UC Davis sued over pepper spray attack
Seventeen UC Davis students and two alumni filed the lawsuit against university officials and police on Wednesday concerning the shocking pepper-spraying incident in November 2011 that sparked international condemnation.
The incident saw campus police pepper-spraying a group of students, who were sitting down in a peaceful protest as part of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. The OWS emerged after a group of demonstrators gathered in New York’s financial district of Wall Street on September 17, 2011 to protest against the excessive influence of big corporations on the US policies and the high-level corruption in the country. Video footage from the campus incident showed the forces spraying the chemical irritant into the students’ faces. Eleven students were subjected to medical treatment, including two, who were treated at a hospital.
The lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleges that UC Davis officials violated the demonstrators’ constitutional rights, including the rights of freedom of speech and assembly.
“On information and belief, certain plaintiffs were targeted by the police for forcible arrests based on their past political activism and associations at the University,” the complaint read.
Mark E. Merin, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, called on better campus policies that prevent similar responses to non-violent protests.
“Students deserve to know what went wrong and how this could be allowed to happen. They want to make sure it never happens again,” he added.
The controversial use of pepper spray drew outrage and calls for the chancellor’s resignation.
The university responded by placing two campus officers and the police chief on paid administrative leave.