University of California Davis has agreed to pay over $1 million to settle the personal injury lawsuit levied by students pepper sprayed in a demonstration last November.
The students and faculty members, loosely part of the Occupy protests, were demonstrating against the privatization of the university, as well as rising tuition costs. However, rather than allowing the students to protest peacefully, UC Davis’s campus police appeared in riot gear to quell the demonstration. A now infamous video shows the protestors, sitting with arms linked, being pepper sprayed at close range by one officer.
The personal injury settlement will be paid through UC Davis’s self-insurance program, which has about $600 million in reserves. The 21 protestors who brought the suit forward will each receive about $30,000, with $250,000 going to pay their attorneys. $100,000 will be set aside to compensate other individuals who were injured, or wrongfully arrested, as part of the protests. There is a provision for assaulted students to receive counseling for “academic performance issues that allegedly arose” from the incident.
The settlement also includes a provision that the school work with the American Civil Liberties Union to develop new procedures for student protests, crowd management, and use of force. $20,000 of the settlement will go toward the costs of working with the ACLU.
Part of the settlement includes a formal written apology to each of the plaintiffs from Chancellor Linda Katehi. She became the focus of the protestors’ anger, because she was slow to respond to the incident.
Fatima Sbeih of Oakland, a recent UC Davis graduate who was among those sprayed, says she would ideally like the campus to be police-free. “I want to make sure that nothing like this happens again,” Sbeih said. “The university still needs to work to rebuild students’ trust, and this settlement is a step in the right direction.”
She continued: “It’s a lesson for other UCs and universities across the nation to really think critically and not make rash decisions when dealing with protesters because they will be held accountable for it.”
ACLU attorney Michael Risher said, “If the First Amendment means anything, it’s that students should be able to exercise their free-speech rights on their college campus without being afraid of police violence … What happened on Nov. 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.”
If your or a loved one have been injured as a result of negligence or intent, the attorneys at Strom Law, LLC can help. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your personal injury case, so contact us today at 803.252.4800.