Student protesters file claim against City College and SF citing injuries, defamation

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Student protester Otto Pippenger is filing a claim against City College of San Francisco and the city of San Francisco. Seen here, Pippenger describes the numerous injuries he sustained at the hands of the SFPD.
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Student protesters filed a claim against City College of San Francisco and the city and county of San Francisco today, citing excessive use of force by San Francisco Police Department and City College police officers.

The claim is a first step before filing a lawsuit against San Francisco, and was announced at a press conference earlier today [Tues/27] at City College's Ocean Campus. The two students filing the claim, Dimitrios Philliou and Otto Pippenger, may seek over $10,000 in damages, according to the claim. They allege they were physically and emotionally injured by police violence in a March 13 protest against City College's state-appointed Special Trustee Bob Agrella, who entirely replaced City College's elected Board of Trustees. 

The two students also asked for the college's chancellor, Arthur Q. Tyler, to retract his public statements they say casts blame for the violence on the protesters.

“I think everyone on the City College campus and in the larger community agree that violence is not a means to solving disagreement," Tyler wrote in an email addressed to the college's student body, faculty and staff shortly after the protest. The two students said they were defamed publicly to students and faculty.

"The public statement blaming protesters reached tens of thousands of people at the school I go to," Pippenger said at the press conference.

Tyler was not available for comment as he is on a business trip in Texas, his staff told us. City College spokesperson Jeff Hamilton would not comment due to the pending litigation.

The two students are represented by Rachel Lederman, the president of the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area chapter.

The protest erupted in response to the special trustee allegedly curtailing democracy at City College. The school is in a fight for its life, and Agrella's role is to see the college maintains its accreditation. But he said the urgency to save the school was sufficient reason to halt public meetings and public comments which used to be standard practice under the college's board.

dfornone

Previous coverage: Check out "Democracy For None," recounting the March 13 City College protest and the state of democracy at the school.

That removed an important place for students to decry policy changes, such as class cuts that harm the most vulnerable, Philliou and Pippenger alleged. Eventually, the protesters' cries reached Agrella and he partially restored public board meetings, though they are not broadcast nor recorded. 

It's a small victory, and it took the injuries of the two students filing claims, Phillou and Pippenger, to draw media attention to their plight. Philliou said students and faculty at the protest "were met by attacks from police and were beaten, brutalized, attacked, and arrested." 

He later experienced sleep deprivation, emotional torment, and has since felt unsafe while at school. Agrella refused to speak to him, Phillou said, and he was instead "met with brutality."

Pippenger described how he sustained his injuries speaking slowly, and methodically.

"At the height of the violence, right there," he said at the site of the conflict, pointing behind him to where he was beaten, "I was first struck repeatedly with fists, and then thrown to the concrete and restrained by a number of officers. I was then beaten on the pavement, insensate and unbreathing beneath five or six bodies, as one officer punched me in the back of the head and against the pavement. My fists were broken, and I sustained a concussion." 

coppunchesstudent

 

In the animated GIF above, student protester Otto Pippenger is held on the ground, face against the cement, while an officer throws a punch to the back of his head. The full video is at the bottom of this post.

It is SFPD policy not to comment once a claim has been filed, police spokesperson Officer Albie Esparza told the Guardian. The City Attorney's Office, who would represent the city and the police, had not yet seen the text of the claim. 

 

Since the protest, Tyler convened three open meetings aimed at improving campus discourse, and to gain insight into how to handle student demonstrations in the future. A newly formed school task force on "Civil Discourse and Campus Climate" has been appointed and will soon have its first meeting.

For more background, see our previous coverage of the bloody protest in "Democracy for None [3/18]."

Comments

Sounds to me like the cops should be suing the protesters.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2014 @ 2:03 pm

I can't comment on all the injuries to the officers, but one of them was a bruise to the knuckles from punching a student who was facedown and in cuffs.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

For six cops to be injured trying to manage a protest, I think most reasonable people would infer that the protesters got out of hand.

