Images of police dousing students with pepper spray at the University of California Davis and jabbing them with batons at the University of California Berkeley drew national condemnation and set off new protests yesterday, as the university system’s president urged chancellors across the state to protect students’ right to protest peacefully, reports the San Jose Mercury News. “We cannot let this happen again,” UC President Mark Yudof said, after convening chancellors to discuss the use of police force, which gained national attention after video of an officer pepper spraying a row of sitting students, their arms locked in peaceful resistance, spread across the Web.
Protests over the past two weeks — aligned with both the Occupy Wall Street movement and criticism of UC’s escalating education costs — have resulted in the arrest of more than 60 students statewide. The recent incidents represent an escalation of police violence, said Norm Stamper, the police chief who oversaw Seattle’s crackdown on protesters during the World Trade Organization protests in 1999. Since then, he has acknowledged the mistake of that tough approach and decries what he calls “the militarization of police. It is all too easy to resort to weapons that ought not be used at all, or in last-resort situations. I find the decision to use chemical agents on campus very disturbing.”