. 18
    mythago says:

    Somebody is gonna have fun with Spicuzza at a deposition, is all I’m saying.

  18. 19
    Solo says:

    Thanks Robert.

    @Charles S:
    People are going ‘OMG Pepper Spray’ or ‘Cops hate Hippies’ when it is much more complicated. I was all ‘OMG Tazer’ a few years back, but when presented with the alternative of being wrestled to the ground by baton wielding cops, the Tazer is statistically less likely to cause injury or death. What exactly is the acceptable usage case for Pepper spray other than temporarily incapacitating an uncooperative but not yet dangerous suspect? You don’t want to use pepper spray on someone wielding a knife or a bat so who do you use it on?

    In the case of UC-Davis, officers should have used the means least likely to cause injury to the protesters with reasonable concern for officer safety. If they are to be arrested while locking arms, would you want them pried loose from each other at greater risk of injury? I’m not aware of the standard operating procedure, but this isn’t a case of the officer getting his jollies by spraying a subdued suspect, or using insane amounts of the substance. I’m on the fence as to whether this is the best method to use at UC-Davis, but if it were the safest for all involved, I’d agree with its use on OR or anyone not cooperating with the police, including myself.

    On the other hand, if the department cannot justify the efficacy of the spray, the officers should be severely reprimanded and pepper spray removed from use in the future.

  19. 20
    mythago says:

    Solo @19: If your belief is that it’s always OK for the police to pepper-spray anyone who does not immediately do what an officer tells them, I guess that’s your belief. I don’t think most people share that, nor is it a sensible basis for a use-of-force policy.

  20. 21
    Solo says:

    @mythago:
    There’s a difference between the ‘do as the officer says, immediately, or else’ caricature and resisting arrest. If suspects/protesters doesn’t let themselves be cuffed, do officers just wait around till they decide they are done? I’m advocating the least dangerous method(whatever it is) to gain compliance. What’s your suggestion?

    Also I’d like to know if you feel there’s a difference between the police arresting a single individual versus a protesting group.

  21. 22
    mythago says:

    Solo @21: I’m just going by your own words. If a peaceful protester refuses to move when an officer says so, that is “resisting arrest”. You speculated that pepper spraying a line of peaceful protesters was perfectly reasonable because, oh, maybe it might have hurt their arms or something if they were just arrested without chemical agents.

    The Davis PD is not, unlike you, arguing that they used pepper spray because arresting the students might have injured the protesters, they claimed that the officers felt threatened.

  22. 23
    Mandolin says:

    Forcibly spraying pepper spray into protestor’s mouths, causing them to vomit blood, doesn’t cross any lines for you?

  23. 24
    Solo says:

    Under what circumstances can you advocate using pepper spray? Sorry I just don’t have a visceral reaction to this chemical being used. I’m going to shut up till I have more facts to base my speculations on.

  24. 25
    mythago says:

    When an officer needs to apply “less than lethal force”, for example, when dealing with a combative or violent or severely agitated person and pepper spray is a better alternative than shooting them.

  25. 26
    Ampersand says:

    You don’t want to use pepper spray on someone wielding a knife or a bat so who do you use it on?

    There’s a big range between complete nonviolence, and baseball bats and knives. Somewhere in that range — for instance, if someone being arrested was thrashing and kicking, not presenting a mortal danger but also not being nonviolent — pepper spray might be appropriate. (It would depend on the particular context, but doesn’t everything?)

  26. 27
    Robert says:

    Everything depends on context, except for the fact that everything depends on context, which is an absolute. Most of the time.

  27. 28
    CaitieCat says:

    Only Sith liquour stores deal in Absoluts.

  28. 29
    Robert says:

    That is an amazingly stupid joke, and I find it hilarious.

  29. 30
    CaitieCat says:

    *bows theatrically*

    Thekyoo, thekyoo, I’m here til Thursday, try the tofurducken!

  30. 31
    Robert says:

    Tofurducken?

    Release the hounds.

  31. 32
    RonF says:

    Myca (and yes, I understand you’re citing someone else’s writing):

    When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats.

