Sometime toward the end of the day on Friday, while many of us were firing off last minute emails and powering down our PCs for the weekend, something dramatic and shocking was going down at UC Davis. UC Davis students affiliated with the nationwide "Occupy" protests, engaged in a locked-arm peaceful sit-in protest on the university campus were pepper sprayed, point blank, multiple times by multiple police officers. The two days that have followed have proven online video has officially taken over for television news.

UC Davis Pepper Spray Video

There are multiple videos of this event, and a great many of them have viral-type view counts (several hundred thousand or a few million). Most of these were shot hand-held with cell phone cameras. That so many versions have gained traction with viewers shows how much the country is paying attention to this story.

Let's get it out of the way and show the video. Here's the first one I saw, and it was definitely not easy to watch:

Viewers seem to be divided into two camps: First is the group that thinks you should do what the cops tell you to, and if you don't... then you probably deserve a pepper spraying. And second is the group that says our right to peaceful demonstration is sacred, and overrides cops asking you to move.

It's a controversial subject, and not one I would claim to be an expert in. But I will say this: it's unsettling to me how calm that whole scene is... it's like a pepper spray execution.

YouTube Killed the Evening News

There are many important things to say about this video and online video in general, but I'll try to just hit the main points:

YouTube drives the news now, not reporters. TV news reporters are nothing more than readers, at this point. In the case of this specific UC Davis news story, an entire world of newscasters and reporters have done nothing more than regurgitate reactions to this video. Sure, there are interviews out there with school officials or citizens. Any decent journalist can fill out a story.

But the first pebble that fell off the top of the mountain to start this whole avalanche in the first place? That was a simple citizen journalist, filming an event and uploading it to YouTube. Only when that video went viral did the TV news crews learn about the story and begin to care---think about that... the only reason this became a news story on TV is because it became one on YouTube first.

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The evening news no longer creates news content, they just curate the news content of larger organizations (AP) and the Internet (YouTube). Amazing.

YouTube is the ultimate fact checker. How do I know? Because school officials originally lied about this event, suggesting the students were less peaceful than they clearly are... suggesting the officers had been surrounded by students and feared for their safety.

Now, let's remember one thing here: we don't have the whole story. This video has a beginning and an ending, and we know exactly nothing about what happened before and after the events in the clip. For all I know the students were pointing guns at the cops just seconds before the camera was turned on. Doubtful... but it's important to keep in mind that this is only part of the story.

But... with that disclaimer out of the way, let's talk about how YouTube became a wall of truth that the university officials' fibs ran smack into. Because when you watch that video, it almost doesn't matter what the students might have been doing before the filming began... because once filming began, they're clearly sitting peacefully on the sidewalk... not confronting or surrounding anyone. It's pretty hard to fool the public about what happened when there were a dozen citizen journalists covering the event with their iPhone.

Some school officials have since called for the removal of the chancellor, and the police officers in the video have apparently been placed on leave, according to the New York Times.

News destinations are changing. As an example, when you heard about the pepper-spraying incident (assuming you heard about it before reading this post), was your first thought, "I need to go sit down in front of the TV and wait for the next edition of the evening news to start so that I can see this outrageous video"??

Or... maybe... was it, "I'm going to Google that or search YouTube for it, where I'll find it in ten seconds and not have to wait at all to get my news"?

  • Troy Silcox

    I am extremely proud of those police officers. They are the ones who showed great restraint. By blocking the police officers is a felony offense of false imprisonment. The students cannot take credit for the police leaving. It was only after they were pepper sprayed and moved did the police leave. Job well done. More respect for police is needed in this country. This new generation does not respect anyone, including themselves. God HELP us!

    • Troy Silcox

      Don't be lazy and only watch one small clip. There are many videos available to see to get different perspectives.

  • Milan Moravec

    Excuses and apologoes from UC Davis and UC Berkeley Chancellors are not accepted. Campus police take direction and report to Campus Chancellors.
    OUST, Sack, Fire UC Davis Chancellor and UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau. And further,
    University of California Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau hijack’s our kids’ futures. I love University of California (UC) having been a student & lecturer. But today I am concerned that at times I do not recognize the UC I love. Like so many I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failures of Regent Chairwoman Lansing, President Yudof, Chancellor Birgeneau from holding the line on rising costs & tuition increases.
    Chancellor Birgeneau has molded Cal. into the most expensive public university. Paying more is not a better education.
    Californians are reeling from 19% unemployment (includes: those forced to work part time; those no longer searching), mortgage defaults, loss of unemployment benefits. And those who still have jobs are working longer for less. Faculty wages must reflect California's ability to pay, not what others are paid.
    Current pay increases for generously paid University of California Faculty is arrogance. Instate tuition consumes 14% of Ca. Median Family Income!
    Paying more is not a better education. UC Berkeley(# 70 Forbes) tuition increases exceed the national average rate of increases.
    UC President Yudof, Cal. Chancellor Birgeneau($450,000 salary) dismissed many much needed cost-cutting options. They did not consider freezing vacant faculty positions, increasing class size, requiring faculty to teach more classes, doubling the time between sabbaticals, cutting & freezing pay & benefits for chancellors & reforming pensions & the health benefits.
    They said such faculty reforms “would not be healthy for UC”. Exodus of faculty, administrators? Who can afford them and where would they go?
    We agree it is far from the ideal situation, but it is in the best interests of the university system & the state to stop cost increases. UC cannot expect to do business as usual: raising tuition; granting pay raises & huge bonuses during a weak economy that has sapped state revenues & individual Californians’ income.
    There is no question the necessary realignments with economic reality are painful. Regent Chairwoman Lansing can bridge the public trust gap with reassurances that salaries & costs reflect California’s ability to pay. The sky above UC will not fall when Chancellor Birgeneau is ousted.

