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Occupy UC Davis: Whose University?

How a student sit-in led to a national outcry.

Occupy UC DavisFreshman Ian Lee had an intense first quarter at the University of California, Davis, when he joined campus protests against tuition hikes. At a peaceful sit-down demonstration to protect the UC Davis Occupy encampment, Lee and other students were pepper-sprayed at close range by ­cam­pus police.

A video of the event got national attention. But Lee says “The Occupy movement isn’t about me, or the others who got sprayed … It’s about coming together to fight austerity.”

Occupy UC Davis protesters demonstrated that solidarity when their friends were pepper-sprayed. “Whose university?” they asked, “Our university!” They used the “human mic” to convince police to leave the area.

In the following days, the students demanded accountability from the police, regents, and Chancellor Linda Katehi. They displayed moral authority in their use of nonviolence throughout, and moved forward the national discussion about police use of force and the rights of protesters.


Jennifer Kaye wrote this article for 9 Strategies to End Corporate Rule, the Spring 2012 issue of YES! Magazine. Jennifer is a YES! intern.

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