Judge dismisses $23M lawsuit linked to Berkeley protest against Milo Yiannopoulos

Masked individuals dressed in black hurled Molotov cocktails, set fires and shot fireworks at police on Feb. 1, 2017 to protest a scheduled talk by Milo Yiannopoulos on the UC Berkeley campus. Photo: Ted Friedman

When Kiara Robles was being interviewed by KGO-TV on Feb. 1, 2017, a demonstrator, who was at UC Berkeley to protest the slated appearance of right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, sprayed pepper spray in her face.

During the melée that erupted a short time later, when black-bloc protesters smashed windows, lit a generator on fire, and threatened many who had come to hear Yiannopoulos, Robles was jostled, hit and had a flashlight pointed at her eyes. UC Berkeley eventually canceled Yiannopoulos’ talk.

As a result, Robles, 26, of Oakland, filed a lawsuit against UC Berkeley, the Board of Regents, the city of Berkeley, former Cal Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, UC President Janet Napolitano, and Raha Mirabdal, whom Robles alleged was an antifa member. In the suit, Robles asked for $23 million and claimed that the defendants violated her First Amendment rights when they withheld police protection from the crowd. Furthermore, Robles alleged that the defendants violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution by not protecting her because she is a lesbian, by intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and by exhibiting gross negligence.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken dismissed almost the entire suit, although the judge is allowing Robles to re-file one charge against Mirabdal within 21 days.


Wilken pointed out that it was implausible that Berkeley deliberately withheld police protection because of Robles’ political beliefs.

“Robles has not stated sufficient factual allegations to plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief,” Wilken wrote in her 23-page ruling. “There are simply not enough factual allegations to show that it is plausible that Berkeley has an official policy or custom of “selectively providing police support and withholding police support to conservative events, rallies, and protests.”

Wilken also cited a legal precedent in ruling Robles could not bring a lawsuit against the regents or UCPD because they are “an arm of the state for Eleventh Amendment purposes and therefore is not a ‘person’ within the meaning of section 1983.”

Robles had tried to get Wilken to recuse herself from the case. In court documents, her attorneys claimed that Wilken could not be objective because she attended UC Berkeley. Wilken rejected that claim in July.

When contacted by the Washington Times this weekend, Robles brought up that issue again as a way of explaining why the suit was dismissed, adding the fact that President Bill Clinton had appointed her.

“Judges are usually very good at justice,” Robles told The Washington Times via Twitter. “I don’t have an ivy league training in the judicial system or common law. Still, I think we all understand that a justice system that appoints a UC Berkeley alumni to a case claiming free speech violations at UC Berkeley isn’t perfect.”

Robles and Freedom Watch, an ultra-conservative Washington, D.C. policy advocacy group, filed the first $23 million lawsuit in June 2017 but withdrew it in July 2017. That suit had also named Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, John Burton, the chair of the Democratic Party in California, and George Soros, the liberal philanthropist, among others. They were dropped from the suit that Robles re-filed in August 2017.

Robles had tried to include Antifa in the suit, but could not find anyone to serve, so that part of the suit was dismissed, according to Wilken’s ruling.

The right-wing attorney, Larry Klayman, who founded Freedom Watch, had applied to the court to represent Robles. As he is not a member of the California bar, he petitioned the court to appear pro hac vice, which is Latin for “on this occasion.”

The city of Berkeley objected to Klayman’s representation, and, in October, Wilken ruled he could not appear because he has been banned from some courts and faced ethics charges.

“Over the years, numerous courts have sanctioned Klayman, called his behavior into question, or revoked his pro hac vice admission,” she wrote in her ruling. “Two courts have banned Klayman from their courts for life.”

(Judicial Watch, which Klayman also started, has filed a Public Records Act request asking the school district to release all emails, including those from staff and teachers, that concern Yvette Felarca. Felarca has sued the district to prevent the released of the material. Felarca is a controversial Berkeley middle school teacher and an active participant in the By Any Means Necessary activist group— BAMN.)

Robles was not the only person to file a case against the university, university officials and the city of Berkeley in connection with the events of Feb. 1, 2017.

In January, four Bay Area residents — John Jennings, Katrina Redelsheimer and Trevor Patch of San Francisco and Donald Fletcher of Oakland —  filed a federal lawsuit contending that UC Berkeley police did not follow their own regulations for crowd control the night of Yiannopoulos’ speech. Redelsheimer was pepper-sprayed that night and Jennings was knocked around. Hatch, who was wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, was also attacked in Sproul Plaza while Fletcher was beaten unconscious and left on Bancroft Avenue, according to the suit.

Freedom X, the law firm representing the plaintiffs, later dropped Berkeley, the Berkeley Police Department and BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood from the case. The suit is still pending.