    I don’t recall seeing that on the video. Did anyone see that?

    Mandolin:

    Forcibly spraying pepper spray into protestor’s mouths, causing them to vomit blood, doesn’t cross any lines for you?

    You might want to hold off on challenging people on this until there’s some confirmation. That would certainly cross my line for criminal activity on the part of the police, but one would think it would have been recorded on video along with the rest.

    Robert:

    The only shred of justification for shutting down Occupy protests is on the grounds that camping out (as opposed to just rallying) deprives other people of the use of the parks, etc., and even that is case by case.

    The justification for shutting down Occupy protests is that they did not conform to the same process that everyone else had to. Equal treatment under the law and all that. If a group wants to organize a rally on public property then let them get permits, rent porta-potties at their own expense, post bonds, pay for insurance policies, pay for security/police overtime, clean the place up, etc. and then conform to the time limits on their permits according to local policies just like the Tea Party movement folks had to do all over the country. In fact, the Richmond, Va. Tea Party organization has demanded that the Richmond City Council refund the $8K they charged them to hold their rally on the basis that they haven’t held Occupy Richmond liable for a penny so far. I’d like to see this spread across the country.

    Is this the kind of “case by case” you are thinking of? I don’t see why there needs to be any kind of case or even a complaint brought by anyone. The parks need to be kept clear not just so that competing organizations can have time. They need to be kept clear so that people can play frisbee and walk their dogs. That’s as high a use as any.

    In general, on the use of pepper spray:

    Those things look like the cans of pepper spray we take to Canada for bear repellent. You can buy them in sporting goods stores that have a reasonably extensive outdoors section (i.e., one that is more than a glorified clothing store). Once someone popped the whole can open through mishandling. That cleared us all out for a while. Nasty, but nobody died.

    Again, the context is confused. The video focuses on the actual act and it’s aftermath, but we have no video of what went on before. I’d say that if people were blocking public access to either private or public property and had been repeatedly ordered to move without compliance then use of pepper spray (after issuing a warning) could be justified. I don’t think the cops can be required to use physical methods first. I would call restraining someone and spraying it in their eyes or throat criminal. I think the concept that using pepper spray was likely better for the protestors than manhandling them rather novel, though.

  32. 33
    Myca says:

    There’s no video of the cops pepper-spraying into protester throats (that I know of), but it has been reported independently by multiple protesters, students, and faculty, and there’s been no denial (that I know of) by the cops.

    I’d say that if people were blocking public access to either private or public property

    The whole thing went down here.

    See the long, straight sidewalk through the greenspace with the concentric circle-thing in the middle? That’s where the protesters were sitting when they were pepper-sprayed. I doubt it would be possible to find a spot on campus that blocks less stuff.

    —Myca

  33. 34
    CaitieCat says:

    That pepper spray you’re bringing into Canada, btw? Not legal here. Classified as an offensive weapon. Next time you come, try telling the customs agent about it, and see what happens.

  34. 35
    Elusis says:

    Federal law on use of pepper spray:
    http://www.boomantribune.com/story/2011/11/16/211132/23

    10 things you should know about Friday’s UC Davis police violence
    6. UC police are not authorized to use physical force except to control violent offenders or keep suspects from escaping.

    Another quote from the UC’s policing policy: “Arrestees and suspects shall be treated in a humane manner … they shall not be subject to physical force except as required to subdue violence or ensure detention. No officer shall strike an arrestee or suspect except in self-defense, to prevent an escape, or to prevent injury to another person.”

    7. The UC Davis Police made no effort to remove the student demonstrators from the walkway peacefully before using pepper spray against them.

    One video of the pepper-spray incident shows a group of officers moving in to remove the students from the walkway. Just as one of them reaches down to pick up a female student who was leaning against a friend, however, Lt. Pike waves the group back, clearing a space for him to use pepper spray without risk of accidentally spraying his colleagues.

