March 19, 2024

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) and law firms Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger and Palo Alto Legal Group today announced the filing of a lawsuit against Max Steiner on behalf of three Monterey County residents. These individuals were confronted and reportedly assaulted by Steiner while exercising their right of free expression.

SEEFiled Complaint

The incident occurred on October 12, 2023, as the residents, three young women, including a 13-year-old girl, were using sticks and shrubs to create a “Free Gaza” sign along a sand embankment in Sand City, a location often used by residents to write messages visible from the highway. Their action was abruptly disrupted when Steiner confronted the women. The lawsuit alleges that Steiner escalated the situation by verbally assaulting the women with accusations of terrorism, violently dismantling their sign, and threatening them—culminating in an assault on the minor, whom he grabbed and whose cellphone he threw and shattered.  

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The lawsuit outlines multiple causes of action, including negligence, violations of the Bane Act and Ralph Act, assault, and battery, reflecting the severity of the defendant’s actions. These legal claims underscore the women’s right to express their views without fear of violence or bodily harm and the responsibility of individuals to respect these rights. 

In a statement, CAIR-SFBA Senior Civil Rights Attorney Jeffrey Wang said: 

“The fundamental right to free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, ensuring that everyone, regardless of ethnicity or religious belief, can engage in free and open dialogue. This case is about more than seeking redress for the victims; it is also about reinforcing the principle that sharing one’s views should not lead to violence. We stand firmly against the actions that sought to silence these voices through intimidation and physical harm and cannot let them go unchallenged.” 

CAIR-SFBA and its partners are dedicated to protecting civil rights and promoting justice and mutual understanding. Through this lawsuit, they aim to hold accountable those who attempt to suppress free speech through intimidation or violence, ensuring the rights of the American Muslim community, and all communities, are safeguarded.