Widgets Magazine

University threatened with lawsuit over MLK Day bridge protest

The University received an email shortly after the Silicon Shutdown protest on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, “expressing concern and threatening to file a lawsuit,” according to an email to The Daily from Brad Hayward, senior director of strategic communications for the University.

The protest took place on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, blocking traffic.

According to a source familiar with the content of the email, the email was written by a member of a family that was on the bridge at the time. A 3-year-old girl was allegedly experiencing medical distress, and the protest blocked the family’s route to the hospital.

At publication time, the University had not been served with any such lawsuit.

University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin wrote in an email to The Daily that the University had also received other complaints from motorists and the general public regarding the protest.

“The protest was not a University sanctioned event, and the Silicon Shutdown group is not a University organization or recognized student group,” Lapin wrote. “The case of the Silicon Shutdown participants is a matter being investigated and prosecuted by the CHP and the San Mateo County District Attorney.”

The ASSU stated that it has also not been served with any such lawsuit.

“[T]he ASSU is not currently facing any litigation at the moment,” wrote Frederik Groce ’14, the ASSU Financial Manager, in an email to The Daily.

petition circulated around campus recently in support of the Silicon Shutdown protesters who had previously been arrested on misdemeanor charges the day of the protest.

In an email to The Daily, Silicon Shutdown organizers wrote that the petition had not been circulated by their organization.

“We know of no additional charges filed against any of those arrested in the #ReclaimMLK action,” they wrote. They added that they believe the part of the petition that expresses support for the protesters because “they are currently facing legal charges” references the day-of-protest arrests.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the letter was written by an attorney on behalf of the family. The letter was written by a family member.

Andrew Vogeley contributed to this report.

Contact Alice Phillips at alicep1 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Alice Phillips

Alice Phillips '15 is Managing Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. Previously, she worked as the paper's Deputy Editor, Chief Copy Editor, a News Desk Editor and a News Staff Writer. Alice is a biology major from Los Angeles, California.

About Catherine Zaw

Catherine Zaw was formerly the Managing Editor of News for Vol. 245 and Vol. 246. To contact her, please email czaw13@gmail.com.
  • My thoughts

    These parents should go through with this lawsuit. Yes, this was not a Stanford event. But these were Stanford students. And Stanford is apparently doing nothing about this, instead deferring the investigation to local authorities. I thought that was the whole point of Judicial Affairs- to internally investigate breaches of law and order and to discipline accordingly, regardless of what happens with external investigations.

    Until these students are disciplined under the Fundamental Standard, I am withholding donations from the University. At least until I have kids and have to start working on that legacy angle.

  • The Wind of Freedom BLOWS

    Sign this to petition Stanford to file a formal concern and bring a Fundamental Standard case against the Stanford 68:

    https://www.change.org/p/stanford-university-bring-a-fundamental-standard-charge-against-the-stanford-68

  • Disgusted

    How stupid of them to block a freeway! Aren’t these supposed to be stanford students… you can protest on the side of the road without almost killing a 3 year old girl for you to have an adventure field trip!

  • Laura

    Appears that the wind of freedom does not include freedom of speech.

  • Guest

    Freedom of speech is not the same as threatening public safety. If you were on the side of the freeway you would have had just as loud a voice. MLK was arrested for what he was saying, not the nature in which he was saying it!

  • Candid One

    “Speech” is not a one-way transaction. Rights are imparted along with the responsibilities for their exercise. Rights are not a blank check. Unintended consequences? Uh-huh, sure.

    Context is the metaphysical counterpart of location in the physical world. Location, location, location. Context, context, context. Disregard–or ignorance–of implications of “speech” are not Constitutionally protected.

    Karma sucks, huh?

  • History Lesson

    Governer Wallace denounces MLK’s Selma march as a threat to public safety: http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/61293.htm

    MLK was arrested for breaking the laws against public demonstrations. Seems must easier to support civil disobedience in retrospect.

  • Mike

    Just because MLK did something doesn’t make it right. Don’t you know about the violent things that Nelson Mandela did in the 1990s? We should evaluate these activities based on their consequences (i/e brain damage to a child) rather than the person that did it in the past.

  • Wind of freedom BLOWS

    “Freedom of speech” doesn’t give you a blank check to do whatever you want. These Stanford students were free to say whatever they want on Stanfords campus. They did not, on the other hand, have the freedom to stand in the middle of the highway, causing accidents and blocking people from getting to the hospital, while they make their statement. It’s pretty simple if you’re not an idiot.

  • Steven Johnson

    Self-righteous moralism indifferent and callous to the rights and safety of others… These days parents should be very careful which universities they pay for their children’s education.

  • sez-who

    Silicon Shutdown doesn’t give a red rat’s rear end about freedom of movement – say, the freedom to move a sick child to a hospital. It is quite possible to speak without physically obstructing other people. A person too stupid to know that, or too uncivil to abide by it, will never ever be educated, regardless of how credentialed they may appear.

