UC Berkeley Faces $23M Suit for Yiannopoulos Speech Riot

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) –  The University of California and Berkeley police allowed violent, masked protesters to attack an Oakland woman with pepper spray for supporting conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos’ planned speech at UC Berkeley earlier this year, the woman claims in federal court.

Kiara Robles sued University of California President Janet Napolitano, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin and other officials on Monday for “willfully withholding” police protection ahead of the politically charged event.

Robles is seeking $23 million in damages and an injunction ordering city and university police to “undergo proper training on how to handle ‘riot’ situations” and requiring officers to “uphold their oath to serve and protect all victims, regardless of their political beliefs or sexual orientation.”

Robles claims she tried to attend Yiannopoulos’ speech on Feb. 1 before it was canceled due to violent protests that the university blamed on “150 masked agitators” that caused $100,000 in damage.

At the time she was attacked, Robles says “nearly 100 campus police and SWAT members waited in the Student Union building, within eyesight of the violence happening outside, watching as protesters became more belligerent and dangerous.”

Though the university typically provides police protection for politically charged events and protests, the school denied that standard level of protection on Feb. 1 “because Milo Yiannopoulos and a large number of his supporters, including Plaintiff Robles, are gay,” the 37-page complaint, filed in the Northern District of California, says.

Robles also blamed the school’s inaction on its open hostility toward conservative viewpoints such as those shared by Yiannopoulos and his supporters. The complaint cites a statement made by Berkeley chancellor and co-defendant Nicholas Dirks in February, in which he called Yiannopoulos “a troll and provocateur who uses odious behavior in part to ‘entertain,’ but also to deflect any serious engagement with ideas.”

The lawsuit claims the university “clearly gives preferential treatment and protection to those students and student organizations that represent political ideals that fall in line with those held by its own liberal administration.”

The complaint also accuses House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton of encouraging violence against supporters of President Donald Trump.

Robles says Pelosi endorsed violence against Trump supporters by “smiling and laughing” when outgoing California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton raised his middle fingers and yelled “Fuck Donald Trump” at a state Democratic party convention last month.

Additionally, Robles claims two groups – The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN); and In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America (Refuse Fascism) – helped organize and stir up violence at the event, leading to Robles being assaulted with pepper spray.

The lawsuit describes BAMN, of which Berkeley’s mayor is a “widely publicized member,” as a “low level terrorism group” and “radical left wing communist group” with a history of organizing violent protests. Robles also calls Refuse Fascism a “left wing, anti-Trump” group in her lawsuit.

“Both BAMN and Refuse Fascism are responsible for the orchestration of the riots that occurred during the Milo Yiannopoulos event,” the complaint states. “BAMN and Refuse Fascism members appeared at the protest to assault peaceful pro-President Trump/pro-Milo Yiannopolous supporters and vandalize UC Berkeley and private property.”

The lawsuit lobs 12 claims against the university, city of Berkeley and other defendants. The counts include violation of Robles’ rights to free speech and equal protection under the law, as well as negligence, premises liability, assault, battery, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims.

Robles is represented by Michael Kolodzi of Beverly Hills.

After Yiannopoulos’s speech was canceled, Berkeley College Republicans declared, “The Free Speech Movement is dead,” at the same college campus that has long been heralded as the “birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.”

The University of California was hit with a similar lawsuit in April accusing it of muzzling conservative speech after it canceled an event for conservative firebrand Ann Coulter amid safety concerns.

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof, the Berkeley City Attorney’s Office, and Rep. Pelosi’s office did not immediately return phone calls or emails seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.


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