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$1 million settlement: Pepper-sprayed students, alumni pleased

UC Davis students and alumni who were pepper-sprayed by campus police during a protest 10 months ago were pleased with the nearly $1-million settlement the university system has agreed to pay.

Each of the 21 students and alumni will receive $30,000, the University of California announced Wednesday.

The agreement, which must still be approved in federal court, also calls for UC to pay a total of $250,000 to the plaintiffs’ attorneys and set aside a maximum of $100,000 to pay up to $20,000 to any other individuals who join the class-action lawsuit by proving they were either arrested or directly pepper-sprayed, a university statement said.

PHOTOS: UC Davis pepper spray incident

The settlement also calls for UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi to write a formal apology to each of the students and alumni who were pepper-sprayed or arrested.

Fatima Sbeih, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who was pepper-sprayed, said in a statement the incident created a divide between students and campus police.

“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,” said Sbeih, who recently graduated with a degree in international studies.

Another protester, Ian Lee, who is entering his sophomore year at the school, said in a statement that he participated in the demonstrations because of the “privatization of the university” and rising tuition costs.

“I felt like the university silenced me,” he said in the statement.

A video released online, showing an officer spraying seated students directly in their faces at close range during an Occupy rally, had triggered outrage.

And UC's own investigations and a shake-up at the UC Davis police force put the university in a weak position to argue against the students' lawsuit.

The preliminary settlement, which was approved by the UC regents in a closed-door meeting earlier this month, will be paid through the UC's self-insurance program, which officials said has about $600 million in reserves.

In April, a UC task force headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso found that UC Davis police had violated policy and that campus administrators mishandled the November 2011 campus protest.

In May, a separate draft report about campus responses to civil disobedience across UC urged administrators to use mediation instead of confrontation in most cases, although it said pepper spray might remain a necessary tool of last resort. A final version was released this month with no major policy changes.

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-- Stephen Ceasar

 
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