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UPDATE: The University of California's effort to contain the fallout from last week's pepper-spraying incident continued Tuesday, with officials saying the state school system will pay the medical bills of students who were sprayed during the Occupy protest.
CNN reports that authorities have also decided they will drop the charges against the ten people who were arrested during the Friday protest on the campus of UC-Davis, and that the university system has tapped a former LAPD and NYPD chief to head a newly-created panel to investigate the incident.
Meanwhile, UC-Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi told a California newspaper that the university's police department defied her orders by using the pepper spray. "We told the police to remove the tents or the equipment," she told the Sacramento Bee in an interview. "We told them very specifically to do it peacefully, and if there were too many of them, not to do it, if the students were aggressive, not to do it. And then we told them we also do not want to have another Berkeley."
Tuesday, Nov. 23: UC-Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi apologized to students Monday, telling them that she feels "horrible" about a police decision to douse nonviolent student demonstrators with pepper spray.
The apology came on the same day that her administration placed its police chief and two other officers on administrative leave in response to the outrage over a video showing the incident, which has already begun serving as something of a rallying cry for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Katehi had previously said that she did not authorize police to use the chemical spray in the manner depicted in the video, but that has done little to quell the calls from many students, and even some professors, for her to step down in the wake of the incident.
The Los Angeles Times reports on the tense scene from campus:
During a tense speech Monday before more than 1,000 students and faculty members on the normally quiet Central Valley campus' main quad, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi tried to quell criticism over the incident, as well as how university officials handled the aftermath.
"I am here to apologize," an emotional Katehi said after struggling through the crowd to a small stage where some of the students who'd been pepper-sprayed had just described their ordeal. "I feel horrible for what happened."
The chancellor's appearance drew dueling boos and cries of "Let her speak!"
Monday, Nov.22: Turns out you can’t just douse peaceful protesters in pepper spray with impunity.
UC-Davis has placed its police chief and two officers on administrative leave in response to outrage over a video (embedded below) showing the officers nonchalantly dousing students with the inflammatory chemical as they sat cross-legged in a row on the school’s quad. The video went viral over the weekend, becoming a symbol of police brutality toward Occupy Wall Street activists.
The university’s chancellor, Linda Katehi, issued a statement Monday explaining the decision to put the campus police chief on leave, CBS News reports. “As I have gathered more information about the events that took place on our Quad on Friday, it has become clear to me that this is a necessary step toward restoring trust on our campus," she said.
Katehi has come in for plenty of criticism herself. Another widely circulated YouTube video shows student protesters silently watching her as she walked from a campus building to her car after rejecting calls to step down.
The LA Times notes that the officer who pepper-sprayed the students has been honored for his police work in the past. Ironically, he was credited for subduing an out-of-control medical center patient without resorting to a baton or pepper spray. “‘You've got all these tools on your belt, but sometimes they're not the best tools,” he explained.
A Washington Post article predicts the pepper-spray video will become a defining image of the Occupy movement, “rivaling in symbolic power, if not in actual violence, images from the Kent State shootings more than 40 years ago.” From the article:
It looks as though he’s spraying weeds in the garden or coating the oven with caustic cleanser. It’s not just the casual, dispassionate manner in which the University of California at Davis police officer pepper-sprays a line of passive students sitting on the ground. It’s the way the can becomes merely a tool, an implement that diminishes the humanity of the students and widens a terrifying gulf between the police and the people whom they are entrusted to protect.
The image has already become an Internet meme. Mashable has a slideshow of Photoshopped pictures of the officer pepper-spraying everything from the Home Alone kid to Bambi.
Here's the YouTube video: