Local civil rights groups and individuals are suing the city of San Jose and its leaders for police injuries and violence during George Floyd’s May 2020 protests last May.
On Thursday, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in San Jose / Silicon Valley, the nonprofit Peace and Justice Center in San Jose, and a dozen people injured in the protests filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in which Mayor Sam Liccardo, City administrator, named David Sykes, former police chief Eddie Garcia and other officials as defendants.
The lawsuit alleges that the demonstrators and observers were “brutalized” by the police in San Jose and that they experienced “racially targeted repression” during the demonstrations in late May.
Her goal in the lawsuit: financial compensation for all injuries and “significant reforms in the way the police in San Jose are trained and targeted at police protests,” said Attorney General Rachel Lederman.
Brian Neumann A young protester stands in front of a line of police officers at a demonstration in support of George Floyd and condemnation of police violence in downtown San Jose on Sunday May 31, 2020.
The case is being filed as a class action “on behalf of anyone who has been subjected to police violence, including the use of tear gas and other chemical weapons, explosive grenades, impact ammunition and batons; and all those arrested for violating the curfew, ”the plaintiffs’ lawyers said.
One of the plaintiffs is Michael Acosta, who lives in San Jose, who lost his left eye on May 29th to a rubber bullet fired by police. At the time, he was photographing the protest, which was one block from his home.
“I never imagined that I would be shot in the face and end up losing my eye. … Over nine months later, I’m still trying to adjust, to acclimate … the world seems darker, sometimes narrower and harder to focus. “
Acosta sustained one of the more serious injuries at the protest, but many others, including unaccomodated attorney Shaun Cartwright, San Jose State University alumna Cindy Cuellar, and others, had severe bruises, burns and injuries as a result of the police, according to police Police fired projectiles lawsuit.
California Congregation member Alex Lee, D-San Jose, is also a plaintiff over the injuries and breathing difficulties he sustained from police using a chemical agent believed to be tear gas.
Tifanei Ressl-Moyer, Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Fellow on the San Francisco Bay Area Civil Rights Lawyers Committee, said:
“This demonstration of violence was a tremendous disregard for the rights of San Jose residents to freely express their disapproval of violent and discriminatory policing. … The city must reconcile itself to the damage the police have done, disrupt its culture of white supremacy and end the legacy of violence. “
Lederman said at least two people were shot in the eyes, four in the groin and several others in their bodies, but it was very difficult to know how many were injured in total.
She said she spoke to 20 injured and there was another lawsuit against the city with eight different plaintiffs who were also injured.
“I’m sure numerous other people have suffered minor injuries that we haven’t even heard of.”
“It is clear that the city of San Jose’s estimate, which states that only a very small number of protesters were injured, is completely inaccurate.”
She believes this is inaccurate as the number of injuries reported by the city is based on emergency medical response, but said most people have not received medical attention.
Even Acosta, who was shot in front of a “huge line” of police officers, received no assistance from officers and had his friend drive him to the hospital, Lederman noted.
“Each of our plaintiffs was supported by other demonstrators and not by the police.”
After the protests, the city council discussed various reforms, in particular a ban on rubber bullets, which failed 11: 1. The only vote in favor of banning projectiles was the Mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo.
The city council voted to publicly release the police footage and voted to put Measure G, which was passed by voters in November to give more authority to the city’s independent police auditor, on the ballot.
However, the plaintiffs in this case said the city’s response was inadequate and “embarrassing”.
Rev. Jethroe Moore II, President of the San Jose / Silicon Valley NAACP said:
“It was a farce for the leadership of this city not to get out and do more for those injured or wrongly arrested for running or defending themselves against the aggressiveness of the police.”
Brian Neumann / SFBay In the late afternoon of Sunday, May 31, 2020, protesters sit on Santa Clara Street near Fifth Street in downtown San Jose, California. A city-wide curfew at 8:30 p.m. was imposed.
Moore appeared to be holding back tears at Thursday’s virtual press conference as he discussed his experiences at the protest.
He said he saw many young children and adults being “dragged on the ground” and pushed by officers, even when they tried to listen to police orders.
“I tried to guide and help (protesters). I said no let’s kneel let’s pray Let’s sit, let’s not show any resistance to him. And (police) just got more aggressive and aggressive towards us in the crowd. … We couldn’t get up, we couldn’t move back, we couldn’t step back faster than they were pushing us. “
The San Jose Police Officers’ Association issued a statement following the announcement of the lawsuit.
The SJPOA said:
“The San Jose Police Department did the absolute best job they could in volatile and dangerous conditions. While many were there to protest peacefully, it certainly was not for all. Many of our officers were physically assaulted during the protests. Over 100 officers were injured in 24 hours, the majority in our division’s history. “
The union said:
“Our officers have been put at risk every day without adequate human support. The San Jose Police Officers’ Association supports the right of all to protest peacefully, and we have made proposals to the city to increase the police force so that we can better manage these events. “