Lawsuit filed over Nov. 9 protests

A group made up of 18 UC Berkeley students, one staff member and five others filed a federal lawsuit Monday against police and Berkeley administrators stemming from actions taken by the campus Nov. 9 to prevent Occupy Cal encampments on Sproul Plaza.

In a 41-page complaint, the plaintiffs allege that their First Amendment rights to free speech were violated, and that police used excessive and unjustified force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. They seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and an award of attorney’s fees.

Defendants include Chancellor Birgeneau and five other administration officials, UCPD Chief Mitch Celaya, the heads of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and Oakland Police Department and five officers.

In response, the administration has issued the following statement:

“It is disconcerting that the plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit that is filled with so many inaccuracies. For example, the claim that members of the administration are opposed to the “protesters’ defense of affordable, public education” is completely unfounded.

“Since arriving at UC Berkeley, Chancellor Birgeneau has established a consistent record of aggressively advocating for increased state funding for public higher education, and speaking out against the disinvestment that has led to dramatic increases in tuition. UC Berkeley’s administration is fully committed to preserving the public character, access and excellence of this university.

“The chancellor has also been very clear about the extent to which the events of Nov. 9, even if legally justifiable, are disturbing and inconsistent with the character and traditions of this institution. For that reason he has asked that the students, faculty, staff and community members who sit on our independent Police Review Board expedite the investigation of the confrontations. Their findings and recommendations will guide any changes in policy and practice that are needed to ensure we never have a repeat of the events of Nov. 9. At this point our attention is focused on supporting the board’s comprehensive review, for it is this process — not litigation — that will help us move forward together as a campus community.”