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UC Davis official 'shocked and appalled' by pepper-spraying

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:43 AM EST, Tue November 22, 2011
  • The UC Board of Regents chair says she supports the right to protest peacefully
  • The UC Davis chancellor apologizes and says she feels "horrible" about the incident
  • Video of police pepper-spraying demonstrators sparks widespread criticism
  • The school has placed the police chief and two officers on administrative leave

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(CNN) -- Another University of California official expressed dismay about the recent use of pepper spray by police on Occupy Davis protesters.

UC Board of Regents chair Sherry Lansing said she was "shocked and appalled" by images of police actions during the protest last week on the campus of University of California Davis.

"We regents share your passion and your conviction for the University of California," Lansing said in a video statement released Monday. "And we want all of you to know we fully and unequivocally support your right to protest peacefully."

Lansing's statement came the same day that the chancellor of UC Davis made a public apology for the incident.

"I am here to apologize," were the first words Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said through a microphone after climbing onto a small stage erected on the university's "quad" for Occupy supporters. "I really feel horrible for what happened on Friday."

Video of police pepper-spraying nonviolent demonstrators at a sitting protest Friday on the UC Davis campus has sparked widespread criticism, including calls for Katehi's resignation.

"If you think you don't want to be students in a university like we had on Friday," Katehi said, "I'm just telling you I don't want to be the chancellor of the university we had on Friday."

The statement triggered cries of "Resign!" from the crowd.

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UC Davis chancellor: 'I feel horrible'
Police spray seated Occupy protesters
Police officers clash with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park on Thursday, November 17. Police officers clash with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park on Thursday, November 17.
Occupy 'day of action'
Photos: Occupy \'day of action\' Photos: Occupy 'day of action'

The university said it has placed two police officers and the police chief on administrative leave in the wake of the incident, while officials investigate officers' use of pepper spray against protesters.

Time: Watch video of police pepper-spraying and arresting students

A group of about a dozen protesters sat on a path with their arms interlocked as police moved in to clear out a protest encampment affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement Friday. Most of the protesters had their heads down as a campus police officer walked down the line, spraying them in their faces in a sweeping motion.

"I was shocked," Sophia Kamran, one of the protesters subjected to the spray, said Saturday. "When students are sitting on the ground and no way of moving to be violent, being totally peaceful, I don't understand the use of pepper spray against them."

The school said 10 protesters arrested were given misdemeanor citations for unlawful assembly and failure to disperse. Eleven were treated for the effects of pepper spray, which burns the eyes and nose, causing coughing, gagging and shortness of breath.

The Davis Faculty Association, citing incidents at other campuses, demanded "that the chancellors of the University of California cease using police violence to repress nonviolent political protests."

It called for greater attention to cuts in state funding to education and rising tuition. Its board demanded Katehi resign, saying she exhibited "gross failure of leadership."

On Saturday, Katehi called the officers' actions "chilling" and said the video "raises many questions about how best to handle situations like this." But she refused calls from faculty members and others for her to step down, saying she did not violate campus policies.

CNN's Kara Devlin contributed this report.

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