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Five Cops Who Beat Protester at San Francisco Community College Must Face Lawsuit for Violating Rights — Judge Rules

Otto Pippenger having his free speech rights violated by police.
Otto Pippenger having his free speech rights violated by police.
By Dave Tartre
Five cops who allegedly beat a student protestor at a San Francisco community college must answer claims that the beating and subsequent arrest violated the student's constitutional rights, a federal judge ruled.

The City and County of San Francisco also faces potential liability for the participation of one its police officers, who joined City College of San Francisco police officers in responding to an on-campus rally this past year, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston found on Wednesday.

But police leaders, the school and its officials were given a pass as Illston granted their motions to dismiss for the most part.

The judge's ruling comes in response to motions to dismiss by a dozen defendants who are fighting a lawsuit that was filed by the student and a group called the Save CCSF Coalition.

Save CCSF organized an on-campus rally in March 2014, as City College was grappling with the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges' decision to revoke the school's accreditation.

The rally centered on the looming revocation as well as a new tuition policy. The group also called for the resignation of a special trustee who had been assigned to turn the school around.

The fairness of the revocation decision was the subject of a state court trial that ended earlier this year, with an order for a fresh review of the reasons behind it.

Before that trial ended, Otto Pippenger and the Save CCSF Coalition sued the police and chancellor of City College - as well as the city and police of San Francisco - for civil rights violations at the rally. They claim their free-speech rights were curbed and that the police used excessive force to unlawfully seize Pippenger, and then falsely imprisoned him.

Pippenger says that both City College and San Francisco police at the rally used violence to silence protestors. The man suffered concussions, broken wrists, bruises and pepper spray burns, he says in a federal civil rights lawsuit that claims police "brutalized" them.

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