A woman who was attacked with pepper spray while attempting to hear Milo Yiannopoulos speak in February, along with a conservative political advocacy group, have filed a $23 million lawsuit against UC Berkeley, the Regents, UC President Janet Napolitano, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Mayor Jesse Arreguín, the Berkeley and UC police departments and their respective chiefs and many others, including George Soros.
Kiara Robles of Oakland and Freedom Watch filed the lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday, claiming that UC and Berkeley officials, driven by their own progressive political agendas, allowed conservatives to be attacked on campus.
The defendants “have subjected UC Berkeley students and invitees who do not subscribe to the radical, left-wing philosophies sanctioned by Defendants to severe violence and bodily harm for merely expressing a differing viewpoint, in clear contravention of their rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” according to the lawsuit.
Essentially, Robles contends she was attacked with pepper spray because UC Berkeley police did not protect her and others with conservative viewpoints when a band of violent anarchists shut down a planned Feb. 1 speech by Yiannopoulos by tearing down fences, setting fires and throwing explosives. Instead, police stood by because “the speaker and his supporters went against the political beliefs of the majority of UC Berkeley’s students and its administration,” reads the lawsuit. “It was the intentional and conscious decision of the Regents, Napolitano, Lozano, Dirks, and Arreguín — in concert with each and every named Defendant — to withhold effective police protection for politically conservative attendees of the Milo Yiannopoulos event. Furthermore, Defendants chose to withhold police protection at the Milo Yiannopoulos event because Milo Yiannopoulos and a large number of his supporters, including Plaintiff Robles, are gay,” reads the lawsuit.
In a statement, UC Berkeley officials denied the claims raised by the lawsuit.
“The University of California, Berkeley intends to mount a vigorous and successful defense of its actions and looks forward to contesting this collection of false claims… In advance of the Milo Yiannopoulos event, administrators and UCPD spent countless hours and substantial University resources planning security measures to enable the event to occur. Faced with an unprecedented level of organized violence, UCPD responded in a manner designed to minimize injuries to innocent members of the surrounding crowd, defend the building from incursion by massed attackers, and protect and safely remove the speaker. We are confident that UCPD’s actions will be vindicated against the plaintiff’s uninformed allegations.”
Freedom Watch, based in Washington D.C., frequently files lawsuits that it contends will protect the United States from “foreign oil and crooked business, labor and government officials … and the incompetent, terrorist state-controlled United Nations,” according to its website. Freedom Watch filed a lawsuit against Rachel Maddow of MSNBC earlier this year, accusing her of defamation. The group also filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of President Trump’s proposed travel ban on people from several Muslim countries. Numerous courts have ruled that the travel ban is unconstitutional. The Trump administration has said it will appeal those rulings to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Robles, who is connected on Twitter to many prominent far-right activists, including Richard Spencer and Mike Cernovich, was giving an interview to a news organization after Yiannopoulos’ speech had been canceled when someone ran by and spritzed her eyes with pepper spray. The black-clad anarchists also attacked and beat up other conservative attendees and caused about $100,000 in damage on the UC Berkeley campus and more than $500,000 in damage in downtown Berkeley.
— janey 🌱 (@janeygak) February 2, 2017
UC police issued numerous dispersal orders throughout the night but did not actively engage with the anarchists or the approximately 1,500 peaceful protesters. Berkeley police took a similarly hands-off approach when the anarchists smashed windows and ATM machines and looted a Starbucks.
Since UC Berkeley has a long history of violent protests it should have known that the Yiannopoulos event might attract agitators, alleges the lawsuit. “Defendants were, at a minimum, grossly negligent — if not intentionally negligent — by hiding behind glass windows in order to further the protestors’ politically motivated agenda — in failing to provide effective police protection for the crowds present at one of their own events. Defendants’ actions were a callous and blatant disregard for the safety of the crowd that came to hear Milo Yiannopoulos speak.”
Robles and Freedom Watch are also suing a number of other people that the lawsuit said conspired to shut down the conservatives’ First Amendment Rights. Arreguín is named because, they said, he gave Berkeley police a “stand-down” order, which allowed the attacks on conservatives to continue, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit contends that Arreguín is also a member of By Any Means Necessary, a far-left group that has played a central role in trying to shut down conservative speech in California. (The lawsuit named BAMN as well.) Arreguín has said he is not a member of BAMN but liked its Facebook page so he could follow their activities. He was also friends on Facebook with Yvette Felarca, one of BAMN’s most prominent activists and a Berkeley Unified middle school teacher.
The lawsuit relies on the reporting on a number of far-right media outlets for its information on which groups and individuals were involved in the rally, most notably the Daily Caller and Breitbart News. Those media operations wrote stories stating that the black-clad Antifa activists were funded by George Soros, which is why Soros is named in the suit.
Robles is also suing two people the suit alleges are members of BAMN, which allegedly organized the Feb. 1 rally, as well as another violent rally in Civic Center Park on March 4. After the Yiannopoulos rally, a number of right-wing activists tried to uncover the identity of Robles’ assailants and “doxxed,” or released information online, about Ian Dabney Miller, a UC Berkeley employee, and Raha Mirabdal, also known as Shadi Banoo, who worked as a nurse at UC Davis in 2014. Right-wing activists named the two as being involved in the violent rally. UC Berkeley police arrested Mirabdal on suspicion of assault with force likely to cause bodily harm. No charges have been filed, though, according to Assistant District Attorney Teresa Drenick.
Yiannapoulos has said he is returning to UC Berkeley in the fall to hold a week of “Free Speech” actions. His self-published book, Dangerous, will go on sale on July 4. In this past week, pre-orders have made it Amazon’s #1 bestseller at times.