Occupy Cal lawsuit sees comments from UCPD officers, campus administrators

Edwin Cho /File

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In the latest development in a lawsuit sparked by alleged police misconduct during the 2011 Occupy Cal demonstrations, the defense — representing officers and campus administrative officials — released briefs Wednesday further supporting a motion to resolve the case without going before a jury.

The lawsuit was originally filed by BAMN, a national civil rights organization that aims to represent students’ rights and affirmative action, on behalf of demonstrators. The suit alleges false arrests, excessive use of police force and violation of Occupy Cal protesters’ First Amendment rights. The plaintiffs in the case have also accused campus officials, including then-chancellor Robert Birgeneau, of bearing supervisory responsibility for the alleged misconduct. Twenty-one of the original 24 plaintiffs are still involved in the suit.

The defense previously filed for summary judgement, used when there are no disputes over the material facts of a case, which would otherwise need to be resolved via jury trial. The plaintiffs opposed the motion in July, as expressed in a reply brief, to which the defense replied Wednesday.

In the reply, the defense listed “undisputed material facts” of the case, which it said the plaintiffs do not oppose with evidence. Among these facts, the brief said, was the statement that plaintiffs had intentionally obstructed and resisted police officers, thus providing probable cause for the protesters’ arrests.

The brief also said that the use of force by UCPD Lt. Marc DeCoulode and Sgt. Andrew Tucker was “objectively reasonable under the circumstances” and that the supervisory claims brought against campus administrators by the plaintiffs cannot be proven without first proving excessive use of force by police.

In their July brief, which opposed the defense’s filing for summary judgment, the plaintiffs stated that “juries’ decisions in political protest cases that involve the use of force on nonviolent activists are a statement of what standards that juries want to apply to their communities as regards to police conduct.”

In response, in another brief filed Wednesday, the defense said the plaintiffs were attempting, by way of bringing the case before a jury, to determine the righteousness of defendant Samantha Lachler’s use of force “on a jury’s agreement or disagreement with a political movement.”

The defense also said that the plaintiffs had referenced inadmissible evidence in their July opposition brief and that there had been procedural errors in filing it, including that it had been filed after its due date.

The confrontation that prompted the lawsuit occurred during a “day of action” Nov. 10, 2011. Protesters associated with the Occupy Cal movement set up tents in front of Sproul Hall before riot police marched to the encampment. The interactions between police and protesters turned violent when protesters refused to allow police to remove the tents.

G. Haley Massara is the lead crime reporter. Contact them at [email protected] and follow them on Twitter at @BylineGraph.