California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, just issued this statement amid the uproar over police’s use of pepper spray against nonviolent protesters Friday at the University of California, Davis:
“I was appalled at the apparent use of excessive force by the UC Davis police force at a peaceful student demonstration.
“All Americans deserve the right to peacefully express their opinions. Nowhere is that right more sacrosanct than in the university setting. I fully support the right of the students to continue to express their frustrations and aspirations, and I call on the University to assure the safety of their student body, not only from physical harm, but from limitations of their free expression.
“It is my expectation that the university will complete a thorough review of the incidents in question and adjust police procedures accordingly.”
Yesterday, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, had said:
“On its face, this is an outrageous action for police to methodically pepper spray passive demonstrators who were exercising their right to peacefully protest at U.C. Davis. Chancellor Katehi needs to immediately investigate, publicly explain how this could happen and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”
The Davis Enterprise reported this morning that UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza has been placed on administrative leave, along with two of the officers involved in the use of pepper spray, pending a review.
UPDATE @ 12:57 P.M.: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who as the state’s former lieutenant governor used to sit on the UC Board of Regents, is up in arms about the incident, too:
“I am appalled by the way in which students at UC Davis were treated. Campus police should know better than to cavalierly pepper spray peaceful protestors. The proud tradition of peaceful campus protests was shamelessly marred by these actions. I’m glad an investigation is underway, and I look forward to a full report on how they will avoid incidents like this in the future.
“At the same time, violent protests are never appropriate. From what I have seen, however, there was no violence on the part of the protesters at UC Davis. Indeed, by all accounts, Aggie students have shown remarkable restraint in the days following the pepper spraying. If and when protests become heated, they must be handled with the greatest discretion, so as to avoid and minimize injury to police and to demonstrators.
“Every incident of violence – no matter who the perpetrator – is a distraction from the legitimate issues that the 99% movement has raised. Our public universities have seen drastic cuts, harming our ability to stay competitive in a tough economy, and thousands of students have been priced out of an education or burdened with debts that they cannot repay. I hope the entire university community understands that we’re all in this together.”
UPDATE @ 4:48 P.M.: Lynda Gledhill, spokeswoman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, noted the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department is investigating and will take what it finds to that county’s district attorney. The attorney general doesn’t usually get involved in such cases while that process under way unless asked to do so because local officials have a conflict of interests or a lack of resources.
Nonetheless, Gledhill said, “the attorney general is disturbed, she thought the incident was disturbing, and wants to follow the process and make sure the review is through. She will be monitoring that.”