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David Griffith has been editor of POLICE Magazine since December 2001. He brings more than 25 years of experience on magazines and newspapers to POLICE. A Maggie award-winning journalist, his byline has appeared on hundreds of articles in POLICE and other national magazines.

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Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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Melanie Basich

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Editor's Notes

Video: Why UC Davis Cops Pepper-Sprayed Protesters

A new video clip offers a very different view of the incident.

December 05, 2011  |  by

Screenshot: Davis College Republicans
Screenshot: Davis College Republicans

The police-procedure critics were appalled when a campus lieutenant pepper-sprayed protesters during an Occupy protest at the University of California, Davis.

As with other too-numerous-to-list instances of videos showing officers using force, this one was also posted online. The short clip of Lt. John Pike casually pepper-spraying demonstrators went viral, resulting in the suspension of campus police Chief Annette Spicuzza, Lt. Pike, and a third officer.

The incident also enveloped UC administrators and politicians in a firestorm of controversy—Gov. Jerry Brown called for a reevaluation of police less-lethal training—and even sparked an Internet meme depicting Lt. Pike pepper-spraying everything from figures in a George Seurat painting to the face of the Statue of Liberty.

Like earlier gotcha police videos, this one also failed to tell the whole story. Thanks to the release of a new video showing extended coverage of the protest, we're getting a more accurate picture of what really happened.

The UC Davis College Republicans attended the protest and brought their recording devices. On Nov. 30, one club member uploaded a longer (8 minutes, 53 seconds) version of the Nov. 18 protest that includes footage spliced together over a longer time period. By including extended footage, annotations and quotations from protesters and police, this longer video paints a very different picture.

This time, the protest is presented as a hornet's nest of officer-safety hazards. At the top of the list is an escalating, angry mob bearing down on a much smaller contingent of campus officers.

The video depicts the mob shouting, "F**k the police" in unison and giving an ultimatum after several arrests: "If you let them go, we will let you leave."

Adults are seen in this video, dispelling the myth that this were just a group of harmless kids holding hands and singing folk songs. Officers are shown giving dispersal orders, and repeatedly trying to convince students blocking a thoroughfare to leave. At several points in the clip, officers attempt to peacefully remove protesters, who continue to resist.

Perhaps the most enlightening section comes at the 6-minute mark, when we first see Lt. Pike. He warns protesters that they'll be pepper-sprayed if they don't move. At the 6-minute, 28-second mark, Lt. Pike emerges from the group of officers carrying the OC canister.

Lt. Pike repeatedly shakes the canister in plain view of the protesters, giving them ample warning. Even after Lt. Pike deploys the spray, protesters are seen resisting officers' attempts to clear the thoroughfare.

After watching the video, we reached the conclusion that it offers a familiar reminder for cops—video "evidence" offers an often deceptive, or at least incomplete, version of a police force encounter. We're glad to see this one come to light.

Watch "Alternate View of UC Davis Pepper Spraying," and judge for yourself.

Comments (28)

Displaying 1 - 28 of 28

TripWire @ 12/5/2011 6:42 PM

I don't always "jump" to the defense of officers, I know that there are bad apples, but these "occupy" people don't even know what they are protesting and are there mostly because they are bored, unemployed, and wanting a hand out. There are better ways to protest (legally) other than blocking a public thouroughfare and creating a public health hazard with their "occupying" our public parks. They don't mind getting arrested and going to jail because they don't work and mommy and daddy are paying their bills.

TimFromLA @ 12/5/2011 7:00 PM

The video is compelling. I agree. But there is a law that supersedes anything local and campus law may create and that is:

Fashion Valley Mall, LLC v. San Diego, No. D053411

This decision in the California Supreme Court states that protesters are allowed to enter into a private property to protest legally and the merchants or mall owner cannot force the protesters out. Protesters cannot go inside business and protest as the intent to go inside the store is to buy. In an open area of a mall, people can come in, read a book and not buy a thing.