    Militarization of Campus Police
    Throughout my life I have seen, and sometimes participated in, peaceful civil disobedience in which sitting and linking arms was understood by citizens as a posture that indicates, in the clearest possible way available, protestors’ intent to be non-violent. If example, if you look through training materials from groups like the Quakers, the various pacifist organization and centers, and Christian organizations, it is universally taught that sitting and linking arms is the best way to de-escalate any confrontation between police and people exercising their first amendment right to public speech.

    Likewise, for over 30 years I have seen police universally understand this gesture. Many many times I have seen police treat protestors who sat and linked arms when told they must disperse or face arrest as a very routine matter: the police then approach the protestors individually and ask them if, upon arrest, they are going to walk of their own accord or not the police will have to carry them. In fact, this has become so routine that I have often wondered if this form of protest had become so scripted as to have lost most of its meaning.

    No more.

    The Authoritarian Personality
    ost of all, though, it’s amazing the extent to which these people who believe that government is pure evil will argue that A) the role of the citizen relative to the police is one of absolute, unquestioning obedience, B) the police are to be taken at their word at all times, and C) whatever type and amount of force the police choose to use is inherently right.

    If one of the defining characteristics of government is possession of a monopoly on the legitimate use of force within its borders, then the police are government at its most elemental. They are the government’s way of perpetuating itself and enforcing rules and social order. If government is evil, oppressive, or misguided then by definition the police – the muscle behind the corrupt system – must be as well. Yet rather than seeing the state using questionable (to put it charitably) levels of force against its own citizens as another sign of a brutal, corrupt, and broken system – which, for the record, is what they see when police/military are used to crush popular demonstrations in other countries – they cheer on its excesses and defend it to the last man.

  35. 36
    Myca says:

    The Authoritarian Personality

    What a funny coincidence that you should link to that, it was my thought as well. This actually reminded me that I never posted the follow-up after I posted The Authoritarian Personality Disorder Test The Right Wing Authoritarianism Scale a while back.

    You can find the test results (and an entire book on the topic) here.

    TL/DR version: the higher your score on the test from that post, especially if your score is over 100, the more likely you are to exhibit characteristics of Right Wing Authoritarianism. The average score for US adults is 90. RonF scored 110, which indicates some solid Authoritartian tendencies.

    —Myca

    [Edited to correct an error]

  36. 37
    RonF says:

    Myca:

    See the long, straight sidewalk through the greenspace with the concentric circle-thing in the middle? That’s where the protesters were sitting when they were pepper-sprayed. I doubt it would be possible to find a spot on campus that blocks less stuff.

    Hm. Well, on that basis then I’d say that pepper spraying those kids was an overreaction. People could have just walked around them. I don’t know who was giving the cops orders, but the optimal method of handling the situation probably would have leaned towards letting them stew there – without allowing their number to increase – until they got cold and hungry and wandered off.

    CaitieCat:

    Really? I had no idea. I never thought of it as a weapon, I thought of it as bear repellent, which is what it says on the label and what I had it for. If a customs agent had asked me “Are you bringing any weapons in” and I had some with me I would have said “No” in all honest intent. Thanks for the heads up.

    Myca:

    This actually reminded me that I never posted the follow-up after I posted The Authoritarian Personality Disorder Test a while back.

    Myca, you didn’t post The Authoritarian Personality Disorder Test, you posted Political Attitude Test. You said:

    Hey, folks. There’s a general political bias test below that I’d like people to take if they have a free moment.

    and the list of questions themselves were described as

    This survey is part of an investigation of general public opinion concerning a variety of social issues.

    Nobody said anything about this being an “Authoritarian Personality Disorder Test”. Are you sure you’ve got the right posting?

    Or did you mislead people on the content and intent of the post? Please tell me that it’s the former and not the latter.

  37. 38
    Mandolin says:

    Personality disorder?

    It’s not actually in the DSM, is it? I seem to be seeing petitions to include it, but not diagnostic criteria–maybe I’m not searching deeply enough?

    I’m not aware of the debate around this, but superficially classing it as a PD like narcissism seems pretty hinky.

  38. 39
    Myca says:

    Or did you mislead people on the content and intent of the post? Please tell me that it’s the former and not the latter.

