A lawsuit filed by the University of Southern California says the two men, who are not students, caused “terror and disruption” with what seemed like classroom takeovers.
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A judge has barred two men from the campus of the University of Southern California in downtown Los Angeles after the university accused them of filming disruptive prank videos in classrooms for their YouTube channels.
In one instance, the men, who are not students, dressed up as characters from the Netflix show “Squid Game” and staged a fake kidnapping in a classroom, according to the lawsuit filed on April 6. In another, they incited a panic during a lecture about the Holocaust when one of them pretended to be a member of the Russian mafia.
The two men, Ernest Kanevsky and Yuguo Bai, have staged three “classroom takeover videos” that have “caused terror and disruption” at the university’s Mark Taper Hall of Humanities, according to court documents.
On Friday, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order that barred the men from the school’s University Park campus and other school buildings, The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday.
In a statement, the university said the temporary restraining order served as a warning that such behavior would not be tolerated and “underscores the need to provide a sense of stability and comfort in an in-person learning environment,” particularly in light of safety concerns on campuses across the country.
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Kanevsky said, “The whole lawsuit and what everyone is reporting is very deceiving.” Mr. Bai did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The most recent disturbance took place on March 29 when the men interrupted the lecture about the Holocaust, according to court documents. One of the men pretended to be “a member of the Russian Mafia” wearing a black, skintight muscle shirt and carrying a silver briefcase. The other man answered to “Hugo Boss,” the lawsuit said.
Mr. Kanevsky said that he walked in and asked if Hugo Boss was inside. He said the incident was “part of a dare that was supposed to be a harmless, funny scene.” He added, “The whole notion that we targeted a Holocaust class is absurd.”
Mr. Kanevsky said, “Hugo Boss is literally the name that Yuguo goes by.”
But the lawsuit said that the apparent reference to the German fashion designer Hugo Boss “was particularly frightening for the professor,” because the designer, who died in 1948, had manufactured Nazi uniforms during World War II and had been a member of the party until the war’s end. The professor believed that Mr. Kanevsky had targeted his class because of its subject matter, the lawsuit stated.
The 40 students in the class fled, with some tripping over seats as they ran from “what reasonably appeared to them as a credible threat of imminent classroom violence,” according to the lawsuit.
“I was near the door, and I started running out,” one student, Avery Kotler, told Annenberg Media, which reported on the stunt. “Everyone just left in a really big panic,” the student said.
In another incident, on Nov. 12, the two men stormed into a classroom dressed as characters from “Squid Game,” the violent Netflix series, according to the lawsuit. The men staged a fake kidnapping with two other associates who were not named in the suit, the filing said.
Mr. Bai asked for help from the professor, saying that “a bunch of people with weapons” were chasing him, the lawsuit said.
At one point, court documents say, Mr. Kanevsky and another individual chased Mr. Bai in the classroom as he yelled, “If they catch me, my family will die!” Before the incident, the fourth associate, who was not dressed up, had entered the classroom in order to make a video of the prank.
In the lawsuit, lawyers for the university said the men’s conduct “amounts to both a public and private nuisance,” adding that “it has caused students to experience emotional distress and genuine fear for their personal well-being” on campus.
Mr. Kanevsky has 111,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, and Mr. Bai has about 3,000 to his channel. Both channels feature videos of pranks on the beach, at gyms and in stores.
In its lawsuit, the university is seeking unspecified compensatory damages to be proven in a trial and lawyers’ fees and related costs. A hearing on its request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for April 28, the university said.
Kitty Bennett contributed research
2 YouTubers Barred From U.S.C. After ‘Disruptive’ Pranks – The New York Times