    Opinions? Email the UC Board of Regents [email protected]

  • MARY


  • Debo Adejobi

    Peter Gabriel's RED RAIN can best illustrate what happened!

  • Debo Adejobi

    Me too, I doubt if I could have held back. The kids were totally non-violent man! I have witnessed first hand those "morons" in actions. They are very insecure, inhuman, and insolent I wonder how Lt. Pike's children feel about "daddy" now. He can't never live that down, Ever! From now on he will always live in infamy. Maybe he'd jump one day.

  • Steve Harris

    This is so bad... I'll bet if a Police Officer saw one of his or her kids protesting peacefully they would never have taken such terrible action... The Police must have been 'Guards for Hitler' in the 2nd World War..

    • ‘Ian L. Hannaford

      Just like the Nazi's said 'I was only doing my job guv.......'

    • Steve Harris

      I know @[1671171683:2048:'Ian L. Hannaford] very upsetting how can people regardless of Rank and Uniform indiscriminately harm fellow human beings like that... Video 'POWER' in Social Media..!

  • ElaineM

    When I first saw these videos Fri night, I was shocked. My next reaction, however, was sadness. I worked with Law Enforcement for over 20yrs, still have friends in LE, (those who could still afford to live on the puny salary most local PD's pay). I also happen to have a 22yr old Son, and a 25yr old daughter-both of whom have been active in different Occupy protests.
    I get the distinct impression that the City officers I worked with are a minority group-they not only support the movement, but some have participated. Are there a few who think the protesters are either spoiled little rich kids just doing this for fun, or recruiting "Marxists/Communists/Socialists"? Or folks looking for either havens for criminal activities or free handouts? Yep. Just as there are protesters there for nefarious reasons, there are cops there convinced they "need" to teach the protesters a "lesson". And as sick as it sounds-some are causing problems because they enjoy it. There's some bad apples on both sides, but there always has been these problems in protests. The big difference this time is an entire media network and ideology that's damned and determined to trash the protesters-no matter what the cost. And unfortunately, a large majority of law enforcement listens to this network as they spew their LIES about protesters "WANTING" to incite police, "WANTING" to "destroy the Country", "WANTING" to "spread Marxism/etc", and "WANTING" violence. After listening to media and pundits talking like this, reading blogs that support and exaggerate these lies, and then getting "psyched" even more talking amongst each other; it's no doubt how they've completely forgotten the tens of thousands of police layoffs, repeal of collective bargaining rights, and disappearing benefits within their own departments.
    My Son says he's TRIED to talk to his local PD, but they won't listen. Hopefully they'll "wake-up" before someone is killed.
    On the article topic-I agree with the commenter above that we need more than just videos, and other "Social Network"'s brief, and sometimes selectively edited snippets of news. I see videos every day which are either misleading, or edited specifically just to support a complete lie What is that quote about a free and non-biased press?
    Never mind, I fear that THAT is just some of that "magical", old-fashioned thinking.

  • Matt Frank

    Love the video!

  • Mark Rigney

    I once played an ultimate Frisbee tournament at UC Davis. There were easily over two hundred people in attendance. They day was pretty peaceful, and sometimes we even sat down in orderly rows to watch other games. I can only assume that were we to hold this event today, it would be broken up by campus police at the behest of a misguided and strangely phobic administration. As I recall, the U.S. Constitution allows for "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," etc. I don't recall the Constitution going on to delineate a right of the government, or even a campus government, to respond with pepper spray and arrests.

  • Tony Horowitz

    I am as appalled by the incident at UC Davis as most other people are, although there are many incidents of excessive police force being used against "Occupy" movement demonstrators all over the country. The obvious premeditation and cold-bloodedness shown in this video are what has made it a flash point, I think.

    I'm more interested at the moment in responding to your comments about reporters being unnecessary now. I disagree strongly with this. Many of the things we all need to know cannot be captured so readily on a dramatic video. Among them are the financial shenanigans, the exposure of which was an important part of the spark of the "Occupy" movement. There's no question that the news media are floundering, and that their old business models are failing. I don't agree, however, that there is anything new to take their place. The "citizen reporter" you speak of has a very limited range of useful contributions he or she can make. This was indeed one of them.

  • Tom Aikins

    The police are the attack dogs for any financial system. Republicans want social Darwinism, the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest. Then why don't we give them the real law of the jungle? No police, no laws. Then see how long they hang onto their wealth. They want the peace that a civilized society provides them but don't want to pay for it. A wise man once wrote 50 years ago, "The times, they are a changin..."