And if that happened, then the chances are that a couple of them might have been injured.

I'm not seeing any merit in their case.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2014 @ 2:29 pm

but for a jury.

Of San Franciscans. :)

Good on these students for fighting back against this police riot.

Posted by Greg on May. 27, 2014 @ 5:31 pm

You never would, because of your obvious evident anti-police bias.

Unless you lie about that of course, which hardly gives you the moral high ground either.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

The problem is that Greg doesn't see himself as being a cop hater. Just because it's blatantly obvious to everyone else, doesn't mean he has to acknowledge it.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2014 @ 6:29 pm

"I'm just relying on my elementary paper plane experience," said Bush, "I was a pro back then. It is just a simulated experience for serious pilots and trainee pilots. Things take a turn when Andy needs to demonstrate an eye wash.

Posted by http://pit.Enhost.net.pl on Jul. 18, 2014 @ 2:43 pm

You didn't see anything. You wern't there at the trial, you wern't there wehn it happened. I was on the outside. I saw cops beat stuedents, not vice cesa. The videos show the same. It is up to the jury to decide. At least they will hear from people whos aw something. Like I did.

Posted by Guest ethan davidson on May. 28, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

"vice cesa"? Did you mean "vice versa"?

Oh yeah, CCSF is a jewel.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 2:26 pm

Ethan -

You're supposed to be a college student and you write like that? I know kids under ten who can write and spell better than that. Pathetic.

Your English is almost as bad as those of the Nigerian spammers on here. At least they can say that they live in another country. What's your excuse?

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 9:36 pm

Aw, this was a really good post. Taking the time and actual effort to
create a superb article… but what can I say… I put things
off a whole lot and don't manage to get anything done.

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The communication might contain details of the latest response from the Chinese
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Posted by www.decodiams.com on Jul. 31, 2014 @ 6:42 am

None of you were there. I was. All the violence was perpetrated by police. If they were hurt it was due to their own recklessness and being involved in a crowd of frightened people. I also sustained injuries myself, simply for trying to enter a public building. If you read the reports you cannot possibly defend what these police did. Besides, the point is removing the special trustee. Only then will democracy and resources that were destroyed be returned to the college. And we will keep organizing too! This isn't over until Agrella is taken down.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2014 @ 10:24 pm

All right you hipster doofus. The fact that it's a "public building" doesn't mean that an angry mob should be allowed in. And because you want to meet with the trustee doesn't mean he has to come talk to you ignorant crybabies whenever you want. There's a process. The "resources" you're referring to are the reason ccsf is having the problems it's having. You should just go to your almost-entirely-taxpayer-subsidized classes and be grateful that changes are in the works to make your next 17 semesters at the 2-yr school will continue to be supported by taxpayers thanks to the badly needed reforms that are in the works.

Oh, and your skinned knees and palms will heal soon. Unfortunately your fragile emotions will never be as precious as they were before that day. That means you'll just have to grow the hell up.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 3:12 am

Okay, this is hands down my favorite worst Troll post of the past year. If there were Troll Oscars, I would give one to you, Guest. It's the comment equivalent of watching "The Room": so bad, it's hilarious.

*slow clap*

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on May. 28, 2014 @ 11:32 am

What did he say that you can prove to be wrong?

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 12:04 pm

Joe--Glad you appreciated my critique of Guest's post, claiming "all the violence was perpetrated by police", among other misguided comments. Allow me to re-state my points sans the well-deserved insults and exaggeration. Please let me know which statements you disagree with. I've numbered them for quick reference.

1) These "protesters" are operating under the assumption that they are righteously entitled unfettered access to "public building", regardless of risks to public safety. Law enforcement justifiably "locked down" the building in the interest of public safety. Guest's statement that he was [simply trying to enter a public building] are at best naive, but more likely a half-assed, cynical attempt at some legal justification for their aggression towards police attempting to secure the building.

