SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) – A federal judge advanced a case involving supporters of President Donald Trump who sued the city of San Jose claiming police did nothing while anti-Trump protesters roughed them up verbally and physically.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh allowed the claims of negligence against San Jose to stand, finding the Trump supporters made enough of a case that the police department’s crowd-control plan put them in danger.
“Plaintiffs have stated a claim against the police officers for continuing to direct plaintiffs into a dangerous area after the police officers became aware that the crowd-control plan was subjecting plaintiffs to an increased risk of harm by anti-Trump protesters,” Koh wrote in a 36-page order issued Tuesday night.
Harmeet Dhillon, attorney for the plaintiffs, welcomed the order, saying she looks forward to the discovery phase and is eager to conduct deposition to find out “why 250 police officers did nothing” to protect the crowd and her clients.
“We are very pleased the judge is allowing our federal civil rights and negligence claims to go forward against San Jose, for allowing a riot to occur and not protecting the citizens who attended the rally,” Dhillon said in a telephone interview.
While Koh allowed the negligence claims to stand, she dismissed all of the claims asserting Police Chief Eddie Garcia and other city officials crafted their crowd-control plan to deliberately put Trump supporters in harm’s way.
“The question is whether Garcia knew that the adoption of the crowd-control plan increased the risk of violence to the point that plaintiffs would have been better off ‘had the police not come up with any operational plan whatsoever,’” Koh wrote.
The judge said even if the arguments made by the plaintiffs were taken as true at face value, they don’t sufficiently show that Garcia purposely endangered Trump supporters. Her finding means Garcia and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo are out as defendants.
“From my standpoint it’s a positive because they took the chief out of the suit,” San Jose City Attorney Richard Doyle said in an interview. “The target of this suit has always been the mayor and the chief of police and now they are out.”
Dhillon objected to Doyle’s characterization, saying the “central claims of the case are that violence occurred in the city of San Jose due to the city’s action and non-action.”
Koh said the plaintiffs have thus far sufficiently pleaded that aspect of the case.
“Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that the police officers present at the Trump rally had reason to know that due to the location and unusual aggressiveness of the anti-Trump protesters, the crowd-control plan was in fact putting plaintiffs in serious danger,” Koh wrote in the order.
Doyle said he remains confident the city will prevail.
The dispute stems from a rally for Donald Trump held in San Jose on June 2, 2016, when the president was still a candidate making his case for the office in a series of campaign stops throughout California.
Following the roughly hour-long event, Trump supporters were told to leave through the northeast exit of the McEnery Convention Center in downtown San Jose. Outside, San Jose police officers – many in riot gear – directed them north along Market Street while barricading the street to prevent them from turning south.
According to the plaintiffs, this directed the crowd right into the teeth of fervent anti-Trump supporters, many of whom were violently disposed toward those attending the rally.
The situation quickly turned violent as Trump supporters were assaulted by protesters, and videos of it were posted on the internet the next day. Some of the victims caught on video are the plaintiffs in the case.
“The class members were chased and subjected to violence, harassment, and intimidation on the basis of their real or perceived political affiliations, and several were beaten, victimized by theft, had objects such as bottles and eggs thrown at them by the protesters in full view of hundreds of police officers,” the Trump supporters said in the initial complaint.
Lead plaintiff Juan Hernandez says he left the rally, followed the directions of police and was struck in the face and beaten. He says he suffered a broken nose and other injuries.
“Despite the San Jose police being in close proximity to this attack, the San Jose police did not intervene or offer their assistance,” the complaint states.
The parties will move forward to the class certification phase, with briefs tentatively due in May.