By Ronnie Cohen
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – An African American performer who was shoved after he dedicated a song to slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin at a California music festival filed a lawsuit on Monday against the white woman who he said assaulted him onstage.
Prosecutors have charged Dinalynn Andrews-Potter, 43, with assault and elder abuse stemming from the onstage incident last month as Lester Chambers performed on the day a Florida jury reached a verdict in the racially charged killing.
Chambers, the 73-year-old former lead singer for the Chambers Brothers, had urged the Alameda County district attorney to charge his assailant with a hate crime for shoving him while he was performing a peace-seeking spiritual on July 13 in the northern California city of Hayward.
But investigators determined the incident lacked the racial animus needed to support such charges.
Chambers’ civil lawsuit calls the assault “a racially motivated public attack,” saying Andrews-Potter attacked Chambers with punched fists and racial slurs. It accuses her and the San Francisco suburb of Hayward, which sponsored the blues festival, with damages for battery, elder abuse, interfering with his exercise of civil rights, negligent supervision and negligence.
The disturbance, captured on video, happened minutes before a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the shooting death of the unarmed black teenager Martin in a verdict that spurred nationwide protests.
Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris filed the lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court on behalf of Chambers, best known for the hit song “Time Has Come Today.”
“This was an egregious attack upon an 73-year-old African American blues legend that took place moments after Mr. Chambers had dedicated a song about Martin Luther King … to the family of Trayvon Martin,” he said in an email. “This has all the appearance of a hate crime.”
The lawsuit says the attack left Chambers “humiliated and ashamed” and unable to perform for at least eight months.
Video of the performance shows Chambers singing into the microphone with a band backing him up when a woman rushed to the stage, jumped up and shoved him so forcefully he fell backward into sound equipment.
Andrews-Potter could not be reached for comment.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman)