Judge weighs Occupy protest suit against Berkeley brass

Sept. 11, 2013 at 4:03 PM
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OAKLAND, Calif., Sept. 11 (UPI) -- A California judge is weighing whether to allow a lawsuit against UC Berkeley school officials to proceed after a police crackdown on Occupy protesters.

The plaintiffs, a group of 29 protesters who say they were beaten and had their civil rights violated when campus police broke up their protest two years ago, are suing former University of California at Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, former Police Chief Mitch Celaya and six other school officials.

The lawsuit seeks $15 million in damages, half in general damages and half punitive damages.

Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers in federal district court in Oakland heard arguments from the plaintiffs' lawyer but questioned whether there was specific evidence to allow the suit to go forward against the former university leaders. Though Rogers did not rule on the matter Wednesday, the Oakland Tribune said she seemed skeptical the evidence plaintiffs produced met the standard for a civil suit.

"These are significant allegations you are making about people," Rogers said. "It is incumbent on me to make sure you have facts about each individual, and you have lumped many of them together."

George Washington, a lawyer representing the protesters, said orders were given campus police to break up the protest by any means necessary and school officials -- and not just the police officers themselves -- should be held accountable for the incident.

"The police went above and beyond the call of duty to beat the hell out of people and the administrators need to take responsibility," Washington said. "If they are dismissed, we still have the police officers."

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