    Yes, I misled you as to the content and intent of the test. That happens sometimes with tests like these.

    I certainly apologize for any offense.

    Also, I’d encourage you, strongly, to read the linked book. It’s free, and endorsed by John Dean!

    —Myca

  39. 40
    Myca says:

    Personality disorder?

    It’s not actually in the DSM, is it? I seem to be seeing petitions to include it, but not diagnostic criteria–maybe I’m not searching deeply enough?

    Yeah, that was actually a brainfart on my part. It’s the “Right-Wing Authoritarianism Scale,” no ‘disorder’ needed.

    —Myca

  40. 41
    Mandolin says:

    It seems much less offensive as a scale than a disorder. At least to me. :D

  41. 42
    mythago says:

    I’d say that if people were blocking public access to either private or public property and had been repeatedly ordered to move without compliance then use of pepper spray (after issuing a warning) could be justified.

    “Could be justified”? That’s pretty wishy-washy. Was it justified, or not?

    And the ‘we didn’t see what happened first’ thing is horseshit. It’s like creationists who refuse to believe in evolution unless you can produce an unbroken fossil record covering every minute in history: aha! there’s a gap, so we DON’T KNOW! You can always play the game by saying, well, yes, we know what happened before that, but what about before that, and even before that, too, my gosh, I don’t know what those protesters could have done to justify pepper-spraying but clearly if we don’t have 24/7 video from the second the protest began, it’s possible it could be justified, no?

    Well, no.

    I mean, really, RonF, what do you think the mysterious pre-spray video would have shown? A bunch of violent rioters who ran and quickly sat down and linked arms to look all innocent? We have no reports of any violent or threatening behavior. None. Even the apologist for the police didn’t bother to try that spin: instead she claimed that the mere presence of a lot of other people meant it was totes OK to hose down a bunch of peacefully sitting protesters who posed no threat whatsoever.

    Conservatives like to bitch about how the ACLU protects all rights but the Second, but there are an awful lot of conservatives who seem to think there’s a clause in the Bill of Rights that says “these rights do not apply to dirty fucking hippies”.

  42. 43
    Myca says:

    there are an awful lot of conservatives who seem to think there’s a clause in the Bill of Rights that says “these rights do not apply to dirty fucking hippies”.

    Just like there are a lot of conservatives who talk a good game about how awful government power is … who then continually excuse any action, no matter how abusive, by the agents of that power.

    I mean, if you think that government power is scary because “MEN WITH GUNZ OMG!” then maybe you might want to be a little more skeptical of the actual actions of the actual men with guns.

    —Myca

  43. 44
    mythago says:

    Oh, Myca. What part of DIRTY FUCKING HIPPIES did you not understand? Sheez.

  44. 45
    Elusis says:

    As long as the police are acting on those people over there who are Definitely Not Us and show up when we call them to get those people off our lawn, they are Not The Government We Are Looking For Trying To Drown In the Bathtub.

    Four video perspectives on the Davis incident:

  45. 46
    RonF says:

    And the ‘we didn’t see what happened first’ thing is horseshit. It’s like creationists who refuse to believe in evolution unless you can produce an unbroken fossil record covering every minute in history: aha! there’s a gap, so we DON’T KNOW! You can always play the game by saying, well, yes, we know what happened before that, but what about before that, and even before that, too, my gosh, I don’t know what those protesters could have done to justify pepper-spraying but clearly if we don’t have 24/7 video from the second the protest began, it’s possible it could be justified, no?

    The comparison to creationism is not apt. Creationism sets out an alternative proposal to explain reality and then refuses to admit a) the holes in that proposal and b) the validity of the evidence for the current consensus. And once facts come in they change the criteria and ask for things they know you can’t get or don’t have.

    But in cases like this sufficient facts to make a judgement exist. I’m not asking for things that people can’t know or can’t get. I have found – having made a fool of myself a few times – that rushing to judgement instead of asking a few questions first doesn’t improve the decision-making process.

