Occupy Cal demonstrators file lawsuit against campus administrators, police

A protester is brought to the ground by a police officer in front of Sproul Hall.
Eugene W. Lau/Staff
A protester is brought to the ground by a police officer in front of Sproul Hall.

Students and community members have filed a lawsuit against UC Berkeley officials and campus and local law enforcement in response to police actions against demonstrators earlier this month.

The lawsuit was filed by BAMN, a national pro-affirmative action group, on behalf of 24 demonstrators who say they witnessed and experienced violence from police officers at the Nov. 9 Day of Action, the group announced in a press conference in front of the west doors of California Hall Tuesday.

The lawsuit cites campus and community officials, including Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, UCPD Chief Mitch Celaya, members from both the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, as well as 100 unnamed officers, as defendants.

The complaints filed in the lawsuit, which address the violence that occurred during the demonstrations, say the defendants violated demonstrators’ First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by breaking up the assembly forcefully.

The lawsuit states that police officers used “shocking, unconscionable violence: peaceful protesters were forcefully jabbed in their chests, stomachs, and groins, clubbed in the face, yanked by their hair and beaten while lying on the ground.”

The campus administration has released a statement responding to the lawsuit.

“It is disconcerting that the plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit that is filled with so many inaccuracies,” the statement said. “For example, the claim that members of the administration are opposed to the ‘protesters’ defense of affordable, public education’ is completely unfounded.”

According to Monica Smith, an attorney for BAMN, plaintiffs will seek compensation for the physical and mental damages incurred by officers, although no specific monetary amount was cited in the document. She said the protesters are also demanding Birgeneau’s resignation.

Colleen Young, a UC Berkeley senior and plaintiff in the lawsuit, said she was beaten with batons across her torso, adding that her liver still hurts as a result of the violence, and the brutality helped to “scare students” from participating in subsequent protests.

“We live in America and we’re supposed to be able to protest freely,” Young said. “They’re told that if you have a free mind, you’re going to be beaten with sticks.”

Another plaintiff, campus senior Christopher Anderson, said that as a result of the violence he experienced, he is having trouble reconciling his feelings for the university with his anger surrounding the violence.

“I used to have a lot of pride to go to this school,” Anderson said. “I still have pride, but I’m a little bit disillusioned.”

Oksana Yurovsky contributed to this report.