Letter on the UC Davis mobilization

More on the UC Davis Pepper Spray Surprise posted here yesterday.

This letter by ‘anonymous’ was sent from a discussion list [sent, not written, by GCS] and says it all:

It has now been covered in the NY Times, USA Today, Time Magazine, CBS, CNN, and across the entire mediasphere.  The various UC Davis police assault videos have been watched hundreds of thousands of times.  Various searches related to UC Davis and pepper spraying were the *top searches on Google* in the US today — think of what that means.  By mid-afternoon, UC Davis had already backed down and the Chancellor had released a damage-controlling and mealy-mouthed promise to investigate.  But it was too late.
By monday, millions will know about Lt. Pike and his chemical assault squad, and the $400K per year (plus free housing, travel, and vehicle) Chancellor who gave the order to cut the protesters down to the point that some were hospitalized, and including forcing open students’ mouths and spraying directly into them.  I kid you not.

And something remarkable happened at Davis tonight.  I’ve been watching the live streams and following the blogs since late this afternoon.  It was a very important moment.

Chancellor Katehi was preparing to give a news conference to take another crack at spinning this story and controlling the growing, viral character it has acquired.
UC Davis students showed up in large numbers to this conference,  and were kept out of the small building (Surge 2, for those who know the campus) for lack of press passes (ha ha).  They surrounded the building and their numbers grew over several hours to over 1000 student protesters.  Reports came that Chancellor Katehi was afraid to leave and go through the student protesters, or even that she was being kept from leaving, as if it were a hostage situation.  Cops were *not* summoned, however — or at least they were kept back.  UC Davis appears to have learned at least a tactical  lesson already.
Through patient OWS style organizing, worked out over dozens of mic checks, they arranged to clear a wide path, determined that they would be silent and respectful when she came out, and sent word that they were not keeping her hostage in the building, just there to call for her resignation.  Hours went by as the situation got more and more tense, but the students showed remarkable discipline and organization as their numbers kept growing.   Finally, they negotiated with Chancellor Katehi’s people and she left the building to walk to her taxpayer-paid $70,000 Lexus SUV [buick] with one aide.  The students maintained *absolute, total order and silence* — really, not a word —  and stood aside,  except for the couple of journalists asking her questions on the livestream feed.  It was eerie and powerful and  Chancellor Pepper Spray was clearly feeling the shame of a thousands of eyes on her around the nation (the livestreams were overloaded as they were joined by students across California and then the nation).
Here is the moment of triumph, posted moments ago and already with several hundred views:


Only once she began to pull away did the crowd erupt into a roar: WHOSE UNIVERSITY? OUR UNIVERSITY! dozens of times as they marched off to consume the pizza ordered for them by people around the nation.
It was so powerful — and remember this all happened on a day when virtually no news (except Demi and Ashton’s divorce or the 30 year old Natalie Wood death investigation) gets reported on mainstream outlets.  This *all* happened online, and drew a huge national audience in the process, enough so to force a major university into damage control freakout.


Last night’s video now has nearly 25,000 views.  A better one has now
been released of Katehi’s “Walk of Shame.”  Turns out that was not
just any “aide” — it was the UC Davis police chief (Spicuzzi) walking
with her [disputed, Spicuzzi was at the press conference].  This new video shows the final mic check to get everyone to
be silent and stand back before Katehi leave the
building.  If you are sending this story around, this video is better
in that it shows how deliberate and well orchestrated the silence was:



Occupy Wall Street!  #ows #ucdavis


Goldsmiths Meet on 23.11.11 to Build for 30 Nov General Strike.http://t.co/cAuSdWUG


15 thoughts on “Letter on the UC Davis mobilization

  1. Louis says:

    I have been sharing this link over social media, and have been asked for the original details of the letter – who is it addressed to, where was it delivered or first posted, etc? Can you please provide those details? Thanks.


  2. Katehi’s escort was an acting liaison between her office and the students. Officer Spacuzzi attended the press event but is not pictured in this photo.


