DAVIS, CA - Students at the University of California at Davis say campus authorities violated their right to free speech by spying on their protests.
Students holding demonstrations, rallies, sit-ins and a march protesting tuition hikes over the last 1 1/2 years allege the Davis administration spied on their activities, putting a chilling effect on their right to free speech, The Sacramento Bee reported Tuesday.
"When the administration tells us over and over that they are in support of us and then they turn around and show us this mistrust by infiltrating our peaceful student organizations, it sends a very contradictory message to us," said student Eric Lee, 20.
Assistant Vice Chancellor Griselda Castro says their organized response to campus activism is intended to make it "safer" -- not more difficult -- for students to express themselves.
"Our premise is that if we have a presence, there is less cause for police action. That is primarily our goal," Castro said.
Volunteers were recruited from various campus departments and allegedly trained in how to staff a protest while maintaining First Amendment rights with the details set down in written protocols, Castro said.
"We really are there for them," Jeff Austin, a UC Davis computer programmer who helps monitors protesters, said. "We're not spying, we're not taking names. We're just trying to make sure they stay safe."