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Davis, California

Saturday, May 18, 2024

One year later

Aggie News Writers

Editor’s note: To see how perspectives have changed over the past year, The Aggie requested comments from students and members of the campus community who were involved with the Nov. 18 pepper spraying incident. We’ve included included quotes previously printed in The Aggie to demonstrate these changes. All update interviews were conducted via email.

Nathan Brown
Assistant professor in the department of English

“You are responsible for the police violence directed against students on the UC Davis quad on November 18, 2011. As I said, I am writing to hold you responsible and to demand your immediate resignation on these grounds.”

In the article “Police pepper spray student protesters, community outraged,” published in The Aggie Nov. 19, 2011

One year later: “I think what has become increasingly clear over the past year is that the pepper spray incident is indicative of a totalitarian attitude toward political protest on the part of the upper administration of UC Davis. Immediately following the events of Nov. 18, over 120,000 people signed a petition demanding the resignation of the Chancellor. The Davis Faculty Association demanded the Chancellor’s resignation. Numerous departments, including English and Physics (two of the largest departments in the Humanities and Sciences) demanded the resignation of the Chancellor … but despite [report] findings and recommendations, and although the Chief of the UC Davis Police and Lt. Pike have been removed from their positions, the Chancellor has not resigned. While the administration constantly says that they support political protest, what they do is repress it with whatever means they have at their disposal, including police violence. This disjunction between word and deed, and the administrative totalitarianism from which it results, has become more (not less) of a problem since last year.”

Fatima Sbieh
Recent UC Davis alumna. Pepper sprayed Nov. 18, 2011.

“We were sitting there peacefully,” Sbeih said. “I didn’t even hear a warning for the spraying, just by the students telling us all to turn around, and then we turned and we were sprayed, just like that. One of the cops was yelling at a guy saying he’s going to spray him in the face and then grabs him in the face and sprays him. They grabbed one of the protesters and sprayed it directly in his mouth. We were there peacefully, the tents were down, they had no reason to spray us.”

In the article “Police pepper spray student protesters, community outraged,” published in The Aggie Nov. 19, 2011

One year later: “I’m still disappointed in the university and administration’s actions. They didn’t even try to meet the protesters halfway. By that I mean they never spoke to the Occupiers, all they did was hand pieces of paper that said penal code this and that are broken. And I’m sitting here like what the hell is a penal code? If the university really wanted to do right by the students, they should have spoken to us, face to face, not via half sheets of paper. I have lost all trust in the administration, that will probably never be regained.”

Austin Greene
Third-year aerospace science and engineering major

“Does anyone else get the feeling over the past couple days that we as a community are making a huge mistake by bombarding Chancellor Katehi with demands for her resignation?

I will honestly say I have been.

When I look back at what happened on Friday, I can’t help but think that we are going after the wrong person here. True, it is a fact that Katehi ordered UCDPD to remove the tents, but it is also a fact that she ended the order there. Katehi never asked to have the protesters removed, nor did she ask the officers to go in riot gear — those were all decisions made by the police chief. Katehi was not the one who pulled out the can of pepper spray and dowsed students in it, and yet we are going after her like a pack of savage animals. Katehi was not the one responsible for making sure trash like Lt. John Pike didn’t make it into UCDPD — that was all on the Police Chief.”

In the Letter to the Editor “Give Katehi a chance,” published in The Aggie Nov. 23, 2011

One year later: “I believe that our University has made significant strides since my commentary on the pepper-spraying incident last Winter. We have seen new regulations put into effect to not only encourage regular student feedback, but also protect our rights when we choose to use them as a way to speak out. We still have a long way to go, however. Many of the secondary issues raised in the aftermath of last year’s incident have yet to be resolved, and I would encourage administrations and students alike to revisit videos of past rallies to help clarify what our next steps should be as a University. With all that said, and with respect to my previous comments about keeping Katehi in office, I have to say I am proud of my fellow Aggies. In my opinion we, the students of this awesome University, made the right decision by giving her a second chance. Katehi has delivered on many of her promises, most importantly being her commitment to keep communication channels open with students. Seeing our chancellor on campus, acting not as an administrator, but a fellow Aggie openly conversing with students about pressing issues speaks volumes on the character of this community.

We are no longer a divided campus. We are no longer in a fight of students versus administrators. We are all Aggies, and we are all one University! Lets [sic] remember that as we go into this exciting new year.”

Tomás Matzat
Fourth-year art studio major. Arrested at pepper spray scene Nov. 18, 2011.

One year later: “I was enraged then and I’m still enraged now. The University has learned from the the pepper spray incident, and has proceeded to attack people in a much less public, but [in a] profoundly more harmful way … The pepper spray incident might have had the shock and awe of physical violence, but the charges we’re facing now are potentially ruinous and have caused much longer lasting effects. Students need to realize that the University has simply shifted its tactics of repression and will not let up. We must challenge the University and cannot be so quick to forget about the damage it continues to cause students on a daily basis.”

Ian Lee
Second-year environmental policy and planning major. Pepper sprayed on Nov. 18, 2011.

One year later: “Judging by the Robinson-Edley report, the University’s idea of reform is giving the very same administrators responsible for Nov. 18 more power over the police. This is backwards. Nov. 18 represented a structural issue: if UCPD is to exist, it must be controlled by and entirely accountable to the students, staff, and faculty. I am not satisfied with the proposed reforms.

Moreover, the reason we were protesting was that the administration had proposed unfair and unreasonable tuition hikes. In this way, we should understand that sending in riot police was the administration’s way of enforcing those tuition hikes — ultimately, it is the administration’s privatization plan that caused Nov. 18. The administration wants to continue privatizing the University, wants to continue the root cause of police brutality, and so I am unconvinced that further incidents won’t occur.”

Claudia Morain
University spokesperson

“The administration would assess the situation based on the facts, and take action in the overall best interests of the university.”
In a Jan. 10, 2012 article, “Occupation of Dutton Hall ended without incident.”

One year later: “Last fall was very challenging, but in many ways it brought this campus together.”

NATASHA QABAZARD and MENGSHI SHAO can be reached at campus@theaggie.org. MUNA SADEK contributed to this article.


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