In the U.C. Davis Case, the people who were sprayed were protesting the tuition hike and the beef the campus had were tent:

Watch the video. And please explain to me: Why is one fabric superior to another form of fabric? If bigger fabric is less important than the smaller fabric, then you'll realize why you as LEOs are getting laid off and why you need the Occupiers more so than ever

WTH?! @ 12/5/2011 7:32 PM

Tim, it just shows how much of an idiot you are. Please watch the video again and it shows you that the UC Davis Police Department's actions were justified. The protesters were given warnings several times via bull horn and individually; and the actions of the protesters necessitated order by the police. That's what they're there for. To regain order and reduce incidents of crime. Maybe you missed that part. One thing to protest peacefully, and the other to threatened the police! The protesters surrounded the police and demanded them to let the suspects, who they lawfully arrested, go. Then the protesters will let the police go. WTF?! That's called anarchy! I don't understand your "fabric" comparison either... But with your statement and the comparison of protesting in the mall, which has a different governing laws than an educational establishment, just shows you that you don't know what you're talking about. I'm just glad that you live in the free world to express how much of a dumbass you are... God Bless America!

BTW, the LEO's nationwide were getting laid off not because of what they have done or the dislike of the community, but because of the economy. Totally nothing to do with your fabric comparison,,, but you already know that.

gp cobb @ 12/5/2011 9:36 PM

WTH?! @ 12/5/2011 7:32 PM

Spot on, I concur.

AMERICAN Cop @ 12/5/2011 10:57 PM

Amen To That WTH?! Great Point!!! What's Even More Amazing To Me Is That The Morning This Story Broke On The Predominantly LIBERAL (& Overtly Biased, I Might Add) TV News Networks, My 12-Year-Old Watched The Short Snippet Video (Because That's All The Cop Haters & Biased Libs Want Us To See) & Says To Me, "But Dad, The Video Doesn't Show What Happened Just Before The Cops Sprayed Those People! Maybe They Deserved What They Got!". Even My 12-Year-Old Freakin' Get's It When Adults 4x's His Age Can't Figure It Out!!! Some Would Call It Brainwashing, I Call It Being An Astute Young Person Who Doesn't Always Trust or Believe Everythig He Sees &/or Hears!

And He May Just Very Well Be 100% Correct In His Observations.

Perhaps If These "Occupy" Individuals Would Spend More Time "Occupying" The Employment Offices With The Same Steadfast Determination They Use To Find Places To "Camp", They'd Find A Damned Job!!!!

Troy @ 12/6/2011 12:31 AM


Bill T @ 12/6/2011 12:39 AM

I don't understand all of this controversy in spraying these clowns. Personally, I think the cops were well within bounds to do so, just so they wouldn't have to smell them! I think the next time they should use the stuff they sell for use on Grizzlies up in Alaska. It has a better chance of penetrating the odor.

ernie @ 12/6/2011 8:31 AM

Wow, the guys sitting down must have done something really bad like kill someone or rape someone to be pepper sprayed directly in the face from what 2-3 away. oh they where sitting on a footpath protesting the fact that basically where all screwed (police included).

Steve @ 12/6/2011 9:07 AM

ernie... your a dumb ass!

arnold @ 12/6/2011 10:00 AM

NO everyone is screewed. They know the banks are crooked and have sold us all out. Stop thinking they are the problem, they are pointing out the problem. Also, the occupyers were non-violent and non-thretening and whenever an un-armed citizen is abused we should always double check.

Sean @ 12/6/2011 10:30 AM

Arnold, since when is, "F**K the Police!" and "Let them go and we'll let YOU go!" not considered threatening? Further, the banks are crooked? In what way? Because they charge you a fee to protect your money, or to use their money? Don't like it, don't take out loans or use banks. Or, is it because some of them took a bailout from the Government? If a Politician asked YOU if you wanted bailout cash, I'm sure you'd say, "Why NO! That would be...CROOKED! <cue dramatic, heroic music>". The problem isn't the banks, it's the POLITICIANS. It's the FACT that in the 1980s groups like ACORN got laws passed that FORCED the banks to lend money to people who could not pay the loans back. It is a fact that the Clinton administration told the 10 most powerful lending institutions that if they didn't severely loosen their lending requirements they'd be investigated and hindered. It is a FACT that even though Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were going under, Dodds, Frank, Emmanuel, and other politicians claimed they were going strong and did NOT need investigation or oversight. While they got rich off those 2 entitities. The OWS protestors have no clue what they are protesting, they're just regurgitating false leftist propoganda while demanding free handouts payed for by the 'rich'.

