UC-Berkeley sued for failing to intervene in violent riots
Four California residents recently sued the University of California, Berkeley and the surrounding city for failing to protect them during the Milo Yiannopoulos riots last year.
According to the lawsuit, filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by FreedomX law group, the University of California Police Department (UCPD) was “responsible for creating and exposing the plaintiffs to the unlawful actions of an angry mob of violent anarchists,” causing all four to sustain various injuries.
"Antifa and other related groups will continue to silence speech with which they disagree if the police continue a policy of inaction."
“By their failure to intervene or employ reasonable tactical methods to ensure the safety of the plaintiffs and the public, government actors conducted their official duties with deliberate indifference to the plaintiffs’ safety, permitting hordes of violent rioters to swarm the university campus in a violent rage,” the lawsuit contends.
Additionally, the suit claims that UCPD violated its own “Crowd Management Policy” by failing to remove disruptive attendees from the February 2017 riots, instead choosing to stand down in the face of violent protesters.
“Why do we need a police department then? That’s like a fire department standing there in the street with their hoses saying ‘I’m not going in there, I might get hurt,’” FreedomX President Bill Becker told Campus Reform.
“The Yiannopoulos protests are an example of the new normal on college campuses with the growth of these anarchist/anti-fascist groups,” he continued. “It’s particularly noticeable at Berkeley, which has a long history of anarchy and resistance to conservative visitors.”
The lawsuit also contains images of injuries sustained by the plaintiffs (John Jennings, Katrina Redelsheimer, Trever Hatch, and Donald Fletcher), with one showing Jennings “lying unconscious” on the ground, and another of Redelsheimer “receiving treatment after being pepper-sprayed.”
Another image shows Redelsheimer and Hatch “after being pepper-sprayed and hit multiple times with flag poles.”
The four have listed several high-level university officials as defendants, including University of California System President Janet Napolitano, former UC-Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, current Chancellor Carol Christ, the Board of Regents, and Chief of Police Margo Bennett.
The Berkeley College Republicans, the club that attempted to host Yiannopoulos during the February riots, praised the lawsuit in a statement to Campus Reform.
"We applaud Shawn Steel and Bill Becker for taking a stand for the residents of Berkeley and the rest of the Bay Area who were affected by the riots on February 1, 2017,” Internal Vice President Matt Ronnau told Campus Reform. “Not only must we protect the constitutional right to free speech and engage in open discourse, but we must also protect those affected by hecklers' violence.”
Ronnau noted that the actions, “or lack thereof,” from the administration and City of Berkeley “emboldened violent rioters and signaled to these groups that the heckler's veto was permissible.
“Antifa and other related groups will continue to silence speech with which they disagree if the police continue a policy of inaction,” he concluded. “This is a win for anyone who holds sacred the freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment, and we look forward to the progress of this lawsuit."
A spokesperson for UC-Berkeley told Campus Reform that the university has not yet been served with the lawsuit, and so cannot comment at this time.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @asabes10