University of California offers $30,000 each to pepper-sprayed students

A police officer pepper sprayed protesters at an Occupy encampment on the University of California Davis campus last year.

Story highlights

  • University of California would pay $30,000 each to 21 plaintiffs in a class-action suit
  • A federal court has yet to approve the settlement, officials say
  • Davis campus police pepper-sprayed seated student protesters at an Occupy camp
  • A video of the close-range pepper spraying went viral last year

The University of California is offering to pay $30,000 to each of 21 protesters who were pepper-sprayed by a campus policeman last year, according to a proposed out-of-court lawsuit settlement.

If approved by a federal court, the deal could end the suit by demonstrators at an Occupy Movement encampment who were protesting tuition hikes and university privatization. Plaintiffs said police violated their civil rights and a school report called the spraying "objectively unreasonable."

The campus police officer who pepper-sprayed the protesters was no longer working at the school as of late July. The school declined to say whether the officer, Lt. John Pike, quit or was let go.

Video footage of Pike spraying student demonstrators with the irritant at close range went viral, provoking widespread criticism of school authorities and making him a target of Internet ridicule.

Under the pending agreement, which was announced Wednesday, the University of California would also pay $250,000 to plaintiffs' attorneys. It also would set aside a $100,000 fund to pay as much as $20,000 to each individual who joins the class-action suit and can prove he was pepper-sprayed or arrested during the protest.

2011: Occupy Wall Street begins
2011: Occupy Wall Street begins


    2011: Occupy Wall Street begins


2011: Occupy Wall Street begins 02:33
2011: Occupy protester's 'Change-a-luia'
2011: Occupy protester's 'Change-a-luia'


    2011: Occupy protester's 'Change-a-luia'


2011: Occupy protester's 'Change-a-luia' 01:34
Occupy seeks foothold on anniversary
Occupy seeks foothold on anniversary


    Occupy seeks foothold on anniversary


Occupy seeks foothold on anniversary 02:38

The money would come from the school system's general liability risk program, a self-insured fund, the president's office said.

Opinion: Occupy fizzled, but made 99% a force

During the November 2011 protest, about a dozen demonstrators were seated on a path with their arms interlocked as police moved in to clear out members of the Occupy movement who were camped in the area. Officers forcibly removed the demonstrators after they had been sprayed. UC Davis had declared the protest unlawful.

In addition to tuition increases and privatization, the demonstrators were protesting treatment of demonstrators at another campus -- the University of California at Berkeley, according to the proposed settlement.

The plaintiffs alleged their civil rights were violated by being subjected to unlawful arrest and excessive force, the settlement papers said.

Opinion: My arrest at Occupy Wall Street

U.C. Davis placed Pike, a second officer and Campus Police Chief Annette Spicuzza on administrative leave after the incident.

In addition to calling the spraying an "objectionably unreasonable" use of force, a UC report on the incident accused Pike of misusing his weapon. The bright red pepper-spray canister the officer brandished before spraying was a higher pressure type and "not an authorized weapon" under campus police guidelines, the report said.

The canister was designed to be used at a distance of at least 6 feet and "Lt. Pike did not use it correctly," the report found.
The report also blamed members of the U.C. Davis leadership, citing "systemic and repeated failures" among campus administrators that "put officers in the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves."

Citizens United new movie 'Occupy Unmasked' -- President Bossie on Breitbart's last project

      CNN Recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.