  3. Phenomenal footage. the shaming of the Chancellor was amazing. she had not attempted any sort of progressive thinking by allowing her bulldogs full reign to control the situation of the sitting protesters and so she paid the price in being shamed by a thousand people in total silence. a simply amazing moment.

    these videos really show the power of the masses. they allowed the Chancellor to pass in peace and in another one of the videos simply started chanting “you can go” to the police officers who immediately accepted the invitation and left. the peaceful protesters were like a strong man influencing a bully to leave the scene without striking him. this power associated with non-violence should be considered by every person who would ever consider using a brick to throw through a window to make their statement.


    • Hmm, maybe in these californian circumstances this ‘power of the masses’ can inspire us, but I also note the careful consideration of tactics and assessment of forces and impressions the students made. I am more inclined to think that is impressive. These bulldogs were brutal no doubt, but a Gandhian gesture is not always the most progressive move. I suppose you have been watching Al Jazeera today where the masses simply have no choice but to fight, with justification, to resume their revolution against the Egyptian military junta armed with ‘made in USA’ tear gas, buckshot, batons and more. Bodies on the ground, and apparently a new brand of stronger tear gas that induces mouth and nose bleeding. Same at home, same overseas, but not quite.. What is impressive is taking on the bulldogs in their lair. Red Salute UC Davis students and the profs who have spoken out.


  4. Steven Blevins says:

    Chancellor Katehi is being escorted to her Lexus by Rev. Kristin Stoneking, who helped negotiate the conditions of the Chancellor’s exit from Surge II. Rev. Stoneking is the director and campus minster of the Cal Aggie Christian Association. She provides an account of why she assisted in the negotiation and escorted the Chancellor here:


    Thanks so much for covering these important events

    Steven Blevins


  5. mazen says:

    Just for the record, the Chancellor drove off in a Buick Enclave which is not a $70,000 SUV. While I abhor her misguided decisions and the way she has handled herself, we have to make sure we are not tempted to exaggerate the details for the sake of demonizing a woman who is clearly in over her head.

    Would we feel differently if she rode off on a bike or an electric golf cart?


    • Steven Blevins says:

      I agree that we should not exaggerate the details of the Chancellor’s considerable compensation as an important administrator in the UC system. I am also worried over the demonizing of Chancellor Katehi “as a woman” (one of the few in the upper administration of major academic institutions), and am thus cautious of the language of the “walk of shame” as this is a particularly gendered expression on college campuses. But I would not refer to the Chancellor as a “woman who is clearly in over her head.” She is not. She is an incredibly savvy and experienced school administrator with a record of disdain for student activists on campus. This is not the first time she has been called out for authorizing police violence against student protestors. Chancellor Katehi is very comfortable in her role as CEO in the corporate model of university administration. She did not build her career at UC Davis and has never understood its values or its students. She has made egregious mistakes, but she is not in over her head. She’s just wrong.


  6. alice says:

    Here in Sydney this morning, both the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) and the Sydney Morning Herald gave prominent coverage to this incident.


  7. attribution curious says:

    the wording of this letter does not sound like Gayatri Spivak and it is very unlike her to send out anonymous letters. I don’t doubt that she agrees with many of the sentiments in the email, but until she publicly acknowledges writing it I am uncomfortable with her name being attached to it. I have gotten many emails from Spivak and never once with something like a parenthetical “(ha ha).” I will be happy to stand corrected if she claims authorship.


    • yes, its something she sent from another list – sorry if that was not clear – it was not clear to me at first, but she has clarified:

      Dear John: I was going to respond to you when you asked if you could put “my blog” on the net, but I’m swept off my feet so couldn’t get around to it. From David’s e-mail it seems you have already put it there. It was actually written by someone else for a restricted group, so I didnt put a name as I rushed out. I’m sure s/he won’t mind if it gets there, but it should be anonymous. I don’t care if people think it’s mine, for it’s a fine collection of sentiments. So for the people who have seen it, cool. But if you have a moment can you change it to “anonymous” if you can? Cheers, G


  8. Steven Blevins says:

    A note of clarification from David Palumbo-Liu: “Dear Friends: Gayatri tells me that while she supports the sentiments in the blog that was posted in her name, she did not actually write it.”


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