Two City College of San Francisco students who report suffering from broken bones and a concussion, as well as being choked and pepper-sprayed, at the hands of campus and city police filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday.
The alleged attacks on students Otto Pippenger, 21, and Dimitrios Philliou, 22, occurred during a campus demonstration on March 13 at Conlan Hall, their attorney, Rachel Lederman, told The Huffington Post. Students with the Save CCSF Coalition had gathered to peacefully occupy the hall to protest a new tuition payment system and to demand the resignation of a special, state-appointed trustee hired to help California's largest college keep its accreditation.
The coalition of students approached the building -- where they had carried out demonstrations before -- to find that the doors were locked and blocked by campus police, Lederman told HuffPost. When a student inside the building opened the door and the protesters began entering, officers began using aggressive force, and the San Francisco Police Department showed up.
According to the lawsuit, Pippenger suffered two broken wrists from a campus police officer and a concussion from an SFPD officer who hit him in the back of the head, and Philliou was slammed to the ground, choked and pepper-sprayed. They were both arrested but never charged. The suit was filed against the city, police departments, school district, college chancellor and alleged aggressors.
Lalo Gonzalez, the main student organizer of the protest, recalled the events to HuffPost.
"Out of nowhere, SFPD got involved and came in with their batons swinging," said Gonzalez, who held the door open for others after he got in the building. "They had already handcuffed [Pippenger], and he kept saying, 'I didn't do anything wrong; what did I do?' and they eventually grabbed him from his legs and arms and they lifted him up the stairs ... I've never seen that tactic used on someone, and it was really painful to watch."
The college and SFPD did not return HuffPost's requests for comment, and a spokesman for the San Francisco City Attorney's office said it did not yet have a record of the lawsuit.
Lederman says her clients are asking for compensation for civil rights violations and medical expenses. On behalf of the Save CCSF Coalition, which is also named in the lawsuit, she is asking for reforms to police policy and training.