Over the weekend I tweeted a Boing Boing link about the use of pepper spray by American police as they tried to arrest peaceful students at UC Davies.  If you haven’t seen the video, it is here:

The UC Chancellor, Linda Katehi, refused to condemn the police, and held a press conference about the incident.  Hundreds of students then decided to sit in total silence as Katehi left the conference (more about the incident here).  It is an amazing piece of footage:

If you had been Katehi, how would you have felt?


  1. Very interesting. It’s never easy to understand how others feel but I suspect being a person of control she is unlikely to have even noticed………. comment about not being scared and talking on Monday

    1. The comment about “not being scared” is in reference to the fact that she was supposed to leave for the day hours earlier, but had refused to exit the building because she said she was afraid of the students outside.

  2. Ah, UCD, my alma mater for grad school. Intense footage. I think it made an impact on her. In fairness to Katehi, she did eventually do the right thing, took responsibility for the event, and denounced it after actually seeing the footage and hearing the response. This demonstrates some measure of intellectual honesty, even if the initial leadership was irresponsible.

  3. I’m not sure, she seemed to fain concern and awareness. As soon as the silence was broken by the reporter asking a question, she leaped at the chance to answer instead of being dignified in her approach to the reporter under the circumstances.
    It’s amazing that in a democracy let alone one school, one person can weld so much power.

  4. There is so much power in silence. A few years ago I went with a group called “Spontaneous Choir”, walking around Melbourne, dressed as aliens. We had translation tubes, looking a lot like toilet roll inner tubes, and mostly spoke gobbledegook but when we spoke into the tubes it came out as things like “What lovely weather”, or “We are not here to hurt you.” We stood behind a Japanese wedding party who were having photos taken, some with us in shot (with their permission). We walked into a posh hotel foyer, and nearly all 20 of us got through the door before the doorman said “You can’t come in here” (so we immediately left). Our last stop was Myers (large department store) where after walking around a bit, we found ourselves on a covered bridge, with amazing acoustics from under the curved roof. We all stood humming loudly until a security guard came and said loudly “Excuse me!” We all stopped instantly and turned to face him. He was probably expecting a riot, and when nothing happened, he did not know what to do.

    I don’t know about Katehi, but I, as a member of a group of silent people, felt attuned to a common purpose, without any side issues and distractions. Powerful because we were all focusing on just one thing.

  5. That was very, very impressive. The juxtaposition amplifies the effect: First seeing students being sprayed and beaten down by policemen in armour. And then seeing the slightly distraught-looking chancellor walking through a silent mass of people just, well, being there. This must kick her conscience, especially as she seems to expect being attacked.
    Thanks for posting it this way.

  6. Interesting, but walk of shame? I think not. Act in provocative ways long enough and people, even police, will get provoked.

    Memories of the walk could stick with her. Perhaps she will have nightmares about zombies or some such.

    1. I find it extraordinary that Johnn finds a group of young people sitting on the ground provocative. The only provocation came from the man with the pepper spray

  7. If I were her? Annoyed, maybe even angry. People tend to convince themselves that they’re right and those opposing them are wrong, which means she probably won’t feel sympathy for them. In the absence of sympathy or understanding for their cause, they’re just a bunch of kids trying to taint her reputation and make her feel guilty.

    Not that I think she is right, or that the police were right, but if I’d been HER, that’s exactly what I would have thought. And if that’s what I’d have thought, I’d have felt annoyed.

  8. Wow! Much more powerful than an angry mob. The ultimate cold shoulder, from those she is supposed to be responsible for. Must make her question her values.

  9. She waited for 3 hours to leave for fear of a violent reaction from a crowd that had done nothing to suggest it would be the least bit rowdy. The biggest lie of the whole debacle was the lame excuse that the campus police felt trapped by the protesters, so part of their motivation for using the pepper spray was fear. When are authorities going to get used to the ubiquity of video?

  10. By the way: In Germany, its statutory to give first aid to this person you did attacking with a pepper spray ! Really, its the law !

  11. The sound of the footsteps and the silence of the students. Something quite profound happened there and I doubt she will ever forget it. Almost like the students were telling her “you’re not worth our voices.” She won’t forget it.

  12. Honestly? I think she felt way better than the peaceful protester who got a bucketful of pepper spray in their face.

    I would hope that the knowledge she did the wrong thing by defending the bullies and the violents stays with her longer than the silent walk.

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