OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The city of Hayward and the Bay Area Blues Society are partially responsible for a woman’s attack on blues singer Lester Chambers after he dedicated a song to Trayvon Martin at blues festival last month, Chambers’ attorney alleged Monday.
Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, who represents Chambers, a 73-year-old Petaluma man, said the blues society should have done a better job of providing security at the Hayward Russell City Blues Festival on July 13 and the city should have done a better job of supervising the event.
Dinalynn Potter, a 43-year-old woman from Barstow, has been charged with felony assault and felony elder abuse for allegedly attacking Chambers after he announced he would sing Curtis Mayfield’s song “People Get Ready” in honor of Martin, a 17-year-old black youth who was fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Florida last year.
Chambers dedicated the song several hours before jurors in Zimmerman’s trial acquitted him of all charges.
Burris said he’s filing a $5 million claim on Chambers’ behalf against the city of Hayward and a lawsuit against Potter and the blues society seeking an identical amount.
The lawsuit alleges that Potter rushed the stage after Chambers said he would sing the song, throwing herself on him, punching him repeatedly with her fists, calling him names and “making derogatory slurs implicating his race.”
Chambers is black and Potter is white.
The suit also alleges that security personnel whose services were retained for the concert were on a smoking break when the attack occurred.
Speaking at a news conference in his office, Burris said security personnel should have been paying more attention because “it was a highly volatile time” because of the jury’s deliberations in Zimmerman’s case and many police agencies were on high alert.
Chambers said Potter’s attack was “totally unexpected” and left him “in total shock” because he had dedicated the song as a goodwill gesture of “peace, love, joy and a desire to make a change” and he didn’t condone any violence.
Chambers said he suffered bruises, cuts and other injuries to his ribs, hands and face and has been forced to postpone a tour he was planning to promote a CD he’s in the process of completing.
He said, “It’s still a nightmare and I’m shaking all the time” and he’s had difficulty sleeping.
Hayward City Attorney Michael Lawson said he has no comment on the claim because the city just received it. He said the city has 45 days to process the claim.
Bay Area Blues Society officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
Burris said, “There’s no doubt this was a hate crime” and he believes the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office should have charged Potter with a hate crime in addition to assault and elder abuse.
District attorney’s office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick didn’t comment directly on the decision not to charge Potter with a hate crime, saying only that, “We charged that which we felt appropriate to charge based upon all of the evidence reviewed.”
Burris said he thinks Hayward police might have been “lenient” toward Potter because they said she claims that she suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and the rhythmic nature of the songs at the blues festival caused her to attack Chambers.
Burris said, “I was totally shocked” by that claim and he thinks it was “pretty offensive to Mr. Chambers.”
Burris said he thinks Chambers’ reference to Martin seemed to affect Potter more than the music did because there had been rhythmic music at the festival all day.
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