The University of California, Davis has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by students who were pepper-sprayed by campus police during a ‘Occupy UC Davis’ protest at the school last year.
21 current and former students from the Sacramento-area school will receive $30,000 each, according to details of the settlement disclosed on Wednesday.
The cash payout comes after a university task force investigated the incident and concluded in April that UC Davis police had violated policy and found that the administration had mishandled their response to the protest.
The payout will settle the suit, filed in February, by students who participated in a demonstration on November 18, 2011 to protest a tuition hike at the public university.
Footage of the event, distributed by the school’s Aggie TV station, shows students huddled together on a sidewalk and police spraying directly down on the protesters.
The gathered press and witnesses chanted ‘Shame on you,’ as officers sprayed the students.
The event was one among many protests nationwide that were staged after the launch of the Occupy Wall Street movement, that kicked off in New York last September.
The settlement, totaling $1 million, was approved on September 13, at a closed meeting of the University of California Regents in San Francisco, according to The Sacramento Bee.
As part of the agreement, UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi will also be required to draft a personal, written apology to each individual impacted by the incident.
The students who were hit with the pepper spray will also be eligible to receive support and counseling for ‘academic performance issues that allegedly arose’ from the clash.
A total of $630,000 will be paid directly to the plaintiffs.
An additional $100,000 will be paid out to other individuals who were impacted by the pepper spraying incident. A committee will be set up to distribute those funds, with a maximum amount of $20,000 to be distributed per person.
The University of California will also cover legal fees for the plaintiffs, totaling $250,000, with an additional $20,000 to be paid to the American Civil Liberties Union, who spearheaded the lawsuit and who will advise the school on policies for handling future protests.
‘The university still needs to work to rebuild students’ trust and this settlement is a step in the right direction’
‘What we’re trying to achieve for this case is to make sure that the university improves its policies, training and its procedures to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again and that [UC Davis] is an institution that doesn’t just tolerate free speech but realizes the importance of free speech to a university environment and to our political system,’ Michael Risher, an attorney for a plaintiff in the suit, told The California Aggie school newspaper in August.
UC Davis Police Department (UCDPD) has been undergoing personnel changes in the aftermath of the incident and the findings from the task force, that was headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso.
A new police chief has since been appointed to oversee the campus force.
One plaintiff, Fatima Sbeih, said the incident has provoked fear among the students.
‘Since Nov. 18, students have been afraid of the police. The university still needs to work to rebuild students’ trust and this settlement is a step in the right direction,’ Sbeih, who has since graduated from the school, said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
Another protester, Ian Lee, now a sophomore, said ‘I felt like the university silenced me.’