Baltimore Sun

Doxxers file lawsuit against UMBC staff

They say First Amendment rights have been violated

- By Sabrina LeBoeuf Baltimore Sun reporter Lee O. Sanderlin contribute­d to this article.

Members of an organizati­on whose members have doxxed a University of Maryland, Baltimore County student and her father are suing university staff members.

The group alleged in a Friday filing that its First Amendment rights were violated after a federal court barred it from protesting in several areas around the country earlier this year, which prompted UMBC to prohibit the group from reserving campus spaces for demonstrat­ions.

Doxxing occurs when someone’s personal informatio­n is published without permission, often with the intent of causing harm.

The group has held demonstrat­ions at UMBC since late last year, handing out flyers featuring the UMBC student and her father while displaying signs and U.S. and New Federal State of China flags. The group also made many online posts about the student, her father and their family, sometimes taking pictures and videos of their residences.

The New Federal State of China, which says it opposes the Chinese Communist Party, is an organizati­on created by exiled Chinese businessma­n Guo Wengui and conservati­ve strategist Steve Bannon, who advised former President Donald Trump. The group believes the student’s father is a member of the Chinese Communist Party.

A U.S. Bankruptcy judge in Connecticu­t barred the group in January from engaging in protesting, picketing, parading or distributi­ng “harassing material at any time” in the vicinity of several locations, including in Baltimore.

Jian Wyatt, Hao Li, Yudong Zhang and Li Chen, the plaintiffs in Friday’s filing, are suing University of Maryland President Darryll Pines, UMBC Campus Life Operations Director Joel Dewyer, UMBC Chief of Police Bruce Perry, the UMBC student and her father in the U.S. District Court for Maryland. They’re asking for a jury trial, as well as punitive and compensato­ry damages.

The lawsuit says Pines is being sued in an official capacity as president of the University of Maryland. Pines does not oversee UMBC.

The plaintiffs claim they have demonstrat­ed at UMBC since early December and that Dewyer knew a UMBC student and her father were the subject of the peaceful protests. They paid to reserve the UMBC Commons area by Dewyer’s recommenda­tion, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs argue it is their “duty” to share their distaste toward the UMBC student, her father and the Chinese Communist Party.

The plaintiffs also argue that the January injunction does not pertain to them. The injunction related to Wengui’s finances but states that anyone “in active concert or participat­ion” with him is affected, including the New Federal State of China.

The plaintiffs said they applied for another permit to protest in January but were told they could no longer hold signs, distribute flyers or stream their events online. They said they were asked to conduct their activities at a distance from the UMBC Commons.

The lawsuit states that on Feb. 3, police officers arrived at one of the protests and told the plaintiffs “to cease all demonstrat­ions and leave the Commons.” The plaintiffs were then told they could “exercise” their First Amendment rights in a different, more secluded campus area. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs argue, Dewyer granted the plaintiffs’ their requested permit, which cost $950, and they were told they could resume protesting Feb. 6 at the Commons.

The plaintiffs allege the UMBC student they doxxed “made demand to the administra­tion of the university to stop the plaintiffs and the other protestors,” according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs said that two U.S. marshals appeared Feb. 7 and delivered the January federal injunction during another protest at the Commons. Afterward, the plaintiffs said Perry and other officers ordered the protesters to leave immediatel­y.

Protesters resumed later that afternoon, when UMBC police officers again told plaintiffs to cease their protests, threatenin­g arrest if they did not comply. The plaintiffs argue that the officers were not federal enforcemen­t agents. The plaintiffs’ permit to protest was revoked that evening.

Plaintiffs said they returned to the UMBC Commons Feb. 8 and were asked to leave by UMBC police officers, who were present prior to their arrival.

UMBC did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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