Reporting Ron Jones
DAVIS (CBS13) – Attorneys representing the 21 students and recent alumni who were pepper-sprayed by UC Davis police last year announced on Wednesday that they have reached a $1 million settlement with the university on their class-action lawsuit.
The settlement was filed Wednesday with the U.S. District Court in Sacramento for review by a federal judge before it becomes final. It was approved by UC Regents on Sept. 13.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which represented the students, the university will pay $1 million, including $730,000 to the 21 named plaintiffs and others who were pepper-sprayed during the non-violent demonstration on the quad on Nov. 18.
That amounts to $30,000 for each of the 21 students, with $100,000 set aside for others who were pepper-sprayed or wrongfully arrested that day. Another $250,000 will go to costs and attorney fees. The money will be paid out from a UC insurance fund.
“The settlement we’re announcing today cannot undo what happened last November. Nothing can,” ACLU attorney Michael Risher said Wednesday.
In the stipulation for settlement, “UC denies the plaintiffs’ allegations. This is a mediated settlement that was approved by the Board of Regents. We believe the proposed settlement is in the best interests of the University of California,” said UC spokesman Steve Montiel.
Three of the students attended Wednesday’s press conference on campus.
“I think we have a right to be outraged with what happened on Nov.18,” Iam Lee said.
“And we’ve all seen the video,” Risher said.
The video created outrage around the country. UC Davis police officers, led by recently fired Lt. John Pike, covered seated students with pepper spray as they blocked a portion of the quad.
They were protesting rising tuition.
“To me the settlement is an indication that something drastic had to happen,” student Elizabeth Lara said.
The settlement also requires UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi to issue a formal written apology to each of the students who were pepper-sprayed or arrested, the ACLU said.
“So far I’ve heard her say I’m sorry, but I haven’t heard her actually take on any responsibility for what happened,” Lara said.
The university will also work with the ACLU as it develops new policies on student demonstrations, crowd management, and use of force, with $20,000 of the settlement going to the organization for its future work with the university.
Two of students who attended the press conference said they’ll use the money to help pay for their education.
“I plan to use all the money to pay future tuition,” Lee said. “That’s what a lot of my friends are doing.”
“Either to use it to pay off the loans that I have for my undergraduate education or save it for grad school,” Lara said.
But Fatima Sbeih said she’ll give her share away. “Honestly I’ve already decided to donate all of it to people who are in debt,” she said.
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