COLLEGE
03/07/2011 05:26 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

UC Berkeley Police Denounced For Using Pepper Spray, Batons On Student Protesters

The University of California Police Department has come under fire for using force during a campus protest prompted by the occupation of UC Berkeley's Wheeler Hall last Thursday, reports the Daily Californian.

While eight students chained themselves to a ledge on the fourth floor of Wheeler, in hopes of calling attention to a number of issues -- including police brutality and the arrest of 17 students at a recent campus demonstration -- riot police from nearby departments joined UCPD in controlling what officials deemed an unlawful assembly.

The gathering numbered between 50 and 300 throughout the seven-hour-long occupation. When the crowd became unwieldy, police turned to pepper spray and forceful baton-use to maintain control, a method some students found unnecessarily aggressive.

"I just thought they would tell us before they charged. We weren't expecting it," said sophomore Jessica Astillero. She told the Californian that she had been studying when she was asked to move by police. When she did not respond quickly enough, she was attacked with pepper spray. Another student reported sustaining an arm injury after being struck with a baton.

But UCPD Police Chief Mitch Celaya stands by police behavior. "It comes down to people having a right to assemble and protest, but at some point, when the people have to move for safety reasons, people also have an obligation to follow instructions," he told the Californian.

Eight of the nine students involved in the occupation do not yet know whether they face charges, and their arraignment has not yet been scheduled -- but Celaya told the Californian that police hope the district attorney will take legal action against these students. KTVU reports that the implicated students will not be punished by the university.

Alex Poska, who was arrested on suspicion of trespassing with intent to injure property, is scheduled for arraignment on April 5.

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