Perez, Steinberg urge review of pepper-spray use

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.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    Oh,for God’s sake! The cops were using standard crowd control techniques. The mob had been ordered to disperse and resisted (sitting down and linking arms is resisting, children). The pepper spray was an incentive for them to get up and leave. In addition, they had surrounded the cops which understandably makes them uneasy.

    The suspension of the officers is just another bleeding heart liberal overreaction. Omigod, they pepper sprayed our little darlings! Oh, boo hoo hoo!

  • Truthclubber

    Hellwoody do love his police state, don’t he, now? Howz dat doberman and the gated driveway and the laser sighting on your rooftop workin’ out for ya, eh, fascist? Electricify your fence yet? How’s the moat digging project going at your place?

  • RR senile columnist

    Spray to disable in the Bay Area;
    Spray as a warning in Davis.

  • John W

    My posts here have been highly critical of the Occupy movement tent cities. However, pepper spray is pretty wicked stuff for dispersal of a peaceful assembly– more severe than tear gas (which anybody who has gone through Army basic training has experienced firsthand). If the police were surrounded and felt threatened in some way, all bets are off. So far, however, I’ve seen no visual evidence of that. It looked to me like your garden variety sit-in, which is part of life on college campuses and about as nonviolent as it gets.

  • Elwood

    @ #4 John W

    TV only presents a very limited picture, John. All I’ve seen is the little darlings being pepper sprayed over and over. Have you seen other footage? Do you have links?

  • Elwood

    @ #2 toothsucker

    You are a lunatic.

  • Truthclubber

    @ #6 Hellwoody

    You are a fascist.

    Truth hurts?

    Deal with it, or change your attitude toward other humans that have to occupy the same planet as your self-appointed lordship.

  • Truthclubber

    I’m sure that Hellwoody, little fascist that he is, would have approved the use of pepper spray against these nine individuals as well:


    Why bother with protecting DER civil rights — dey be darkies, and not fit for the likes of Amerika!

    How dare our President protect dem against all dem policemen jus doin’ der job!

  • Elwood


    See #6

  • Truthclubber


    See a mirror behind you, drop your panties, bend over and look behind so you can see between your legs, and see yourself as revealed by all of your self-absorbed arrogance.

    Seriously? “See #6”

    That’s all you got left? Up your meds or get off the net, because for arrogant, racist fascists like you, it’s just gonna get worse, ya hear, homey?

  • Rick K.

    UC Davis students are angry at fee hikes and the arrogance of UC leaders. They should know that the Garamendi family has profited at the expense of UC students. UC Davis students should demand an explanation and work to oust Congressman Garamendi from Congress in 2012. John Garamendi Sr. served on the UC Merced Foundation board. He parlayed this into a $210,000 a year UC “vice chancellor” job for his son John Garamendi Jr., who was then 34 or so years old. Gee, do you thing Daddy Garamendi played any role in getting Jr. that big job?

    UC students paid Garamendi Jr.’s lavish salary — $210,000 a year is very generous, especially by Merced standards. Look at
    http://www.mercurynews.com/salaries/uc/2009 and search for “Garamendi”. Garamendi Jr. was the 3rd-highest paid person at UC Merced in 2009.

    The UC system is rife with such nepotism and cronyism. UC Davis students, faculty and staff, who are suffering so much right now, need to demand answers from the Garamendi family and refuse to vote for Garamendi Sr. in 2012 if such answers are not forthcoming. Hold the “political class” accountable!

  • Elwood


    #6 Says it all

  • John W

    Re: #5 Elwood

    Yes, Elwood, I’m well aware that a video clip with the right camera angle and shot framing can completely distort the true story. That’s why my prior comment is hedged. However, I have neither seen any other video showing a different perspective nor heard anybody in authority make an argument that the clip is misleading. Frankly, the police lieutenant who started the spraying looked like he was having way too much fun. But I reserve judgement until the full story is told.

  • Elwood

    “pepper spray is pretty wicked stuff for dispersal of a peaceful assembly– more severe than tear gas”

    How do you know that, John? I’m assuming from your post that you were tear gassed in basic training.

    Have you been pepper sprayed? Tell us about it.

  • Elwood



    The cops WERE surrounded!

  • John W

    Re: #15

    Well, kids will be kids!

    Holy Toledo! That definitely provides a different perspective. Supposedly, there is an independent investigation going on. I trust this will be part of the record. I don’t know where this video came from, but I’m puzzled why there hasn’t been any coverage of it, at least not to my knowledge. When they were clearing Justin Herman Plaza in SF last night, it looked to me like the protesters were trying to do a similar “surround the police” stunt.

  • John W

    Re: #14

    Did some online reading on the pepper spray. Various articles indicated it can and has had far more severe effects in at least some cases than anything you would get from tear gas — up to and including loss of eyesight and even death.

    Yup, I got gassed in basic. They took us in groups into a small building, had us put on the gas mask and then released the gas. So far, so good. But then they made us take off the gas mask. Don’t know if it was full strength or not, but it sure burned the eyes and had us coughing and gagging. Was accidentally gassed a couple of years after that during a faculty meeting when Michigan state troopers and East Lansing police gassed student Vietnam war protesters. Unfortunately, the window in the meeting room was wide open at the time.

  • Elwood

    @ #16

    Well, John, the “pepper spraying of the innocents” makes a much sexier video. The rest of the story is an inconvenient truth.

    If I was a cop, being surrounded by little darlings chanting “kill the police” would make me more than a little anxious.