Last year while protesting against rising tuition costs, 19 students at UC Davis were sprayed with a military-grade pepper spray by a policeman.
Lieutenant John Pike, a campus cop now infamous for his actions, will be taken to court by the students.
The American Civil Liberties Union of North California is aiding the students in a lawsuit against the University of California, Davis for the excessive actions taken during the protest in November 2011.
The original protest action came under the umbrella of the then-very-young Occupy movement. As is the case with all protests, there were plenty of cameras and video cameras around during the action. Lieutenant John Pike was photographed and video taped casually pepper-spraying the seated and peaceful students and this was shared widely on the internet.
The incident then went viral online which, in turn, only strengthened the Occupy movement as more Americans became outraged by the establishment’s rather loose interpretation of the First Amendment.
According to RT News, 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 American Civil Liberties Union of North California will represent the victims and will charge the defendants with failing to correctly supervise and train their officers, which has resulted in a “series of constitutional violations against the demonstrators. “
Accompanying Wednesday's suit is a press release in which the ACLU states 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.”
In taking this matter to court, they hope that other institutions across the USA will "think twice before allowing local law enforcement to follow in the footsteps of Pike."
According to the Los Angeles Times, Michael Risher, who is a staff attorney with the ACLU, said “Our goal in this lawsuit is to ensure the university makes a clear commitment to protect free speech on campus and prevent this from ever happening again.”
Risher condemns last year’s assault, saying that “Using military-grade pepper spray and police violence against non-violent student protesters violates the constitution, and it’s just wrong. When the cost of speech is a shot of blinding, burning pepper spray in the face, speech is not free.”