    There’s no video of the cops pepper-spraying into protester throats (that I know of), but it has been reported independently by multiple protesters, students, and faculty, and there’s been no denial (that I know of) by the cops.

    Failure to deny rumor is not evidence of truth. Let someone file a formal complaint with, say, the U.S. Attorney (I imagine that something like this would be a civil rights violation) and I’ll start to believe there’s something to it. If someone really saw this they need to stand up to it. If someone really did this they deserve to lose their badge and spend time in jail.

  46. Pingback: The latest from UC Davis | Alas, a Blog

  47. 47
    Mandolin says:

    It’s reported by a faculty member who was present at the protest. I mean, if there’s evidence presented at some point that the faculty member is wrong, that’s something. But why am I supposed to automatically assume so? Why isn’t “this was reported by witnesses” sufficient basis for discussing something in a forum that makes no legal actions?

  48. 48
    Mandolin says:

    I mean, I just don’t think that most of the time when we’re discussing stuff on Alas, we hold evidence to a standard higher than, “This is something witnesses said happened which has been corroborated by other witnesses.”

  49. 49
    Myca says:

    I mean, I just don’t think that most of the time when we’re discussing stuff on Alas, we hold evidence to a standard higher than, “This is something witnesses said happened which has been corroborated by other witnesses.”

    Right, especially in a situation, as now, when nobody is disputing the claim. Also, of course, over on my new UC Davis post, I point out that we now have a named eyewitness to the pepper-spray-in-the-mouth incident who’s gone on the record with the local paper.

    But inventing excuses for the violent acts of those in power is how the Right Wing Authoritarian mindset works. It’s unsurprising.

    —Myca

  50. 50
    Ampersand says:

    I’m suspicious of the report that cops forced open students’ mouths to pepper spray down their throats.

    Nearly every online report I can find refers to this letter from a professor — but that professor doesn’t explicitly claim, in the letter, to have witnessed it personally. He might just be reporting things people told him. Here’s what he wrote:

    When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

    In events like this, even if everyone is speaking in good faith, there’s a very good chance of a game of “telephone” taking place. Compare what he wrote to what student “W,” who is one of the students who is pepper-sprayed in the video, says happened to him in this interview:

    XJ: Can you tell us how it happened, from where you were sitting?

    W: I’d pulled my beanie hat over my eyes, to protect my eyes. I received a lot of pepper spray in my throat. I vomited twice, right away, then spent the next hour or two dry heaving. Someone said they saw him spray down my throat intentionally, but I was so freaked out, and I was blinded by my hat, so I can’t verify. I did get a large quantity of pepper spray in my lungs.

    Another girl near me who has asthma had an attack triggered by the pepper spray, and she was taken to the hospital.

    [...]

    I was on the end of the line getting direct spray. When the second pass came, I got up crawling. I crawled away and vomited on a tree. I was yelling. It burned. Within a few minutes I was dry heaving, I couldn’t breathe. Then, over the course of the next hour, I was dry heaving and vomiting.

    More people were arrested, then. One other person told me he was pepper sprayed while he was on the ground subdued. They tried to go up his shirt, because he’d pulled his shirt over his face to protect himself. So they aimed it up his shirt to spray him, to make sure he got it.

    XJ: Chancellor Katehi finally gave a press conference tonight about that incident.

    W: I was the first one there. I went right up to her and introduced myself. “I’m an undergrad here. I’m a victim of police brutality,” I told her. “The police sprayed pepper spray down my throat. I do not feel you have done your job protecting me on your campus. I hold you personally responsible for inflicting pain on me.”

    So it seems that students were sprayed in the mouth (see also the person Myca quotes in his new post). But the claim that cops held open students mouths to spray down their throats is a different claim, and I think hasn’t been collaborated enough yet for us to be sure it’s true.

    Edited to add: According to studies of eyewitness testimony in criminal cases, there’s actually a great deal of reason to mistrust even direct eyewitness testimony; people can easily fool themselves about what they remember seeing, or how certain they are about what they saw happen, especially if other people are presenting them with a strong narrative. (Police, purposely or accidentally, often create false eyewitness testimony in this fashion.)

