Protester Sues City and Police

Will Evans of The Daily Californian staff contributed to this report

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Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi, a 21-year-old activist and middle school teacher, is suing the City of Berkeley, its police chief and numerous police officers for alleged civil rights violations during a KPFA protest last summer.

In a $1 million lawsuit filed last week, Jacobs-Fantauzzi claims that on July 21, 1999 his civil rights were violated when he was arrested and allegedly assaulted by police. Boalt Hall law school alumnus John Burris, an Oakland civil rights attorney who has also represented Rodney King in a successful civil lawsuit, rap artist Tupac Shakur and basketball player Jason Kidd, will represent Jacobs-Fantauzzi.

A member of KPFA's local advisory board, Jacobs-Fantauzzi was arrested last summer during a protest against the Pacifica Corporation, KPFA's parent company, and charged with obstructing a police officer. He has said that five police officers piled on top of him to arrest him.

"They hogtied me, dragging me, threw me head first into the paddy wagon and drove me around with nothing to secure myself," Jacobs-Fantauzzi said in an interview earlier this year. He was out of town yesterday and unavailable for comment.

The protest was part of a long series of protests against Pacifica, which KPFA staffers said was impinging on the station's free speech.

Burris said yesterday that police violated the Fourth Amendment, which secures citizens' freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause.

"Jacobs-Fantauzzi is suing because he was falsely arrested and roughed up during the process," Burris said. "He was denied medical treatment and he was taunted while in custody."

At the time of the incident, Burris said, Jacobs-Fantauzzi was functioning as the designated police liaison for community activists.

"The police didn't want to recognize his efforts to communicate to them the protesters' wishes," Burris said.

Burris, author of a book about police abuse entitled "Blue vs. Black: Let's End the Conflict Between Cops and Minorities," said in a statement that "although the police were generally restrained during the protest, it is not surprising that a young African American man was singled out for mistreatment."

The lawsuit also addresses allegedly inadequate police training and supervision and the failure of departmental policy to monitor officers' conduct properly, Burris said.

"Jacobs-Fantauzzi is suing the police chief for failure to enforce policies that allowed for the officers' conduct to occur properly supervised," he said.

Following his arrest, Jacobs-Fantauzzi was the only protester prosecuted in Oakland Superior Court for resisting arrest. He was acquitted May 17.

An acquittal in a criminal case does not imply that there was insufficient cause for arrest, said Berkeley City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque.

"In a civil case, the person arrested has to prove by a preponderance of evidence that the police officers did not have probable cause to arrest," Albuquerque said. "But the burden of proof in a criminal case is very high."

Albuquerque could not comment on the specifics of Jacobs-Fantauzzi's lawsuit because litigation is ongoing.

Berkeley police Sgt. Rudolf Files, who heads the police union, testified during the trial that police arrested Jacobs-Fantauzzi for obstructing the officers' attempts to prevent protesters from erecting tents.

"He told me to cease and desist what we were doing," Files said inside the courtroom. "I told him if he continued to stand in front of me and impede me that his actions were in violation of the law."

Police, however, would not comment on the pending lawsuit, which was filed exactly one year after Jacobs-Fantauzzi's arrest.


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