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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Women Sue Alameda County for Harassment

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - In a federal class action, four civil rights activists claim they were sexually harassed and subjected to filthy conditions in the Alameda County jail.

Lead plaintiff Anne Weills, an attorney, sued Alameda County, Sheriff Gregory Ahern and seven named law enforcement officers, claiming the officers ordered the group to remove their shirts in front of male deputies and prisoners, among other things.

When some of the women refused to disrobe, a female deputy "threatened and assaulted them, pushed, shoved and twisted their arms, groped their bodies, took away their shoes, forced them to walk barefooted on filthy floors, and then locked them in isolation closets for long periods of time without access to toilet facilities, water or food," the Oct. 27 complaint says.

The plaintiffs also say they were denied medical treatment.

The four named plaintiffs say they have been arrested a total of at least 13 times. Weills says she was first arrested in 1963 and has been arrested seven times in the past five decades.

The women were arrested on Feb. 13 for minor trespass while protesting the California attorney general's failure to prosecute police officers who shoot and kill young black men.

The plaintiffs say defendant Deputy Karla Varela ordered them to strip off their shirts in a hallway that had a glass window from which male inmates could see.

"Weills stated that at her age, she was not going to disrobe in front of strange males," the complaint states.

The women say Varela and male deputies screamed: "You must take off your shirt; you have no rights."

The women said the jail had an overcrowded cell with a toilet and floor that were covered in menstrual blood and feces.

They plaintiffs seek preliminary and permanent injunctive relief and compensatory and punitive damages.

They're represented by Yolanda Huang of Berkeley.

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