Phillip Wynn @ 12/6/2011 11:42 AM

Wow! Sounds like a scene from the French Revolution! Where were the Molotov cocktails? Oh, wait ... there weren't any. How many projectiles were seen thrown towards the police? How many police were attacked? Oh, but we must keep order. How far does that extend? Could it be that Lt. Pike wanted to show who's boss? God forbid that a policeman would ever act on THAT impulse! Also, use the noggin ... the crowd got much uglier AFTER the pepper spray. You police folks need to get this through your heads, after you take off your Star Wars storm troopers helmets: Pepper spray does NOT work at crowd control. It's ineffective, and counter-productive. Its indiscriminate use of late has delegitimized its usage to the point where its future use is more likely to incite than to control crowds.

Tom ret @ 12/6/2011 1:55 PM

Members in the crowd who were making comments, such as let them go and we will let you leave, while surrounding the officers, very likely were committing the offense of obstructing an officer, a misdemeanor, or possibly intimidating a public servant which is a felony. There are a number of moronic statements made in reference to this incident and I suspect those making such statements have never been in law enforcement, have never put their butt on the line, and in general don't have a clue.

Scott @ 12/6/2011 3:12 PM

Arnold what do you mean not threatening. Did you watch the extended version of the video. It clearly shows the "Peaceful" protesters surround the Police then Chant something along the lines of; Set them free and we will let you go. If that isn't threatening I don't know what is.

Jason Barnes @ 12/6/2011 5:59 PM

I believe that the sprayed people had also been blocking the removal of previously-arrested people.

I am reminded of the famous Rodney King video. The media repeatedly showed a very short clip of the most inflammatory out-of-context part of that incident. Few people realize that the full video approached ten minutes and was full of extremely worrisome and irrational actions by King, a huge muscular stoned and drunk career criminal and ex-con.

Another interesting aspect of the King incident that very few people know about is that King, the driver, had two passengers with him. Those two complied with police orders, were arrested without incident or violence, and quickly released.

AusFost1 @ 12/6/2011 10:18 PM

Enough of this "non violent protest" c**p. The police were carrying out a function, they didn't show up cause they felt like it or had nothing better to do. Simple: do what the police tell you, or more than likely, you're gonna get restrained, arrested or hurt. Over the whole Occupy movement. How the h*ll is protesting going to help anything? Figure that maybe hard work will though.

jreb @ 12/6/2011 11:26 PM

arnold, to quote how Steve so eloquently and correctly put it, you also are a dumb ass. Yes, the Occupy crowd IS a problem. They are angry at the “rich” and “corporations,” but have no basis other than class envy and certainly have not put up any solutions that I have heard other than anarchy. They seem no different to me than the ‘60s “burn, baby, burn” and “down with ‘the man’” idiots.

I am not screwed. Because I take responsibility for my own welfare and make responsible financial decisions. I have no evidence that my bank is “crooked” or has sold me out. If I do get screwed it is because of ME and MY decisions, not some vague, evil “corporation.”