    In any case, cries for freedom are nonsensical from such protesters. If they cared for freedom, they would allow freedom to their fellow citizens.

  • Franklin

    Knowingly blocking a road with no exit is really no different to a person blocking you from leaving a building. And if that occurred, it would be treated as unlawful restraint.

  • RD457FF22H

    How is expecting demonstrators to stay out of the way of an ambulance or fire truck a restriction on freedom of speech?

  • Joshua K.

    Whoever was responsible for blocking the bridge deserves to get sued. But it’s not clear to me why the university should be held responsible for that, other than that it has deep pockets.

  • skullbreathe

    The demonstrators will say it was within their free speech rights to block the freeway. Ask them if they also feel the same away about demonstrators who block abortion clinics. Same circumstances; you’ll get a different answer.

  • Karen

    Next time, one of the motorist should scream ” I am on my way to have an abortion! Let me through!”. It will be amusing to see lefties spin themselves into to a tizzy of which extremist group they should appease.

  • Rebecca

    Remember that time a bunch of white activists blocked all traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge to protest against the lack of funding for AIDS? I wonder who threatened to sue them?

  • Rebecca

    Did you actually ask any of the participants? Or are you just poking at straw men? I thought so!

  • Karen’s friend

    Amen to that

  • Guest

    A 3 year old girl needing medical attention at a hospital.

  • TheCardinalRules

    The students who participated in this protest should be charged with violating the Funadmental Standard and disciplined accordingly. Maybe a quarter at home would knock some sense into them.

    It is one thing to express your viewpoint, which they have every right to do. It is another to do so in such a reckless and irresponsible manner. Their act is an embarrassment to the University.

  • guest

    Right, anything and anywhere that anybody who’s affiliated with Stanford does, is something that concerns the University and therefore has to be investigated for possible disciplinary violations and needs accordingly punished. That should include talking/texting on your cell phone while driving in, say, Connecticut over winter break, stealing candy bars in Milwaukee, slapping your boy friend, and while we’re at it, also underage drinking while you’re abroad. Never mind that the drinking age may be lower in other countries, Stanford disciplinary rules and regulations follow you off campus.

  • Anonymous

    No protest should ever cause bodily harm to another person. I am abhorred that the students did not think about the consequences of their actions. MLK would be ashamed that students did this in his name–“civil disobedience” refers to non violence, but also implied in that is that there is no physical harm as well. To block a bridge with no exit, and to not take into account where people were going to–not only was a child in medical distress, but who knows, maybe someone did not get to say goodbye to a loved one due to their actions? I am in support of freedom of speech, but to (unintentionally, albeit) harm another person through a demonstration is wrong and shameful.

  • ThisIsPalestine

    Then if you guys are so sure you’re right, go ahead and go to jail.

  • alum

    Please re-read the Fundamental Standard and civil rights history and the statements of these students. I hope you can be open-minded and reflective enough to come to realize they were acting in full accordance with the Fundamental Standard. What better way to commemorate Martin Luther King Junior day than to demonstrate for civil rights in an action of non-violent direct action civil disobedience and to get arrested on a bridge. I, in fact, believe that attacking or threatening these noble students would violate the Fundamental Standard.

  • alum

    You’re kidding, right?

  • alum

    I suspect the demonstrators would have assisted ambulances and fire trucks: that is the nature of these noble people who engaged in this non-violent demonstration trying to make this world a better place. I know of no ambulance or fire truck or request for assistance. Please reconsider your biases that led you to make your unfavorable assumptions about these people.

  • alum

    What assumptions you make. Did they cause collisions ( I think you were thinking of “collisions” when you used the word “accidents”) or were there other causative factors involved in those collisions? If there was someone who needed to be in the hospital, did they make that need known? Certainly there were many highway patrol personnel who could have assisted in response to that need, had it been known. Please reconsider your your biases ….

  • alum

    actually, I think people were arrested both for what they were saying and for how they were saying it. I don’t think facts support your allegation that a demonstration on the side of the freeway would have been well heard. In fact, the lack of attention by most media to the many demonstrations on that day and the fact that this message is still needed in 2015 raise questions of just how important issues should be brought to the attention of so many people who seem not to want to consider them.

  • alum

    Please, everyone. Please think before you rush to judgement. Please think before you comment. Thank you.

  • My thoughts

    It seems you’re being sarcastic, but perhaps you should read the Fundamental Standard again. It includes actions “within and without” the University. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

    Now, you could make the argument that what students do off campus is between them and the pertinent authorities. But these hooligans were advertising the fact that they were Stanford students– they had Stanford gear on and they published articles and posted on social media as Stanford students, not everyday citizens.

    Stanford gives these students an education, a diploma, and a lifelong membership into the alumni network. In return, these students not only have to pay some money, but do the work needed to pass their classes AND represent themselves and the University in a proper light.

  • Guest

    Are these students being punished? Sued? Fined? Anything? This is ridiculous.

  • thanks for the info it , we as human beings must respect each other and concrete examples in the online world is the best to exchange comments . may god bless ingsaalloh
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