Lawyers of plaintiffs suing UC Berkeley say lawsuit addresses ‘growing cancer’ from lack of intellectual diversity

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Matthew Lo/Staff

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A press conference was held Tuesday by lawyers representing four individuals in a lawsuit against UC Berkeley, the UC Board of Regents and the city of Berkeley, along with specific individuals, for injuries sustained during the protests of the Milo Yiannopoulos event last February.

Attorneys Shawn Steel, Alexander Eisner and Bill Becker contended that campus and city police did not provide adequate protection for the four plaintiffs — John Jennings, Katrina Redelsheimer, Trever Hatch and Donald Fletcher. The press conference lasted about an hour and was held on the steps of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

The case involves both constitutional claims — concerning campus speaker and crowd control policy — and personal injury claims, according to Becker.

The February protest involved large fires, broken windows and destroyed property on and around Sproul Plaza. A group of masked figures instigated violence and allegedly physically attacked the plaintiffs, according to the complaint.

In the past, campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof has condemned such violence and destruction of property. Becker said he expects the campus, UCPD and BPD to file conditions to dismiss the case.

“It’s not lost on us that it was dangerous for the police officers that were there,” Eisner said. “However, they had weeks to prepare for the event (and) other events to base their response off.”

Eisner said he believes that the police officers did not follow their own protocol, noting that officers on the ground that night had moved indoors when the protests outside became violent and placed barricades that allegedly funneled peaceful bystanders into the protest.

According to Steel, the lawsuit is not about pursuing monetary reward, but about bringing light to conservative speakers who are being denied platforms on college campuses nationwide — a situation he described at the press conference as a “growing cancer” stemming from the lack of “intellectual diversity.”

“(We are) expecting a mountain of lawyers,” Steel said at the press conference. “The odds are not very good, but it’s the right thing to do.”

The lawsuit was filed only recently instead of closer to last February because of the lengthy process of assembling a legal team, compiling a 150-page exhibit and 47-page complaint, and educating the clients, among other preparations, Steel said.

The attorneys working on the case are not only working for free, according to Steel, but are also paying the court and legal costs of the case for the plaintiffs. Becker said they are requesting to be awarded attorney’s fees from the court if they prevail.

A few members of the student organization Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, attended the press conference. BCR president Bradley Devlin expressed support for the four plaintiffs and their attorneys.

“We’re bringing a lawsuit against Berkeley on behalf of conservatives in one of the most liberal courts in the nation,” Eisner said. “It’s definitely going to be an uphill battle.”

Contact Matthew Lo at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @matthewlo_dc.