Former Black Panther leader files lawsuit against City’s Councilwoman

OAKLAND (BCN) — Former Black Panther Party leader Elaine Brown has filed a lawsuit against the city of Oakland and Councilwoman Desley Brooks, alleging that Brooks assaulted Brown at a restaurant in downtown Oakland last October.

In her lawsuit, filed late last week, Brown, 72, seeks $1 million from the city and $6 million from Brooks, 54, for an incident at the Everett & Jones Barbeque restaurant near Jack London Square at about 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 30 in which she alleges that Brooks punched her in the chest with two fists.

Brown alleges in the suit, filed by Sausalito attorney Charles Bonner, that Brooks’ punch sent her crashing “backwards head over heels over a stack of folding chairs” and she landed hard, hitting the back of her head on a chair.

Brown, who filed her initial claim in November and an amended claim in December, says she is suffering from “severe, permanent and debilitating” injuries to her head, neck and shoulders and suffers from post-concussive syndrome, which includes symptoms such as dizziness, poor memory and concentration and sleep disturbance.

Brown says she underwent surgery on March 30 to repair a massive rotator cuff tear, so her arm is in a sling and she can’t use her right hand to cut anything so she has to eat with her fingers and a fork, “which I found
somewhat humiliating.”

The suit also alleges that the city of Oakland knew or should have known that Brooks “has a propensity for assaulting behavior toward people with whom she has political disagreements” but has “failed to take any corrective action to protect the public from defendant Brooks.”

The suit alleges that in 2005 or 2006, Brooks assaulted a city employee during a closed-door City Council meeting in the presence of several councilmembers and other city officials by striking, pushing and hitting the person with two fists in the chest, “substantially similar to the violent and unprovoked attack on Ms. Brown.”

Reached by phone today, Brooks declined to comment on Brown’s suit, saying, “I’ve already issued my statement on this” and then hanging up without saying what her statement was.

Brown headed the Black Panther Party from 1974 to 1977 and served as an aide to Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson at the time of the incident last October, but hasn’t been able to return to work.

Brooks also served as an aide to Carson before she was elected to the City Council in 2002.

Brown filed a report about the incident with the Oakland Police Department but the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office is still investigating the matter.

In 2014, Carson and Brown co-founded Oakland and the World Enterprises Inc., a nonprofit seeking to transform a vacant West Oakland lot near the BART tracks into an urban farm and high-rise housing development employing former inmates.

In her suit, Brown said she went to Everett & Jones early in the evening of Oct. 30 to celebrate the filing of an application for $2.1 million in public funding for 60 units of affordable housing as part of the West Oakland project.

But Brown said in her suit that Brooks, who also was at the restaurant, “launched into a venomously aggressive monologue and tirade,”

saying that she would use her status as a councilmember to have the application withdrawn because “it is of no benefit to black people!”

Brown, who is black, as is Brooks, said she responded by telling Brooks that the project is important because it will provide services to all disadvantaged people in Oakland, not just black people.

The lawsuit accuses Brooks of elder abuse, assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

The suit alleges that Brooks is “a monster created by the city’s lack of administrative controls, poor ethical standards, and absurd, race-based political environment that lets her survive.”

Brown’s suit seeks $1 million from the city of Oakland and $3 million in general damages plus $3 million in punitive damages from Brooks.

The City Council in January denied Brown’s claim, citing an opinion by the City Attorney’s Office that the alleged assault did not occur “within the course and scope” of Brooks’ role as an elected official.

But Bonner, Brown’s attorney, said today that he believes Brooks was acting within the scope of her duties because she threatened to stop the affordable housing project at the next City Council meeting.

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