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Pepper-Sprayed Students Sue UC Davis

SACRAMENTO (CN) - Nineteen UC Davis students claim in Federal Court that campus police unconstitutionally dispersed their "occupy"-style protest with pepper spray and targeted students for arrest.

The students set up tents on Nov. 17, 2011 to support the Occupy Wall Street Movement. They say that police in riot gear showed up the next day after Chancellor Linda Katehi ordered the tents removed.

"Students held another assembly, discussed the letter the Chancellor had delivered, and many decided to remove their tents and did so. Others resolved to remain," the complaint states.

"Shortly before 3:00 p.m., a large number of police in riot gear armed with long batons, pepper-ball guns and other weapons were seen massing in formation adjacent to the quad. The students moved the remaining tents to the circle on the Centennial Walk, a concrete pathway in the middle of the campus quad, and stood around them.

"The officers advanced on the students, as can be seen on any number of videotapes. They began pushing students away, or throwing them to the ground. Some of the officers disassembled or destroyed the tents. As the tents were being removed, students sat down in a large circle. Classes were letting out and hundreds of additional students swarmed out of their buildings to watch what was happening.

"The campus officers pointed to specific students, arrested them and began grabbing them and hauling them off to jail."

After detailing the treatment of several plaintiffs, the complaint adds: "Plaintiffs' hands were all zip tied, some zip ties were particularly tight, cutting off blood flow, but the jailers did not have the special equipment needed to cut the plastic ties."

Eleven students claim they were pepper-sprayed while they sat peacefully. According to the complaint, Officer John Pike ordered students sitting down in a line to leave, and pepper-sprayed them when they refused.

"Defendant Pike ordered the students to leave or stated they would be 'shot,'" the complaint states.

When plaintiff Kase Wheatley responded, "'You're going to shoot us if we don't leave?'" Pike allegedly "shook a canister of pepper spray like a can of aerosol paint, stepped over the line of sitting, crouching students and walked up and down the line repeatedly dousing plaintiffs with orange colored pepper spray, mostly from a distance of one-to-two feet."

The students demand punitive, statutory and compensatory damages for violation of the California and U.S. Constitutions, California civil code violations and false arrest. They are represented by Sacramento attorney Mark Merin and Alan Schlosser of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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