A Medgar Evers College student is suing the school and Brooklyn Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo for retaliating against her when she criticized the councilwoman.
A federal lawsuit filed earlier this month claims Brooklyn Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo and Medgar Evers College “colluded to punish a student for publicly criticizing the lawmaker.” The incident allegedly happened the day after a heated community board meeting that took place back on April 30, 2019. During the meeting, Sakia Fletcher, a student, “took issue with Cumbo’s stance on a local development project.” The day after the meeting, the college “suspended Fletcher without warning.”
Later, when Medgar Evers held a disciplinary hearing, a staffer for Cumbo requested the meeting be held behind closed doors. Fletcher argued the request is part of the evidence that “she was punished at the urging of the Democratic pol who serves as Council majority leader.” In recent interviews she said:
“You should not be afraid to speak up. You should not be afraid to disagree and to challenge the status quo, to challenge our leaders, to feel like your voice matters in these rooms where they say you should not be…That’s what the lawsuit is really about.”
When asked about the allegations, Nicholas Paolucci, a Law Department spokesman said, “The legal claims against the Council Member have no merit.” He added, “The First Amendment gives people the right to express their opinion even when they are misguided and wrong.” Medgar Evers College also chimed in with the following statement:
“The allegations in the complaint are factually inaccurate and offensive. We are confident the frivolous lawsuit will be favorably resolved.”
The alleged confrontation occurred at a Brooklyn Community Board 9 meeting on the Medgar Evers campus, “a predominantly Black institution.” Fletcher noted she “signed up to speak at the meeting focused on the controversial redevelopment of the Bedford Union Armory, but alleged the board didn’t let her talk.” Before the meeting, Fletcher had criticized Cumbo’s support of the project and argued it “should include amenities for Medgar Evers students.” During the meeting, she and the councilwoman got in a heated discussion about the topic.
During the exchange, which was caught on video, Cumbo told Fletcher, “This is why we fail as people.” In the video, Fletcher replied, “You say one thing, but another time when you’re passing these proposals…it’s against the community.” It’s important to note that, at the time of the incident, Fletcher was president-elect of the student body.
Eventually, security escorted Fletcher from the room, “seemingly at Cumbo’s request,” according to the suit. The next day, she was suspended from school for 10 days. Unfortunately, the suspension happened around finals time, “making life especially difficult for Fletcher since she was barred from attending class and getting review materials.” The suit further states:
“As part of continued attempts to force Ms. Fletcher to simply roll over and be quiet, a Cumbo staffer urged Medgar Evers to make Fletcher’s disciplinary hearing closed to the public, a request the college heeded.”
J. Remy Green, the lawyer representing Fletcher, said:
“The corruption here is so wild and so naked. What’s really disappointing about it is…that Medgar Evers College, of all colleges, decided it was okay to enact that.”
At the moment, Fletcher is seeking unspecified damages and hopes the school will reform its disciplinary policies.