UC Davis Pepper-Spray Incident: Could it Happen in Claremont?

After a notorious incident at UC Davis where seated, non-violent student protesters were casually pepper-sprayed by University of California Police Department Lt. John Pike, university policies on pepper spray use have come into question.

Campus Safety officers do carry pepper spray, according to Claremont University Consoritum Campus Safety director Shahram Ariane. “Campus Safety officers are authorized to use reasonable force to defend themselves or others,” he said in an email to the Port Side.

Shahram Ariane, Director, Campus Safety (Courtesy Claremont University Consortium)

According to Ariane, Campus Safety officers have not used pepper spray against students during his tenure as Director of Campus Safety, which began in March 2010. However, pepper spray has been used against “off-campus individuals.”

Though Campus Safety does keep records of the use of pepper spray, Ariane refused to release those records to the Port Side.

When asked how Campus Safety deals with non-violent protests that may be disruptive, Ariane said that Campus Safety’s procedure is “to follow the College’s wishes and to contact the Claremont Police Department when needed.” “We carry out their legal and ethical instructions, in accordance with our department’s standards and guidelines,” he said.

Ariane refused to elaborate further about policies pertaining to pepper spray use or responses to protests. He also refused to answer questions except in writing, citing a CUC policy.

Students and faculty from Pitzer College are set to protest former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Claremont McKenna College’s Athenaeum on November 30th, accusing her of war crimes. The planned protest is drawing comparisons to a similar protest of former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove’s speech at the Ath in 2008 where some students claimed they were pepper sprayed. Ariane, who was not yet working at Campus Safety, says that Campus Safety did not use pepper spray at that event.

Ariane said that it was “too early to say” what Campus Safety’s response to the Rice protest would be.

At UC Davis, the English Department has publicly posted a call for their chancellor to resign over the pepper spray incident and for the UCPD to be abolished, citing “ the demonstrable threat posed by the University of California Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to the safety of students, faculty, staff, and community members on our campus.”

Jeremy B. Merrill is a senior reporter and the web editor emeritus of the Claremont Port Side. He hails from North Carolina. He is a Philosophy and Linguistics dual major and a senior at CMC. He's on Twitter as @jeremybmerrill.

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