Pepper spray backlash continues to burn


Not only has Lt. John Pike, the police officer who liberally doused nonviolent college students with pepper spray in an incendiary show of excessive police force Nov. 18, become a meme -- he's also generated a raging controversy that has top officials at the University of California Davis in the crosshairs. The incident, which has triggered widespread outrage since videos of it went viral on YouTube, occurred after police responded to student protesters attempting to create an Occupy Davis encampment.

Sen. Leland Yee issued a letter to UC president Mark Yudof Nov. 21, calling for an independent investigation into the pepper spray incident rather than a task force handpicked by UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi. The Davis chancellor, who has come under intense pressure since the incident as students call for her resignation, previously announced that she would create a committee to look into the matter and report back after 30 days.

"She gave 30 days to report back," noted Adam Keigwin, Yee's chief of staff. "It takes about 30 seconds to realize there's been wrongdoing."

In the letter, Yee expressed concern that "it is important that we do not leave the fox to guard the henhouse." A press statement issued by his office was more direct, noting that Yee "called Katehi’s task force a sham."

Yudof said Sunday that he would convene all 10 UC campus Chancellors to ensure proper law enforcement reactions in future protests.

Watch this clip to the end, and you'll witness an incredible moment following the pepper spray incident, when UC Davis students banned together and chanted at police, "You can go!" After a few moments, the police appeared to listen to them, and retreated.

Video by YouTube user waxpancake

Some 5,000 students gathered at the UC Davis quad this afternoon to protest the now-infamous show of police brutality. Katehi waited in line to speak and then apologized to the students.

According to Yee's press release, "Katehi's salary is $400,000, reflecting a 27 percent hike from her predecessor. Her compensation package also includes a house provided by UC, $9,000 per year in automobile allowance, relocation expenses now and upon exiting the position, a promised faculty position after leaving the Chancellor’s office, a low-interest home loan after serving as Chancellor, and a generous pension and health care package, among other benefits."

Sen. Leland Yee is urging all UC and CSU students and employees who are retaliated against or face disciplinary action as a result of their peaceful protest to contact his offices in San Francisco (415-577-7857) or San Mateo (650-340-8840).