Officers Put on Leave After Pepper Spraying Protesters

The University of California, Davis, said on Sunday that two police officers had been placed on administrative leave after using pepper spray on seated protesters in a widely recorded encounter on Friday afternoon.

Reflecting widespread anger over the police behavior, the university chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi, said Sunday that she would insist that the investigation be completed in 30 days. A day earlier, she had said it would take 90 days.

Meanwhile, students and others affiliated with the Occupy U.C. Davis movement planned for a Monday-afternoon protest on campus. AFacebook page for the protest asked attendees to call for Ms. Katehi’s resignation and to “show solidarity and support to the students who were beaten and sprayed by U.C. Davis police in riot gear.”

The Facebook page also promoted a way for sympathizers to donate tents and pizza for the rally. The page set up for donations indicated that more than 70 tents had already been donated by Sunday morning.

The use of pepper spray came after students and other protesters set up tents on campus, an occupation tactic that has been used in cities and towns across the country. As police officers took down the tents, some protesters linked arms and refused to stand up from a sidewalk on the campus quad, even when police officers tried to pick them up to arrest them.

In one of the many YouTube videos of the spraying, bystanders chant, “Don’t shoot students” before an officer shakes a red pepper spray canister and sprays a line of the protesters with orange-tinted pepper spray. The protesters’ faces and clothes are quickly covered in the pepper spray. Some protesters are heard screaming and crying as they are arrested. One bystander is heard screaming: “These are children. These are children.”

Eleven protesters were treated after being pepper-sprayed. Two were sent to the hospital. Ten protesters were arrested, cited and released on misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and failure to disperse, according to the university.

After the episode, a police official suggested that the police officers felt threatened and encircled by the protesters. The videos, however, do not show evidence of threats.

The University said Sunday in a statement that two police officers had been “suspended,” but the university later clarified that the officers had been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the investigation, a common procedure in cases like this one.

The university did not identify the two officers, but they were well known to students on the campus. The home and cellphone numbers for one officer was widely distributed on the Web, and that officer’s voicemail box was full by midday Saturday.

The university said that it had been flooded with comments, as well.

Reached by telephone on Sunday, Mitchel Belson, the associate vice chancellor for university communications, said, “We’ve been inundated with people sending messages.” He added, “It literally brought down our servers.”

In her statement on Sunday, Ms. Katehi said: “I spoke with students this weekend, and I feel their outrage. I have also heard from an overwhelming number of students, faculty, staff and alumni from around the country. I am deeply saddened that this happened on our campus, and as chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident. However, I pledge to take the actions needed to ensure that this does not happen again.”

She also said: “These past few days our campus has been confronted with serious questions, which will challenge us for many months and years to come. We have created great universities which are challenged in their capacity to accommodate our human needs of expression, anger, frustration and even civil disobedience together with the need to feel safe. We need to find a way to change that while at the same time remaining true to our mission of teaching, research and service. We need to think hard and together on how to accomplish this.”

Ms. Katehi held a news conference on Saturday afternoon where she resisted calls for her resignation. Students and other protesters gathered outside the news conference location, and for a time afterward she did not come out of the building. The protesters decided to clear a pathway for her to exit; they sat down and watched in silence as she walked to her car.