UC Berkeley Defeats $23M Yiannopoulos Riot Suit

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge on Friday dismissed nearly all claims in a $23 million lawsuit over violent protests that led to the cancellation of a speech by conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California Berkeley in 2017.

Oakland resident Kia Robles filed her suit in June 2017, claiming the city of Berkeley and university officials “willfully withheld” police protection before the planned speech, allowing masked protesters to attack her with pepper spray.

Yiannopoulos’ speech was abruptly nixed on Feb. 1 after a violent riot broke out, which the university blamed on “150 masked agitators” that caused $100,000 in damage.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken dismissed all claims against the city, University of California Berkeley and college officials with prejudice on Friday.

“Robles does not allege any facts showing that Berkeley took any affirmative acts to burden or infringe upon Robles’ First Amendment rights,” Wilken wrote in a 23-page ruling Friday. “The First Amendment does not require Berkeley to protect Robles against the actions of others.”

Milo Yiannopoulos pauses while speaking during a Feb. 21, 2017, news conference in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Wilken found Robles failed to plausibly allege the city had an official policy or custom of selectively providing or withholding police support at conservative rallies, events and protests.

Robles argued that the city provided 500 officers for a protest against President Donald Trump in August 2017, but she did not say whether violence occurred at that protest or whether officers intervened, nor did she say how many officers, in contrast, were present at the Yiannopoulos event.

Turning to claims against the college, Wilken found that because the University of California qualifies as an “arm of the state,” it is immune from civil rights claims under the 11th Amendment.

The judge also dismissed claims against University of California President Janet Napolitano and UC Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks, finding the First Amendment does not obligate them to protect Robles from the actions of others.

Additionally, Wilken dismissed Robles’ equal protection claims against the university officials, finding she presented no evidence that they knew she was gay and intentionally discriminated against her on that basis.

Wilken also found the officials could not be sued for state law claims of negligence, gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress because the claims were based on “discretionary acts” of deciding how to manage safety on campus, which makes them immune from liability under state law.

The judge also dismissed claims against the left-wing activist group, In The Name Of Humanity, We Refuse To Accept A Fascist America , or ANTIFA, which is accused of organizing violence at the February 2017 event. Robles failed to provide proof that the non-profit organization had been served with the lawsuit.

However, the judge granted Robles leave to amend a state civil rights claim against one individual, Raha Mirabdal, an alleged member of ANTIFA who, according to the lawsuit, shined a flashlight in the eyes of Robles and other  Yiannopoulos supporters to “incapacitate them” so they could be physically attacked by others.

Wilken found Robles failed to explain why Mirabdal is likely a member of ANTIFA or how shining a flashlight in one’s eyes rises to the level of “a volitional act intended to interfere with the exercise or enjoyment of the constitutional right.” Nevertheless, the judge gave Robles 21 days to file an amended complaint against Mirabdal.

UC Berkeley spokesman Roqua Montez, city of Berkeley spokesman Matthai Chakko, and Robles’ attorney Michael Kolodzi, of Beverly Hills, did not immediately return emails seeking comment Friday afternoon.

In July last year, Robles voluntarily dismissed her suit without prejudice before re-filing a nearly identical suit one month later.

On Aug. 31, Wilken issued a ruling revoking one of Robles’ attorney’s pro hac vice admission to the court based on findings of alleged professional misconduct. On Thursday, that attorney, Larry Klayman of Boca Raton, Florida, filed a motion for reconsideration, accusing the judge of “demonstrable bias” against him and his client.

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