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UC Davis Faces Lawsuit for Occupy Protest Pepper Spray Incident

Common Dreams staff

The University of Califoria-Davis is facing a lawsuit following an incident at a student-led Occupy rally last November where students were pepper-sprayed by campus police.  Video footage of the incident went viral and was among a handful of particularly alarming video-documented cases of police using excessive force against peaceful citizens who were protesting rampant US inequality and Wall Street greed.

The Associated Press reports today:

Nineteen students and alumni at the University of California, Davis filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Sacramento on Tuesday.

The lawsuit is the latest fallout from the Nov. 18 incident, when campus police pepper-sprayed sitting protesters who had set up an Occupy camp. Widely viewed online videos of the incident generated national outrage and calls for the chancellor's resignation.

The lawsuit claims the university violated the demonstrators' constitutional rights and seeks campus policies to prevent similar responses to non-violent protests, as well as unspecified damages.

UC Davis officials declined to comment Wednesday because they had not seen the lawsuit.

Here's footage of the incident:


UC-Davis internal report on 'Pepper-spray incident' delayed again

According the student newspaper, The Davis Enterprise, a task forced charged with investigating the incident has once again delayed release of its finding:

The task force is now looking at “early March” for the unveiling of its recommendations, according to a letter from its chair, former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, to UC President Mark Yudof released to the media on Thursday.

Reynoso cited no specific reason for the delay, except to say that the task force “believes that it is imperative to have a complete understanding of the events that took place on that afternoon” of Nov. 18, when about a dozen Occupy UC Davis protesters were pepper-sprayed and 10 others arrested. [...]

The task force of 13 students, faculty, alumni and staff will make recommendations to Yudof and Chancellor Linda Katehi that will “include improvements to police procedures, command protocols, and campus policies and oversight structures that will help ensure that the rights and safety of nonviolent protesters and the entire campus community are protected,” in Reynoso’s words.

Katehi originally asked Yudof to assemble a task force that would provide recommendation within 30 days of the incident. UC officials soon pushed that date back, saying Kroll needed more time to do a thorough job.

Reynoso first set a goal of the final week of January or first week of February for the task force report’s release, only to push that date back because of negotiations between University of California lawyers and the Federated University Police Officers Association over which officers could be questioned by investigators.

Eventually, an agreement was struck allowing questioning of any of the about three dozen officers involved in removing an Occupy encampment but who are not facing scrutiny over possible wrongdoing.

Off-limits as part of that agreement are UCD police Chief Annette Spicuzza, Lt. John Pike, the incident commander, and a second unnamed officer, all three of whom have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of about a half-dozen probes into what happened on the Quad.

Plans call for Bratton’s fact-finding report to be released in tandem with the recommendation by the task force.

To date, none of about a half-dozen investigations into the pepper-spray incident, including a criminal investigation by the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, has come to a resolution.

The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office concluded there was insufficient evidence to file charges against the arrested protesters. UCD officials also had requested that charges not be filed.


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