The peaceful protest at the University of California, Davis, near Sacramento, was in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement and in solidarity with a protest at another branch of the university in which students were hit with batons.

The university chancellor Linda Katehi quickly called in the campus police to move in on more than a dozen tens erected in the campus quad, with officers seen to confront a row of seated protestors with pepper spray, many of whom were sprayed directly in the face.

Video footage of the incident has circulated widely on the internet and has sparked outrage at what has been described as the officers’ excessive use of force.

The Davis Faculty Association, a body that represents academic staff, has condemned the university’s approach to dealing with protestors. “This week we have seen excessive force used against non-violent protestors,” a statement on the association’s website reads.

“Student, faculty and staff protestors have been pepper-sprayed directly in the eyes and mouth, beaten and shoved by batons, dragged by the arms while handcuffed, and submitted to other forms of excessive force. The violence was unprovoked, disproportional and excessive.”

Ms Katehi initially supported the campus police’s response, with a law enforcement official describing the campus cops’ actions as “fairly standard police procedure.” Ms Katehi quickly performed an abrupt u-turn though and went on to describe the incident as “chilling”. Despite increasing pressure to resign she has stated that she will not leave her post.

Ten people were arrested at the protest, nine of whom are students.

An investigation, involving students, staff and faculty members, is to be set up with a deadline of thirty days for its findings to be found.