  51. 51
    Myca says:

    I don’t have a problem with skepticism so much as the particular sort of skepticism, which seems particular to RonF which basically consists of, “Let’s see if we can imagine some scenario in which these people got what they fucking deserved.”

    This kind of ‘skepticism’ will often invent entire scenarios to justify pain and loss and will search out any possible moral or strategic failing on the part of the brutalized person and use that as a hook on which to hang their every misfortune.

    See also the “We are the 99 Percent” post.

    Not to speak for Mythago, but I think this is part of what she was talking about in comment #42, in reference to the “without more context we can’t tell” argument. It’s the desperate hope for more context, so as to avoid having to face the possibility that daddy the police did something bad.

    I mean … “If someone really did this they deserve to lose their badge and spend time in jail?” Sure. How about “If someone casually pepper-sprays a group of peaceful, nonviolent, non-threatening protesters, they deserve to lose their badge and spend time in jail?” Because that’s on the video.

    —Myca

  52. 52
    RonF says:

    Myca, I was a college student during Watergate. In fact, I still have copies of the Boston Globe and the Washington Post from the day that Nixon resigned, and remember clearly sitting in the chapter room of my fraternity house cheering along with my brothers while Nixon gave his resignation speech. I don’t need a link to know who John Dean is.

    Also, I rather suspect that I’ve seen what cops do to “Dirty Fucking Hippies” from a lot closer range than many of you. I’ve outrun baton-wielding and tear-gas firing cops in Boston, Cambridge and Washington D.C., and I’ve seen the damage done to people who didn’t run as fast as I did. Although I don’t think the D.C. cops were really giving it their best that day (Nixon’s 2nd inauguration). And I had even unbolted a “No Parking – Presidential Inauguration” sign off a pole and stuffed it up the back of my coat as armor.

  53. 53
    RonF says:

    Myca:

    desperate hope

    Talk about inventing a scenario! What I said was that it lacked context, and I asked for some. And, I got some. At which point I said “Well, on that basis then I’d say that pepper spraying those kids was an overreaction.” I didn’t keep trying to justify what the cops did.

    And from what Amp says, it seems that so far my skepticism regarding the “pepper spray down the throat” is justified. Again, note I didn’t say it didn’t happen – I said that someone needs to stand up and say they witnessed it directly and report it.

  54. 54
    mythago says:

    RonF, I wasn’t talking about questioning the ‘pepper spray down the throat’. I was talking about this handwaving:

    Again, the context is confused. The video focuses on the actual act and it’s aftermath, but we have no video of what went on before. I’d say that if people were blocking public access to either private or public property and had been repeatedly ordered to move without compliance then use of pepper spray (after issuing a warning) could be justified. I don’t think the cops can be required to use physical methods first. I would call restraining someone and spraying it in their eyes or throat criminal. I think the concept that using pepper spray was likely better for the protestors than manhandling them rather novel, though.

    That is not “wait, where is that on the video?” or “did anyone actually report seeing that?” or “I didn’t notice that in the news reports I saw.” Your quoted paragraph is straight up apologist bullshit, pretending that maybe something happened ‘before’ that would make it clear the cop had a good reason to walk up and pepper-spray a bunch of kids sitting on the sidewalk. It also pretends that the issue is ‘this was safer than physical force’, which is not only a complete misunderstanding of the appropriate use of less-than-lethal-force tools like pepper spray, but is making up a whole new nonsense excuse which even the police didn’t try to offer.

  55. 55
    Elusis says:

    Guys, I don’t understand the outrage. After all, pepper spray is essentially a food product, so basically the cops were just feeding the students. Maybe they were hungry! And after all, Davis is a liberal campus, so… [nudge nudge, wink wink].

  56. 56
    mythago says:

    Okay, time to start a rumor that all pepper-spray manufactured in the US is certified halal. That should set them off. :P

  57. 57
    Elusis says:

    Oh man, you read Gin and Tacos too? There is not enough [headdesk] in the world.