Bay Area residents sue UC Berkeley, city of Berkeley for damages from February Yiannopoulos event

Audrey McNamara/File

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Four Bay Area residents who suffered various injuries in the riots protesting the Milo Yiannopoulos event in February filed a lawsuit Thursday against UC Berkeley, the UC Board of Regents and the city of Berkeley for damages.

The complaint states that plaintiffs John Jennings, Katrina Redelsheimer, Trever Hatch and Donald Fletcher attempted to attend Yiannopoulos’ speaking event, which was held on campus, when they were allegedly physically attacked by masked figures protesting the event.

The complaint also alleges that UCPD provided insufficient protection for the event’s attendees and lists various authority figures, such as UC President Janet Napolitano, campus Chancellor Carol Christ and UCPD Chief Margo Bennett, along with the city of Berkeley and Berkeley Police Department as defendants in the lawsuit.

Last year, Yiannopoulos’ scheduled appearance on campus, hosted by Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, resulted in riots that caused about $100,000 worth of damages to campus.

“In this case we had four innocent people who were not doing anything to provoke anyone,” said Bill Becker, an attorney representing the plaintiffs with Freedom X Law. “The problem was created by the campus administration, the UC Police Department and Berkeley Police Department not doing their job to protect the public.”

The lawsuit references social media posts, videos and pictures displaying plaintiffs Jennings, Redelsheimer, Hatch and Fletcher suffering from attacks during the riots. One picture, posted on social media, depicts Jennings lying unconscious on the ground after being physically assaulted. Another video shows Redelsheimer and Hatch after being pepper-sprayed and hit with a flagpole while within the barricade, which allegedly prevented them from fleeing the scene.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof declined to comment. In the past, Mogulof, with regard to security for “Free Speech Week” in September, emphasized that setting security protocol for events is difficult because each situation is unique.

According to a crowd management policy that the lawsuit cites in the document, UCPD is responsible for removing “uninvolved parties” from situations involving riots. However, the lawsuit alleges that UCPD “abandoned” Sproul Plaza, where the disturbances took place, and delivered “feckless attempts” to break up the crowd, which left bystanders vulnerable.

“It’s deliberate because they made a conscious decision to employ tactics that were ineffective and showed weakness, thereby emboldening the demonstrators and angering them with their empty threats,” Becker said.

Becker said the lack of protection was “intentional” and referenced evidence that allegedly shows UCPD barricading Sproul Plaza upon seeing demonstrators before “retreating” to the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

In regard to relief, Shawn Steel, a lawyer with Shawn Steel Law Firm who is also representing the plaintiffs, said they seek two things: compensation for medical bills and a change in police behavior during violent situations.

“The university got such an astonishing international black eye (for not protecting) free speech and (for not protecting) the victims,” Steel said. “It has caused a great deal of needed soul-searching within the system.”

Contact Adrianna Buenviaje at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adriannaDC.

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  • raynebc

    Long overdue.

  • D.Plorable

    Whenever I read one of these things about campus security issues, I wonder if any of the responsible officials have ever bothered to read the metal plaques embedded in concrete at the campus entrances. Go take a look sometime.

  • BerCaley
    • lspanker

      You care to tell us why the current suit should be dismissed, or will you just reply with one of your usual snarky remarks?

      • BerCaley

        I don’t think the current suit should be dismissed quite yet.
        It was just filed and they deserve their day in court.

        That said, I don’t give y’all much of a chance.
        Given the Robles case getting dropped as a prior, pretty much no chance.

        • Jack Spencer

          Than you do not know the basic differences between constitutional, and liability law.Perhaps you need to spend an afternoon in the Boalt Hall Library.

          • BerCaley

            Dude, you can’t write worth a damn. And so while I’m often on campus and I went to a Berkeley Law seminar just last week, I’ll take your legal advice ‘under advisement’.

          • lspanker

            And so while I’m often on campus and I went to a Berkeley Law seminar just last week

            “I’m not a doctor/lawyer/scientist, but I play one one the internet…”

          • raynebc

            On the Internet, everybody gets to be an expert in their chosen field. Failing to take measures to prevent bodily harm from agitators is quite a different lawsuit than the other one cited though. Certainly not dismissable yet.

        • California Defender

          The Robles case wasn’t dropped and thus can’t be used as a prior. She voluntarily withdrew the case without prejudice and reserves the right to sue again at any time.

          My speculation:

          1. She settled out of court with the UC. Saves the UC from yet another black eye and makes her a millionaire. Perhaps a good, albeit selfish, decision.

          2. She is reforming the case, narrowing the defendants, and removing the sexual orientation discrimination element. She is lesbian (positive), but white (negative). So can she be discriminated against being a white lesbian? Questionable. Better to reform and refile.

  • John1838

    There’s a sense that Berkeley got what it wanted and/or planned for.

    • Ron Leger

      I don;t think there’s any question of that… the only question is if they will be held responsible for their decisions.

      • John1838

        The plaintiffs may be forced to appeal beyond the 9th Circuit before Berkeley is held responsible.

  • lspanker

    Glad somebody’s holding Cal Berkeley’s feet to the fire regarding their shameful and cowardly behavior…

  • angdonlon

    About time. That night will always be a blemish on UC Berkeley.

    • dwss5

      angdonian wrote:
      “About time. That night will always be a blemish on UC Berkeley.”

      An ESPECIALLY enormous blemish against the BerkeleyPD who essentially stood down and made few (if any) arrests both during the cancelled Yiannopolous event and afterwards during the vandalism Downtown!

    • Bitterbear

      At this point, that’s like throwing black paint into a tar pit.

  • C Bierbauer78

    Violent fascists demand police protection while attending a riot. Screw ’em.