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UC Davis Students, Alumni Sue University Over Infamous Pepper Spray Incident

Occupy-pepper-spray
AP Photo / Wayne Tilcock

On Wednesday, 19 students and alumni sued UC Davis over the pepper spraying incident, alleging that their constitutional rights were violated. The ACLU of Northern California, along with cooperating attorneys, are representing the plaintiffs. The lawsuits demands include:

"... a declaration from the Court that campus policies and practices that led to the abuse of the plaintiffs and others offend both the state and federal constitutional guarantees of the rights to free speech and assembly and that the pepper-spraying and arrests of plaintiffs violated their state and federal constitutional rights; an injunction to prevent repetition of such a response to a non-violent protest; and compensatory and punitive damages against the individual perpetrators of the illegal acts and their superiors who ordered, directed and/or condoned this outrageous conduct."

The demonstrators, aligned with the national Occupy Wall Street movement, were protesting tuition hikes within the University of California system. The university hasn't released its formal report on the incident, which was expected this week but has been delayed until early March. In a statement, retired California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, who chairs the task force investigating the incident, stressed the importance of fully understanding the events surrounding the incident in order to make recommendations to the campus and community.

In a statement on the lawsuit provided to TPM, UC Davis spokesperson Barry Shiller said, "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."

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi last week survived a no confidence vote, but she was criticized for the pepper spraying incident that happened under her administration. "She doesn't have a blank check with this vote," UC Davis professor Walter Leal told the Sacremento Bee.

The ACLU said in a statement that the university's use of pepper spray violated the Constitution and was "wrong." An attorney for the plaintiffs said in the ACLU statement that the university needs better policies to deal with protests and demonstrations.

"Students deserve to know what went wrong and how this could be allowed to happen," Mark Merin said. "They want to make sure it never happens again."

The ACLU of Northern California did not immediately respond to TPM's request for comment.

Read the full complaint below:

ACLU UC Davis Press Release