A jury has awarded more than $4 million in punitive damages to a former leader of the Black Panthers who was injured after an Oakland councilwoman punched and pushed her during an argument over housing.
The jury found Oakland Councilwoman Desley Brooks should pay $550,000 to Elaine Brown, who was injured after Brooks pushed her during a 2015 confrontation at a restaurant.
The same jury last month found that Brooks was acting as a city employee and decided Oakland should pay Brown $3.8 million in damages, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.
Jurors found that Brooks pushed Brown, who tumbled over a stack of chairs and suffered bruises and had to have surgery for a torn rotator cuff.
“I feel grateful to the jury for understanding that this wasn’t an issue of two black women fighting in a bar,” Brown said Monday. “This was someone who was an elected official who abused her power.”
Brooks, who has been a member of Oakland’s City Council for five years, said the verdict was “disappointing but not unexpected.”
The jury said the former Black Panther leader, who was 72 years old at the time of the assault, was the victim of elder abuse and battery.
Brown joined the Black Panther Party in 1968, helped it to organize community breakfasts and became its leader in 1974 after Huey Newton fled to Cuba to avoid murder charges. Brown, the only woman to lead the radical organization, stepped down in 1977 and later wrote that the movement had been male-dominated.
The clash between the women stemmed from Brown’s venture to build affordable housing for formerly incarcerated people in West Oakland. Brooks has opposed the project.
Brown testified that, during a confrontation at Everett & Jones Barbeque in October 2015, the councilwoman told her the project was “of no benefit to black people,” and after an exchange of angry words, physically attacked her.