Yes, there were SOME financial institutions that made some bad decisions in the quest for profits. But, that is not the whole story. There were also bad decisions that were FORCED on mortgage lenders by liberal politicians in the form of “equal housing” regulations that REQUIRED those companies to make bad loans to people who quite obviously did not have the income to pay them back. And it was the “Occupy” crowd, and their liberal ilk, that put those politicians in office in the first place, demanded those regulations and policies, and who still support those politicians, regulations, and policies. And it is those same liberal, gratify-the-mob-by-promising-to-screw-the-rich politicians that voice support for the occupy movement and villainize cops for trying to maintain order. It is that way with the UC Davis chancellor, the Oakland mayor, the Seattle mayor, and certainly in DC.

jreb @ 12/6/2011 11:30 PM

Sorry about the multiple browser was not refreshing properly.

unionthug @ 12/7/2011 5:29 AM

@americancop. Don't like the union? U sound like a teabagger. Then don't take the benefits of a liberal union.

whoba @ 12/7/2011 11:26 AM

I wasn't there and I have no idea what State, Local or even Federal laws that were violated. In everyone of theses cases the protesters baited the officers into pepper spraying them. You want to get rid of the occupy protesters, set up a job fair booth.

Calcop @ 12/7/2011 4:31 PM

Im a police officer in CA, a military veteran, a moderate liberal. I don't think that the occupy movement is bad and I even agree that the corruption and greed of the financial sector is a bad thing for our country but I'm generally supportive of the use of force at the UC Davis protest. Just because someone is liberal dosent make them some sort of communist simpleton. Please do me the favor of not lumping everyone who dosent agree with you in a single camp and calling them idiots.

Solarchos @ 12/7/2011 6:15 PM

Actually, no. While most of the Occupiers have good intentions and mean well, a whole lot of them are frankly idiots. My friend has some experience with politics and government from her college classes and yesterday she actually started trying to talk to some Occupiers (who at first tried to recruit her). She told them that if they REALLY wanted to make an impact, they had to start talking to their Senators and Reps directly, not take over public parks and make nuisances of themselves.

They told her she didn't know what she was talking about and blew her off.

I'm sorry, but a lot of these Occupiers are nothing but followers, tag-alongs, and dropouts. Some are genuinely trying to bring about change, but they're getting drowned out by the rest of the stooges.

Solarchos @ 12/7/2011 6:25 PM

@ Calcop. I agree with you. I've met plenty of people who think that because we wear blue uniforms, that means we're either morons, Gestapo, and/or KGB or some other idiotic label. Yes, there's a lot of corruption within the financial sector (thanks laissez-faire, unrestricted capitalism), but what I do NOT agree with is the use of misleading propaganda (such as the doctored, edited original video) as a political tool.

The ends do NOT justify the means if deliberate lying is involved. The protestors at UC Davis might have had good intentions, but deception and media manipulation was the absolute wrong thing to do. Stupid things like that make ALL of the Occupiers look bad.

don h @ 12/8/2011 7:51 AM

We can disagree with those posting an opinion without resorting to name calling. Ernie, Tim, I disagree with your position on the protesters. I am sympathetic to some of the protesters ideas, but this isn't the 60's and I think they'll get more support from the general public if they behave like citizens instead of 60's era demonstrators.

R B @ 12/10/2011 12:03 PM

Why dont they go Occupy the 10 freeway at the start of rush hour?

R B @ 12/10/2011 12:09 PM

Just for the record and all joking aside....I am upset about Corporate and Gov't greed too! I support the constitution and the rights that it provides. But what I do not support is temper tantrums involving thousands of people infringing upon the rights of everyone else! These little demonstrations cost taxpayers (you know, the ones who are busy at work, being productive when these little tirades are going on?) millions of dollars. How is that a positive thing. They are literally and very clearly hurting the very people that that claim to be sticking up for! Hippocracy at its finest!

Rick @ 12/16/2011 3:11 PM

From Police Magazine, really? Yeah there's a totally unbiased format. Sure there's some weirdos in every group but in a nation full of unemployed with their homes being forclosed while Wall Street and Washington rape us all are the bean bags, rubber bullets and pepper spray really called for?

Arnold is dumb @ 12/19/2011 7:27 AM

Arnold, Arnold, Arnold. "The protestors were non violent"? Did you even read this article or watch the video before commenting? The police were being surrounded by people with locked arms chanting F the police and demanding not to let the police go by blocking their way. I really wish that you and these types of people would just move to another country if you hate this one so much and can't follow the rules.

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