In a now infamous incident, UC Davis police walked up and down the line of seated protesters, including Fatima and David, dousing them with military-grade pepper spray in the face at close range.
In a new video, the students speak out:
Fatima, an International Relations major, had previously been a volunteer paramedic and afterwards helped tend to other demonstrators who were in pain. She had been teargased at demonstrations in the Middle East but never imagined something like that would happen here.
“The University needs to respect students’ rights to make our voices heard, especially when we’re protesting University policies that impact our studies, Fatima has said.
David was in searing pain after being spray directly in the face, and had trouble breathing because the pepper spray had gotten into his lungs. He has said that he knows that there are good people working in law enforcement – his stepfather is a police officer.
“So many of my friends can barely make ends meet and then another tuition hike was proposed. We had no idea there would be police in riot gear or that we would be pepper-sprayed because we were making our voices heard,” says David.
Sarena Grossjan is studying Native American studies and art. She is a photographer and had worked for the campus paper. She was also pepper-sprayed, and the effects lasted for weeks. Sarena had been demonstrating because additional tuition or fee hikes will mean that she will mostly likely mean she won’t be able to afford to continue her studies. As it is, she can barely make ends meet. Her financial aid only covers tuition and books. She is taking 5 courses this semester, and sleeps on friends’ couches because she cannot afford rent.
The ACLU of Northern California is representing Fatima, David and Sarena, along with 14 other students and two alumni, in a lawsuit against UC Davis and individual police officers. That lawsuit seeks to determine why the University violated the demonstrators’ state and federal constitutional rights and seeks to result in better policies that will prevent repetition of such response to a non-violent protest. The lawsuit charges that Administration officials and the campus police department failed to properly train and supervise officers, resulting in series of constitutional violations against the demonstrators.