Police suspended after protesters pepper-sprayed


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A police officer saunters up to a group of young protesters sat in a line on the ground, their arms linked. He removes a canister of pepper spray from his belt before casually proceeding to unload its contents into their faces.

The demonstrators remain silent and motionless, with their heads bowed. So the policeman carries on, methodically covering them, from point-blank range. By the time he's finished, their heads and faces are covered in a thick layer of the toxic red liquid.

This was the scene on the campus of UC Davis in northern California on Thursday, as 35 officers armed with batons and guns, and dressed in riot gear, attempted to break up a peaceful protest by roughly 200 students sympathetic to the Occupy movement.

Video of the proceedings was uploaded to the internet at the weekend, placing the policeman, Lieutenant John Pike, and his superiors, on the front line of a debate over the policing of the Occupy protests. Two policemen were suspended last night. Names were not released but the university said they had been identified from videos.

Annette Spicuzza, the head of the UC Davis Campus Police, had defended her officers, saying they had been "forced" to use the pepper spray and that Lieutenant Pike gave his victims sufficient warning of the impending attack. "When you are encircled by 200 individuals, I don't know if I want to say 'afraid', but I think they were quite concerned about their safety," she said.

The university's Faculty Association called for the resignation of their chancellor Linda Katehi after she defended the force's methods saying that the faculty protests had left the force with "no option".