Christopher Anderson remembers officers beating on his shins with their batons.
He recounted how a massive deputy sheriff struck him about five times, each blow more forceful than the last. Seizing his baton with both hands, another officer struck Anderson twice in his face, on his upper gum and nose. The Cal senior felt blood running down his face.
The incident is detailed in a lawsuit charging UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and chiefs of three police departments with violating the civil rights of 30 protesters, including Anderson, during a Nov. 9 Occupy Berkeley demonstration.
The 65-page suit, filed by attorney Ronald Cruz in the Northern California U.S. District Court June 30, seeks $15 million in damages.
Birgeneau and other administrators unleashed a "planned, violent attack against these peaceful protesters," the complaint says.
Police "used shocking, unconscionable violence: peaceful protesters were forcefully jabbed in their chests, stomachs, and groins, clubbed in the face, yanked by their hair, and beaten while lying on the ground," the suit alleges. "Even after the police destroyed students' tents, they continued to viciously beat people."
In addition to five top university administrators, the suit names chiefs of police for the UC Berkeley and Oakland police departments and the Alameda County Sheriff as well as several individual officers. The Berkeley Police Department played no role.
Oakland attorney Lynne Goldsberry Stocker, representing the defendants, said she could not comment on a pending litigation. Cruz did not return repeated calls.
As described in the complaint, demonstrators gathered to protest steep tuition hikes and what they saw as the increasing "privatization" of the university under Birgeneau's leadership. They voted to set up an encampment near Sproul Plaza.
Police showed up around 3:30 p.m. The complaint alleges that they brought with them a near-unquenchable thirst for violence.
Among the suit's allegations are these:
- A deputy sheriff jabbed lead plaintiff Yvette Falarca repeatedly in the stomach and struck her the collar bone and throat. She suffered multiple contusions on her ribs and midsection and was later hospitalized.
- Francisco Alvarado-Ross fell to the ground as police advanced, beating him with batons and shouting "Move! Move! Move!" However, "this was impossible because he was on the ground and they kept beating him down with their batons."
- Officers ridiculed a man who could barely walk after being beaten, calling him a "cry baby."
- Joshua Anderson saw "a very small young woman" crying with pain as she sustained numerous blows. He was beaten when he attempted to shield her. He tripped and fell toward Sproul Hall. "He heard a police officer behind him say, "All right, mother f----r... this officer put his arm around Mr. Anderson's neck, obstructing his breathing and used his other arm to hold him around the waist while another office beat his with his truncheon
Honest Chung was pounded so forcefully that a soda can in his backpack exploded. He was taken to the hospital.
In addition, the plaintiffs were subjected to "retaliatory prosecutions," charging them with "malicious" blocking of sidewalks The Alameda County District Attorney dropped all the charges by April 26.
The actions violate the First and Fourth Amendment, the complaint says.
The defendants have until Aug. 13 to submit a written response or motion.