2) "All the violence was perpetrated by police". Wrong. See #1. I don't know one way or the other if the tactics used by police, either through isolated incidents or systemically, were excessive. Once again, it's a half-assed, cynical argument to claim that "police perpetrated violance" on an angry mob in the process of illegally accessing a locked-down building. Completely unrealistic expectation that police would not attempt to use physical means to restrain/control the mob. By attempting to bypass police to access the building they are (obviously) attempting to secure, there should be an expectation that police will respond with physical force.

3) The primary reason CCSF is in so much trouble is that they have unsustainable, non-compliant financial systems. This is why the "resources" Guest refers to are no longer available. Part of the reason that the finances are unsustainable is that "students" are able to take an unlimited number of courses, without a degree program, on a fee structure that is almost entirely subsidized by taxpayers and essentially free for the "students". I agree that CCSF is a valuable asset to the state, and tuition should be affordable, but the perpetual students should have to pay their fair share, and should get secondary preference beyond people working toward a degree program. (I use "students" in quotes to refer to the perpetual students and/or the students who are using university resources taking courses for fun at the expense of students who need these resources to start or enhance their career. I mean no sort of insult to the students who are working toward an end.)

4) As CCSF is attempting to put some adult supervision in charge to become financially sustainable and in turn retain accreditation, there should be an expectation that it is not "business as usual"--particularly since there is a short timeframe to save CCSF. Attempting to "take Agrella down" will accomplish nothing since he will either 1) be replaced by another "adult" or 2) replaced by someone who will not be able to take the tough actions to retain accreditation. CCSF staff and students need to recognize that while they might not like everything he does, he's their best hope at keeping the school accredited. It is not a realistic expectation that they will return to the old ways in the short-term.

5) To expand on 4), since the trustee has a pretty full plate to quickly bring CCSF in to compliance, students need to realize that they should not expect unrestricted access to the school's leaders. Furthermore, it sounds like they did restore the public meetings, and I'm guessing it wouldn't have taken an angry mob to do so.

6) I flat out don't buy "Guest's" claim that he "sustained injuries" of any serious degree--otherwise we'd be reading about him filing a complaint in this article as well. Whatever minor injuries he experienced

7) Regarding the last sentence on "growing up" and "fragile emotions". Either the poster was a justifiably naive 18-20 yr old student beginning to make his foray into the real world, a 35-yr old professional victim, or somewhere in between. Either way, he is misguided, naive, and yes...has to grow up.

8) I've never seen "The Room". Thanks for confirming I'm not missing anything.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 4:19 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 4:51 pm

Just not as much as it may have, you know, three seasons ago.
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Posted by jozefoslaw24.Pl on Jul. 31, 2014 @ 7:38 am

There was no process, that's the point. And how do you know their concusions and eye injurys will heal soon? And what do you know about PTSD?

Posted by Guest ethan davidson on May. 28, 2014 @ 2:11 pm

Once the police have to force you to leave, there will inevitably be some injuries. I'm comfortable that the least possible force was used to clear the area.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 2:27 pm

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Posted by http://Www.ekobiety.pl/ on Jul. 24, 2014 @ 8:21 pm

PTSD is when you have to endure months and years of stress and/or witness your friends and others blown to bits and bodies mangled. People in North Korean prison camps get PTSD. If anyone was "traumatized", they could have freely left the situation any time. Ditto for the bumps and bruises. And like I said in my response to Joe, I can't comment one way or the other on whether or not police tactics were excessive at any point.

Confront a cop and break the law, you're on your own, boss.

Frickin professional victims, I swear. College is supposed to be an empowering experience. Not an exercise in mob mentality and whining when you don't get your way.

Refer to Item 4 in my response to Joe regarding "process".

Posted by Alleged Troll Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 7:35 pm

Therefore you knowingly broke the law and the police had to forcibly remove you. Any injuries caused thereby were because of your own refusal to obey orders.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 5:36 am

I can do whatever I want and you have to let me, if you don't let me do what I want, you are not "respecting" me.

