Seventeen University of California, Davis students and two alumni filed a lawsuit against school officials and police on Wednesday concerning a dramatic pepper spraying incident in November of last year that sparked a national backlash.
The complaint alleges UC Davis officials, including Chancellor Linda Katehi, and the UCPD violated the protestors constitutional rights -- including the rights of freedom of speech and assembly.
"On information and belief, certain plaintiffs were targeted by the police for forcible arrests based on their past political activism and associations at the University," the complaint read.
The ACLU is also charging UC Davis with violating their Fourth Amendment rights against "unreasonable search or seizure."
"The University needs better policies on how it deals with protests and protesters," said Mark E. Merin, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, in a statement. "Students deserve to know what went wrong and how this could be allowed to happen. They want to make sure it never happens again.”
UC Davis police and officials broke the law, the ACLU said, by "failing to provide or summon medical care for persons whom they had taken to jail and who they had reason to know needed immediate medical care."
"Using military-grade pepper spray and police violence against non-violent student protesters violates the constitution, and it's just wrong," Michael Risher, staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California, and another one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said in a release. "When the cost of speech is a shot of blinding, burning pepper spray in the face, speech is not free."
Since the incident, multiple investigations throughout the UC system have been launched.
The University of California has also spent at least $100,000 in crisis communications consulting in the wake of the pepper spray backlash.
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