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Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Striking faculty assaulted with pepper spray

    Two Sonoma State University faculty members were randomly sprayed with pepper spray in the early hours of the one-day CFA strike.
    Olivia Keeler
    Strikers walking in the East Cotati entrance crosswalk.

    “My eyes were burning. My eyes and lips were burning,” is how Sonoma State University associate professor in counseling Silvio Machado described the aftermath of an assault with pepper spray that took place at the CFA strike on Monday, Jan 22. Two separate attacks on the strikers took place as faculty and students joined picket lines to demand higher wages and extended parental leave.

    Emily Clark, an associate professor of Spanish at SSU, joined Machado as he was setting up for a day of striking. Machado and Clark started picketing at the East Cotati main entrance around 7 a.m., walking back and forth in the crosswalk. A white Tesla stopped and then proceeded to enter the University after they crossed east in the crosswalk.

    Machado says he saw the white Tesla make a U-turn at the parking kiosk and then pull back to the entrance before stopping at the crosswalk. They were 15 to 20 feet away from the car.

    “Are you going to block me again,” the man asked after he stopped the Tesla. Both faculty members were confused. “He pulled out pepper spray, said some expletives to us, and then sprayed us, mostly directed at me, but I had my picket sign to shield myself,” Machado said. The man then took off in his car. Within 20 minutes Machado’s pepper spray-doused sign began to cause his eyes and mouth to burn from exposure. They tossed any exposed sign or item and Machado recovered.

    Faculty members said they felt stunned, but Clark was able to get a few of the numbers on his license plate. In a crime bulletin titled, “Aggravated Assault,” the campus police described the license plate as beginning with 9C7 or 97C. They described the suspect as a white male, 30 to 40 years old, with a shaved head and no facial hair.

    “It could have been far worse, I was really quite fine and felt comfortable. I was definitely more weary after that because I didn’t quite expect that or know what his motivations were,” Machado said. Both Machado and Clark remained on the picket lines after the incident.

    Clark and Machado told California Faculty Association organizers about the incident and were advised to make a police report. Sonoma State University Police are now investigating. The attacker has not been identified. 


    Signs carried by strikers.

    Later at 12 p.m., four teenage males shot Orbeez gel pellets from a moving vehicle at the E Cotati entrance, according to a crime bulletin from the Sonoma State University Police Department. No strikers were injured. The crime bulletin describes Orbeez as, “Super-absorbent polymer water beads.” Orbeez pellets are not made to cause harm.  Officers were able to locate the vehicle with the suspects at Rancho Cotate High School soon after.

    No charges were made against the minors. Police believe the attack was random and not related to the strike. 

    Police encourage anyone who might assist or have information related to the pepper spray investigation to call the Sonoma State University Police Department at (707) 664-4444.


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    About the Contributor
    Olivia Keeler, Editor-in-Chief
    Olivia Keeler is a fourth-year communications and media studies major at Sonoma State University.
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