  • Gene Philips

    Some heads need to roll. We should be able to have our kids protest peacefully without fear of violence from repressive administrators and "government" administrators and their goons.

  • Cx9

    When you use the word hippie the way you do, you remind me of something from the 1960s south. Ignorance is bliss and you exude it. Sac39051, when you realize your rights as a citizen have been stripped... I bet you won't have the balls to do a thing but rest comfortably in your home and continue to post comments on things you are ill-informed about. Not all of these students are wasting their parents money; I am quite sure amongst them are students who have taken loans out which is why they are there to protest in the first place. Higher Tuition = Higher student loans = higher debt crisis among students exiting the system. What's your educational credentials? Have any?

  • daveo

    After seeing this incident, I am now FULLY in favor of completely ending ALL Police pensions. KILL all of their Golden benefits NOW! Why, you ask? Because clearly feel entitled to such an extent they will commit ANY wrong to support the establishment who has so richly endowed them. Do you think some guy getting $12.50/hr with no lifetime health insurance or 150K/yr would do this to unarmed students peacefully protesting?

  • e pearce

    where is obama during all of this

  • Christopher Cleveland

    I am so proud of those kids. I don't know if I could have kept from fighting back, and they could have. AT the end it's the cops who run and the kids (of all ages) who allowed them too. You kids are better than I am, Thank you.

    • Joey Lopez

      Great restraint was shown by all the protesters and they have my respect for that.

  • Christopher Cleveland

    DAMN IT! Those of us who remember Kent State are crying.

  • Sac39051

    Lol crybaby hippie posers! I'm glad the Davis police had the balls to spray these losers. Instead of sitting on a sidewalk protesting because it's trendy, go study so mommy and daddy don't waste their money on you pathetic, weak-minded individuals. Have a nice day!

  • Bill Sewell

    Great POV on YouTube killing the evening news. The UC Davis pepper spray incident wasn't a story until the clips went viral. Now the police are on leave... Jury, I'd like to submit these few hundred videos shot from all angles simultaneously for the record...

  • Michael Schmidt

    ..... and the Banana Republic for which it stands. This video was shot in Chile during Pinochet's regime right?

  • Brandt Hardin

    Are we FINALLY going to see some semblance of accountability from the Police Brutality which as plagued our streets these past few weeks? I don’t think a paid leave will cut it- where are the formal charges? Evicting protesters is Unconstitutional and endangers the basic rights of EVERY last American. Is this the country we were raised in, were men and women are beaten, gassed, pepper-sprayed and arrested for their disapproval of the government? We have to be careful to protect our Constitutional Rights! Incidents like these compelled me to design some posters for the movement on my artist’s blog at

  • ncpuma

    Youtube and google. What is this evening news thing that you talk about?

  • David Prenatt

    There is a much longer video -- about 40 minutes -- that puts the events into perspective. The police *WERE* surrounded by protestors who were preventing said police from transporting about a half-dozen people who had been taken into custody. Said protestors were chanting, "Let them go!" After the pepper spray was used, the protestors opened a path for the police and chanted, "You can go!" It was a standoff that does not support the story that the officers acted in "self-defense."

  • Joe Youngblood

    I'll politely disagree on your stance that evening news is useless and that YouTube is killing it. Online video as a whole is empowering the world to see things we've never seen before and giving tools to the masses for both current events and creative arts exposure. However, youtube as a brand is not responsible for this, Adobe's FLV format and flash video players were created before youtube and online video was popular with quicktime, real and microsoft media player for years on websites like ebaumsworld. The h264 codec would still be created without YouTube, which was not one of the first video websites to embrace HD resolution.

    You also state the 'interviews' are not news that they are just filling out stories, but again I'll disagree. Evening and TV news has always just filled out stories, most of the time with just some bland descriptions sent over from various 'wire' sources that writers spiced up for the anchors to read from teleprompters. Now that consumers are equipped with video and photo devices that take decent to high quality footage it's allowing those news shows access to deeper, richer content and to spread actual understanding of a current event instead of just quick facts. News has always been a medium for curation, and now they are curating what the people see and say in larger proportion to what a few select services say. In the local news space I think this can really drive engagement for both online and traditional formats.

    if anyone is being killed by online video, it would be the wire services. As now news crews are more actively using social media to listen and respond to current events in their area, scouring video websites like youtube, liveleak, vimeo and others for possible stories and asking their audience to send in tips and media.

    I would like to see more news stations both large and small expanding their use of online video, live streaming services and on demand video services and more experiences like 'ireport' from CNN to help curate and aggregate consumer generated media content.

  • Patrick Allmond

    You should do a story about YouTube can create a bunch of armchair judge and jurys who don't have all of the facts and make snap judgement with their ignorance. That is happening with this video and I see it happening more recently with other videos, some of which are not related to OWS. The danger here is that OWS is going to use media manipulation (one of the things they complain about) to skew opinions without facts. That is just as dangerous as being manipulated by "the mainstream media".