Post pepper spraying, UC Davis chancellor insists ‘the university needs me’

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, November 21, 2011 11:03 EDT
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A still from the YouTube video of police at UC Davis spraying students with pepper-spray
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After ordering the eviction of students staging an “Occupy” protest at the University of California-Davis on Friday, only to watch police efforts turn into a ghastly, violent scene, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi pledged Monday morning that she was not about to resign.

Appearing on ABC News’s Good Morning America on Monday, Katehi seemed eager to put the incident behind her.

“I really feel confident at this point the university needs me,” she said. “There are so many critical issues to be addressed and we really need to start the healing process and move forward.”

Following her declaration that UC Davis students were “trespassing” on the school’s quad, two campus police officers deployed streams of pepper-spray at a group that had locked arms and refused to move. Video of the scene immediately went viral, getting over a million views within 24 hours, and the main officer responsible for using the chemical irritant on peaceful student protesters has since become an Internet meme.

Police said 10 students were arrested during the demonstration, and an investigation was underway into the officers’ use of pepper spray. Two members of the campus police have been put on paid leave while the investigation is conducted.

Following the incident, Katehi called the use of pepper spray “chilling,” adding that it “raises many questions about how best to handle situations like this.”

As the chancellor was leaving the university on her way home late Saturday night, she was forced to walk past dozens of student protesters. The students had surrounded a building where Katehi had given a press briefing, waiting hours for her to emerge. When she finally did, the crowd uttered nary a word, sending Katehi on a silent walk of shame to her vehicle.

She’s since faced calls to resign from members of UC Davis faculty.

“It was a difficult situation for the campus to really strive to make sure the students are safe,” Katehi told ABC News. “The biggest, most critical issue is the safety of the students who are using the campus, the facilities, who really want to learn in this environment.”

This video is from the CBS News Early Show, broadcast Monday, Nov. 21, 2011.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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