UC Davis Students Sue Over Pepper-Spray Incident

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The American Civil Liberties Union is assisting nearly a dozen students and alumni of the University of California, Davis with a lawsuit against Lt.John Pike as well as University employees, including Chancellor Linda Katehi and other campus administrators in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.


Lieutenant John Pike achieved Internet infamy after he was photographed and videotaped delivering a heavy dose of pepper-spray to more than a dozen seated demonstrators outside a UC Davis building last year. Protesters had gathered at the school to demonstrate against rising tuition hikes and campaigned under the umbrella of the then-infant Occupy movement. As protesters sat peacefully, Pike attempted to disrupt their demonstration by debilitating participants with bursts of pepper-spray to the face. Unfortunately for Pike, the incident went viral online which, in turn, only strengthened the Occupy movement as more Americans became outraged by the establishment’s not-so-nice interpretation of the First Amendment.

Pike is now named in a lawsuit filed Wednesday, which is also aimed at the school’s chancellor, provost and other administration officials and campus police. The ACLU, representing the victims, charge the defendants with failing to properly train and supervise officers, which they say resulted in a “series of constitutional violations against the demonstrators. “

In a press release that accompanies Wednesday’s suit, the ACLU attests that “the University’s response to seated student protesters amounts to unacceptable and excessive force that violates state and federal constitutional protections, including the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

By taking the matter to court, the ACLU hopes that institutions across America will think twice before allowing local law enforcement to follow in the footsteps of Pike.

David Buscho, a UC Davis mechanical engineering student who is among the plaintiffs, said he felt searing pain and had trouble breathing after being pepper-sprayed in the face.

"This was my first demonstration," Buscho said in a statement. "We had no idea there would be police in riot gear or that we would be pepper-sprayed because we were making our voices heard."

Barry Shiller, a spokesman for UC Davis officials declined to comment because they had not yet seen the lawsuit.


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