Four, wearing hooded robes and Guy Fawkes masks in a strange protest from Sonoma County, are suing the sheriff’s deputies

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Four protesters arrested at a wooded Sonoma County retreat two years ago after staging a strange, masked protest against a visiting Berkeley nonprofit group with a focus on rational thinking have sued the retreat and the deputies of the Sonoma County Sheriff and claims they were tortured and one was ridiculed for being transgender.

Gwen Danielson, 27, Emma Borhanian, 30, Jack Lasota, 30, and Alexander Leatham, 21 – currently facing criminal charges related to the protest – filed a federal lawsuit on Monday alleging the defendants violated their civil rights by discontinuing their rightful actions in Westminster Woods in a redwood forest near Occidental.

Authorities said they all wore Guy Fawkes-style robes and masks popularized by the decentralized hacktivist group “Anonymous” when they staged their November 15, 2019 schoolchildren protest.

The demonstration, the four said, was intended to draw attention to the cover-up of a crime – although they did not provide any evidence in their lawsuit. The Sonoma County Quartet sued the county as well as Westminster Woods, two of its leaders and the deputies of the Sonoma County Sheriff, Joseph Ricks and Daniel Ager.

Protesters were released on bail after being charged with criminal conspiracy and five offenses in November 2019, including wrongful imprisonment, willful cruelty to a child and wearing a mask to commit a crime. They have yet to make a plea, their civil attorney, Jerold Friedman, said as they battled prosecutors to clear body camera footage from the incident.

Authorities said the four were keeping people at the campsite when they protested the Berkeley-based Center for Applied Rationality, which held its annual alumni meeting at the retreat’s conference center.

Jack Carroll, the centre’s operations director, said Tuesday, “I was one of the people on site at the time and it was a very scary experience. Personally, I don’t know of any cover-up. “

The sheriff’s office said the suspects arrived in a panel van, shuttle bus and Toyota Prius and used the vehicles to block the entrance and exit of Westminster Woods while wearing black hooded robes, black gloves, black silicone shoe covers and the Wore Guy Fawkes masks. also made famous by the dystopian superhero film “V for Vendetta” from 2005.

Police said the protesters wore walkie-talkies, one with a body camera and another with pepper spray.

The lawsuit alleges that the four people exercised their freedom of speech when a Westminster Woods agent told police that the protesters had a gun. They claim they have no guns, but the 911 call sparked a response from the SWAT team and the lockdown that affected two dozen school children on a high ropes course.

Deputy Ricks arrested all four of them, and the lawsuit claims he inappropriately touched Lasota, who is transgender. The lawsuit alleges that Ager did not intervene as the supervisory deputy.

A spokesman for the sheriff’s office said Tuesday the office was unable to comment on any pending litigation. Efforts to reach out to the leaders of Westminster Woods have not been successful.

When the protesters were taken to Sonoma County Jail, they claim that their treatment has worsened. They were withheld from food, water and medicine to force a confession, their lawyer said. “One or more of them were required to wear Abu Ghraib-style hoods for no other purpose than to torture them,” Friedman said.

Lasota was “stripped naked and ridiculed and mocked for being transgender,” the lawsuit said.

Two years ago, a sheriff’s office official said the defendants were uncooperative and incoherent when they were arrested, and that their actions terrified guests at the campsite, a few miles from the famous Bohemian Grove. Flyers found by MPs indicated the group was protesting against artificial intelligence and the Berkeley group.

“CFAR does not even remotely do what they claim on their website: They are not developing any new rationality / mental technology worth mentioning,” says the flyer. “CFAR’s founding premise (that people were prevented from having the tools to think) was faked long ago.”

The Center for Applied Rationality issued statements two years ago saying that they were familiar with some of the protesters and that two of them had been asked not to attend the event because of “irregular behavior”. The group said they were unsure of what the protesters were upset about and said their actions were “like an aggressive but non-violent theater of protest”.

Friedman said the lawsuit will be on hold pending criminal proceedings, which are scheduled for Wednesday.

Matthias Gafni is a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @mgafni



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