Berkeley Patriot alleges UC Berkeley retaliation to chalk graffiti, posters in additional civil complaint

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Update 10/05/2017: This article has been updated with additional information from UCPD.

Conservative student publication the Berkeley Patriot filed an additional component to their civil rights complaint Tuesday, alleging that UC Berkeley retaliated against the publication for their initial complaint filed Sept. 19.

This retaliation, the complaint alleges, came in the form of a campuswide email sent by Chancellor Carol Christ regarding “hateful messages” after a chalk graffiti incident on Sproul Plaza targeting undocumented and LGBTQ+ communities and posters distributed around campus alleging that several students and faculty were terrorist supporters. The complaint alleges that the campus threatened to conduct a criminal investigation against the Berkeley Patriot for distributing the posters and chalking messages.

The complaint also cited comments Christ made in an article from the San Francisco Chronicle discussing “Free Speech Week,” where Christ called the posters, which included the names and photos of the accused faculty and students, “horrible” and “chilling.” The posters were created by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, whose founder was scheduled to speak during “Free Speech Week.”

“The message implied in her statements was clear — conservative students will be subjected to a criminal investigation (and implicitly a possible prosecution) for exercising their First Amendment rights,” the complaint alleges.

In the campuswide email, Christ stated that the campus would be opening an investigation into whether the chalkings and the posters qualified as hate crimes. Christ, however, does not name the Berkeley Patriot or explicitly state who was responsible for the incidents in her email.

When asked to confirm whether the Berkeley Patriot was responsible for the chalkings and the posters, Marguerite Melo, the attorney from law firm Melo and Sarsfield representing the Berkeley Patriot, said that the complaint “says it best.”

“Specifically, the UC Berkeley Chancellor, Carol Christ, indicated … that her office was directing an investigation into whether students who had distributed posters and chalked on topics of interest of a conservative-political nature had committed a ‘hate crime,’ ” the complaint states. “Some of those students were affiliated or supporters of the Berkeley Patriot.”

Because of the alleged threats made in Christ’s email and her comments in the SF Chronicle, the complaint states, the Berkeley Patriot decided to cancel Free Speech Week. The complaint says that the students did not want to undergo a “pre-textual criminal investigation” in order to hold the four-day event.

Berkeley Patriot editor in chief Mike Wright declined to comment.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said UC Berkeley officials have not heard anything from the Department of Justice regarding the complaint and that to his knowledge, the campus is currently not investigating the chalking incident on Sproul. He added that the campus does not have any evidence that a crime was committed. UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Sabrina Reich also confirmed that there is currently no criminal investigation being conducted into the chalkings.

According to Melo, the publication has not yet received a reply from the Department of Justice. Melo added that they do not know for certain if a criminal investigation was opened into members of the Berkeley Patriot beyond their understanding of the SF Chronicle article and Christ’s campuswide email.

“It appears clear from a review of those items that she referred the matter to the UC PD for a criminal investigation into ‘hate crimes’ and that she made the statement while discussing the Berkeley Patriot and ‘Free Speech Week,’ ” Melo said in an email.

Ashley Wong is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @wongalum.