I blame the parents for creating these little monsters.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 6:33 am

Yes, as a member of "the public", I am entitled to enter any public space at any time for any reason. On top of that, I am entitled to take advantage of every loophole and grey area in the law, as well as any challenges with enforcing any laws. Don't want me to go into the building? Eff you, There are 1000 of us and 30 cops. Try to stop us. At the same time, law enforcement is to be held to the highest standard at all times. Try to stop aforementioned crowd of 1000? Perform outreach first. One of us has to use the potty? Let us into our "public" bathroom. We then may or may not exercise our "free speech" rights by opening the public door to the public building that the police have locked down for my safety and the safety of others drying to do their jobs and get the services they need.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm on my way to my Victimization Studies class.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 9:30 am

just because it is public, as the Occupy folks quickly discovered.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 10:03 am

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Posted by http://links.wasr-10.com/index.php?a=stats&u=felicitmelvin on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 2:57 pm

It's called Civil Disobedience. The world is a better place because of it.

Posted by Guest ethan davidson on May. 28, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

and usually rebounds on those who disobey, as clearly seen here.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

a southern lunch counter and terrible CCSF management?

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Posted by Wizaz.pl on Jul. 23, 2014 @ 4:57 pm

Jason Grant Garza here ... great, well at least the students MIGHT have a chance since they have the National Lawyers Guild ... what the students should keep in mind is that CCSF (City College of SF) and CCSF (City and County of SF - Herrera) will pull all stops, use scorched earth tactics, accuse the students of WHATEVER in defense The important thing is NOT to settle and GET a verdict of fault and guilt. Let me give the students a PRIME example in 2001 SF broke medical law, when I took them t federal court (C02-3485PJH) they lied and had my case thrown out. In 2007 they signed a confession with the Office of Inspector General (who had $$$ and lawyers since JUSTICE I for the RICH) admitting fault and guilt YET let their innocent vindicated victim for DEAD. http://myownprivateguantanamo.com/settle1.html It is 2014 and NO ONE from DPH, the courts, SFPD, Sheriff or the CITY ATTORNEY have explained HOW I can have an arrest record never having been arrested before in my life sitting next to a confession in which he city admits it committed the CRME for which I have the record and was arrested. As a matter of fact it JUST continues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cP3jCmJFRo&list=TL51lO_JpjsTYannDqAtpdpx... .... go to youtube and type in Jason Garza to see over 400 videos.

Keep DRINKING the KOOL-AID and shall we see if the students settle thereby NOT getting an admission nor finding of fault an guilt in order to set precedent? I wonder HOW the National Lawyers Guild will advise them on this critical and important issue and fact.
5 will get you 10 ... it is too risky to go to court we suggest you settle thereby NO finding of guilt and guess who gets to re-commit.
Learn the GAMES.....

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on May. 28, 2014 @ 5:57 am

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Posted by effectively lose on Jul. 29, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

The violence did not have to occur. The students were protesting the imposition of the special trustee on CCSF, and the decisions that have been made that prevent some students from enrolling in classes.

The special trustee acts like the a dictator-answerable to no one in the community. He makes decisions contrary to the will of San Francisco voters- cancelling the voter approved building of the Preforming Arts Center and has recklessly attacked faculty and department heads.

Had the chancellor had the decency to be present to meet and converse with the students, a meaningful, and perhaps, uncomfortable, dialogue, which is missing these days at CCSF, could have occurred.

Instead, the chancellor, or someone in a position of authority called in the police and the ensuing, unecessary, violence broke out.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 7:46 am

such as the disaster that was the running of the financing of the performing arts center.

Also, why build a performing arts center when the whole is in near receivership?

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 6:25 pm

In my trainings in non violent protest, we learned not to put hands on police officers. Also student protesters were yelling insults at the police, which might not be illegal but it's a type of violence....I don't support the apparent punching of a student who was on the ground, but also heard that student protesters were in the building before the protest and knocked down another student and her kid. Maybe there's a reason they decided to close the public building to additional protesters. There's more to this than meets the eye-especially with the animated and other videos that replay one moment over and over again....

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2014 @ 10:53 am

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