The University of California at Davis has offered about $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by students who were pepper-sprayed last year, according to the Sacramento Bee.
“If the First Amendment means anything, it’s that you should be able to demonstrate without being afraid of police violence. What happened on November 18 was among the worst examples of police violence against student demonstrators that we’ve seen in a generation. The settlement should be a wake-up call for other universities and police departments,” said Michael Risher, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.
UC Davis has agreed to pay $730,000 to the plaintiffs, as well as $250,000 in legal costs. The university has also set aside $100,000 to compensate other individuals who were pepper-sprayed.
The settlement would also require a written apology from Chancellor Linda Katehi, who declared that the students were “trespassing” on the school’s quad and ordered police to remove them.
During an Occupy Wall Street protest last November, a campus police officers hit a group of students who had locked arms directly in the face with a stream of pepper-spray, even though the students showed no signs of violence.
Video of the scene immediately went viral, getting over a million views within 24 hours, and the main officer responsible for using the chemical irritant on peaceful student protesters even became an Internet meme.
Twenty-one students and alumni sued the university after the incident, claiming their First Amendment rights had been violated.
The settlement needs to be reviewed by a federal judge before it becomes final.