Four Bay Area ticket-holders who tried to attend a Milo Yiannopoulos speech but were instead attacked by masked radicals have filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the University of California, Berkeley.
Two of the plaintiffs were “beaten unconscious by black-clad, masked anarchists,” apparently referring to the Antifa-style protesters who rioted before the scheduled Feb. 1 appearance, forcing the university to cancel the event and causing $100,000 in damage.
“Our clients and other innocent bystanders were needlessly and brutally attacked after campus police surrendered to demonstrators,” said Bill Becker, president and chief counsel of Freedom X, a public-interest law firm in Los Angeles that serves “conservative victims of discrimination.”
In addition to UC president Janet Napolitano, the university and campus officials, the lawsuit names the city of Berkeley, the police department and the interim chief of police, as well as unknown rioters.
“Police deliberately chose to ensure their own safety while leaving the public, who they are sworn to serve and protect, vulnerable to radical left-wing lawlessness,” said Mr. Becker in a Monday statement. “They now must answer to the public for their dereliction of duty.”
University spokesman Dan Mogulof, who denounced the violence immediately after the riot, said Tuesday he was unable to comment because attorneys had not yet seen the litigation, but that “[o]nce that happens there will be a statement.”
The lawsuit alleges that campus and city officials failed to prepare for the rioting despite ample warning, leaving would-be attendees vulnerable to assault by left-wing protest groups, including By Any Means Necessary and Refuse Fascism, which have taken credit for the melee.
The “paramilitary-style protesters” set fires, threw rocks and tore down a barricade around the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center, trapping the crowds of would-be attendees in Sproul Plaza “without an escape route,” according to the lawsuit posted by the Daily Cal.
Instead of securing the perimeter at the MLK Center, city and campus police “completely abandoned the plaza by withdrawing into the sheltered confines of MLK Center.”
“By retreating into the safe enclosure of MLK Center, [officers] effectively surrendered to the violent protesters and surrendered the plaza to their invasion,” said the lawsuit. “By their action, they effectively invited the protesters to act out their violent aggression against innocent members of the public.”
A married couple, John Jennings and Katrina Redelsheimer of San Francisco, said they were pepper-sprayed by protesters, then a mob beat him with sticks, pushed him to the ground and kicked him, leaving them with injuries that included concussions, cuts and broken or bruised ribs.
Photos of the two, including a shot of her receiving medical treatment, later appeared on social media.
Meanwhile, Trevor Hatch of San Francisco said he was pepper-sprayed in the eyes, then hit in the back with a flagpole, while Donald Fletcher of Oakland said he was “severely beaten unconscious and kicked to the ground.”
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, seeks a court order stating that the city and campus police violated the plaintiffs’ civil rights; a policy establishing “reasonable tactical policies to deal with large demonstrations,” and compensation for medical and legal bills.
Mr. Mogulof said in a Feb. 1 statement that university officials “condemn the violence and the mayhem — the destruction of property.”
“We deeply regret the fact that the actions of the few interfered with the desires of the many to engage in legal and lawful protest, and in doing so, also forced the cancellation of the event that one of our student groups had worked long and hard on,” he said in the Daily Cal.
Mr. Yiannopoulos returned to Berkeley for a brief appearance in September as part of “Free Speech Week,” which saw the university spend $800,000 in additional security.
Police made 11 arrests but the event went off largely without incident, prompting Mr. Mogulof to describe it as “the most expensive photo op in the university’s history.”
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