These are perilous times for government officials forced to wrestle with the protests roiling the Bay Area and beyond. Mayor Jean Quan's approval rating, for instance, headed toward Gov. Rod Blagojevich levels after her ambivalent handling of the Occupy Oakland protests.
The recent Occupy-goes-to-school events have fueled even more outrage over police tactics than that engendered by cops aggressively sparring with protesters in cities. Videos of UC Berkeley and Alameda County Sheriff officers thrusting batons into students and dragging them by the hair prompted Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to issue a statement of regret and launch an investigation into excessive force by police. Today, he released an audio message in which he apologized and took full responsibility for what occurred.
But the video of UC Davis officers non-chalantly pepper-spraying seated student protesters in the face as if applying a second coat of paint has provided a particularly disturbing image of what, on the surface at least, appears to be gratuitious and callous confrontation of young people by law enforcement.
The university put Campus Police Chief Annette Spicuzza on administrative leave pending an investigation into the incident, and also suspended two officers involved, one of whom has become a humiliating-if-clever meme on the web, not to mention a target online.
But the controversy has also swept up Chancellor Linda Katehi, who is under mounting pressure from students and faculty members to resign.
Yesterday, on KQED Radio's Forum program, Katehi said about the incident: "It happened and it was unacceptable. In fact, what I saw on the video has been horrific, and it’s really not representative of our campus...It was completely unacceptable what happened." (Audio and transcript of that show here.)