UC President Mark G. Yudof today condemned the police response to protestors at University of California campuses in recent weeks and pledged to protect students and faculty members’ right to non-violent protest.
The announcement follows a controversial police response to a protest on the UC Davis campus Friday, where at least two campus police officers pepper-sprayed a group of students huddled on the ground.
At a protest on the UC Berkeley campus a week earlier, police used their batons to separate peaceful protesters who formed a human chain in front of Sproul Hall.
“I intend to do everything in my power as president of this university to protect the rights of our students faculty and staff to engage in non-violent protest,” Yudof said in a statement Sunday.
Yudof said he plans to meet with all 10 UC chancellors to discuss “how to ensure proportional law enforcement response” to peaceful on-campus protests.
Yudof said he would assemble experts and university stakeholders to assess current campus police procedures involving the use of force.
“My intention is not to micromanage our campus police forces…nor do I wish to micromanage the chancellors,” he wrote. “Nonetheless, the recent incidents make clear the time has come to take strong action to recommit to the ideal of peaceful protest.”
The president’s comments are similar to those made in a statement released Saturday by the Council of UC Faculty Associations, an umbrella organization for all UC faculty associations.
“Student, faculty and staff protesters have been pepper-sprayed directly in the eyes and mouth, beaten and shoved by batons, dragged by the arms while handcuffed, and submitted to other forms of excessive force,” the statement read.
“Protesters have been hospitalized because of injuries inflicted during these incidents. The violence was unprovoked, disproportional and excessive,” it read.
Meanwhile, two of the UC Davis police officers who used pepper spray on protesters Friday have been placed on administrative leave, according to a statement released by the university Sunday.
Amidst calls for her resignation, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said this weekend that she is appalled by the use of pepper spray on peacefully assembled students and assumes full responsibility for campus police’s action.
Katehi said she is planning a series of meetings and forums with students to discuss the incidents and ways to restore civil discourse on campus.
Darrell Steinberg, president pro tempore of the California State Senate, also released a statement Sunday condemning police officers’ use of pepper spray against UC Davis protesters and calling for a prompt investigation of the incident.