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Saturday, February 24, 2024

University sued over pepper spray incident

On Feb. 22, students and alumni filed a lawsuit against UC Davis for the Nov. 18 pepper spray incident.

On Nov. 18, student protesters gathered in the Quad to protest rising tuition. UC Davis Police arrested 10 students and used pepper spray on the non-violent protesters. The event caused a media frenzy, putting UC Davis and the Occupy Movement at the center of national news.

Plaintiffs are suing the university for the violation of their constitutional right to freely protest.

“This was my first demonstration. So many of my friends can barely make ends meet and then another tuition hike was proposed. We had no idea there would be police in riot gear or that we would be pepper sprayed because we were making our voices heard,” said David Buscho, a mechanical engineering major and plaintiff in the lawsuit, in a press release.

The lawsuit states that the pepper spraying of the students went against state and constitutional protections. The lawsuit specifically cites the First Amendment.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit will be represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“The university needs better policies on how it deals with protests and protesters. Students deserve to know what went wrong and how this could be allowed to happen. They want to make sure it never happens again,” said ACLU Attorney Mark E. Merin.

The university had no comment on the lawsuit.

“Attorneys for the university and the plaintiffs have been talking. We hope those conversations continue. In the meantime, we’ve not seen the lawsuit and therefore aren’t in a position to comment on details,” said  Barry Schiller, UC Davis spokesperson.

Since the incident, the Chief of Police Annette Spicuzza, and one of the officers who pepper sprayed students, John Pike, have been placed on administrative leave.

Student protesters have continued their activism on campus from occupying Dutton Hall for two weeks in December, to the recent blockade of U.S. Bank on campus.

Five task forces have been launched to investigate the incident.

The task force that UC President Mark Yudof put together, led by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, recently announced that the results of their investigation would be delayed again, and would not be released until early March.

HANNAH STRUMWASSER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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