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Judge Guts Claims of Accosted Trump Fans

SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - A federal judge gutted a lawsuit brought by Donald Trump supporters who said the city of San Jose acted with discriminatory hostility by allowing protesters to attack them after leaving the GOP candidate's rally on June 2.

U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh dismissed nearly all the charges brought by plaintiffs, while allowing the negligence claim to go forward. The dismissal means San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia, who were accused of discriminating against Trump supporters due to their political beliefs, are off the hook.

"The factual context of the instant case shows that Liccardo lacked legal authority to give any orders to police officers and therefore was less likely to give such an order," Koh wrote in her 26-page order issued Thursday.

Koh added the plaintiffs failed to show the facts that demonstrated Liccardo actually ordered police to treat Trump supporters indifferently or that he helped orchestrate the exit route from the rally so as to expose the attendees to violence.

The judge echoed the same comments in relation to Garcia who, while he did have authority over police and likely helped plan the exit route and police dispersal around the event, did not do anything to support claims that he violated the constitutional rights of the Trump supporters.

"As with the claim against Liccardo, plaintiffs offer little other than a bare allegation to support their claim that Garcia gave such an order or targeted plaintiffs because of their political affiliation," Koh wrote. "Plaintiffs have not sufficiently alleged that Garcia gave an order for police officers to direct plaintiffs into a violent crowd or not to intervene when plaintiffs were attacked or that Garcia did so because of plaintiffs' political affiliation."

Koh also dismissed claims that the city had developed and carried out unconstitutional policies, saying the single incident was not sufficient to establish a pattern of behavior running contrary to constitutional provisions.

The judge did give the plaintiffs leave to amend all of the claims she dismissed on Thursday. And she allowed the negligence claims against the city to move forward.

"Plaintiffs contend that (the city and the named employees) owed plaintiffs a general duty not to place them in harm's way, and that after they placed plaintiffs in harm's way, (defendants) acquired a duty to provide affirmative aid," Koh wrote. "California law supports plaintiffs' contention."

San Jose city officials expressed satisfaction with Koh's ruling.

"We are pleased with the decision, as we believe there isn't a legally viable case against the mayor, chief or the city," said San Jose City Attorney Richard Doyle. "We condemn the violence that occurred after the rally, and are working with the district attorney to hold those who committed violent acts accountable."

The suit stems from multiple episodes of violent encounters between people who attended a Trump rally on June 2 and several protesters who voiced their displeasure with the candidate's controversial platform before during and after the evening event.

When the rally ended, Trump supporters were told to leave through the northeast exit of the McEnery Convention Center in downtown San Jose. Outside, police officers, many in riot gear, directed them north along Market Street while barricading the street to prevent them from turning south. This forced them to head directly "into the crowd of violent anti-Trump protesters," according to the complaint.


Chaos ensued. Many 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 plaintiffs.

"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 plaintiffs say in the initial complaint.

Lead plaintiff Juan Hernandez said he left the rally, followed the directions of police and was struck in the face and beaten. 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 says.

The plaintiffs claim the police refused to intervene at the directions of Mayor Liccardo and Police Chief Garcia.

"The city defendants directed the approximately 250 San Jose police officers, or other local officers subject to city control, not to intervene as they witnessed the many violent criminal acts perpetrated by dozens of anti-Trump protesters," according to the complaint.

Plaintiff Nathan Velasquez says his "Make America Great Again" hat was stolen and when he tried to get it back a protester punched him in the face, giving him a concussion.

The attack was caught on camera and Velasquez gave an interview to a reporter, while his attacker remained across the street indicating he would continue the attack once the interview ceased.

Velasquez fled to the police line to elude the protesters, he says in the complaint.

An anonymous 14-year-old victim was hit in the back of the head twice and when he ran to a San Jose Fire Department truck to ask for help, he was denied and then assaulted again, the complaint states.

"The San Jose Police Department failed to declare the demonstration an unlawful assembly until a full 30 minutes or more of violent altercations had ensued, following the conclusion of the Trump rally," the complaint states. "It was not until approximately one hour after the Trump rally's conclusion that police brought out megaphones and told demonstrators to leave or face arrest."

The plaintiffs also blasted Liccardo for issuing a statement on the night of the rally that partly Trump for the violence.

"It's a sad statement about our political discourse that Mr. Trump has focused on stirring antagonism instead of offering real solutions to our nation's challenges," Liccardo said in the statement.

But the mayor also denounced the violence, saying, "There is absolutely no place for violence against people who are simply exercising their rights to participate in the political process."

The next day, amid a firestorm of criticism, Chief Garcia criticized the violent protesters in a news conference, and said his department would use video evidence to bring the assailants to justice.

"What happened last night was disgraceful and we are not going to tolerate it," Garcia said at the June 3 press conference. "Those responsible for doing what they did have no place in the city of San Jose."

Harmeet Dhillon, attorney for the plaintiffs, celebrated the judge's decision to let the negligence claim go forward.

"We are pleased that Judge Koh is allowing the lawsuit against the city of San Jose to proceed on a negligence theory, and allowing the plaintiffs 30 days to plead additional fact on the federal Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act claim, and the state Ralph Act and Bane Act claims," Dhillon said. "We have learned additional facts since filing our lawsuit, and look forward to the opportunity to pursue these claims after amendment."

The attorney said more plaintiffs and defendants will also be added to the case.

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