SAN JOSE (CN) — Fourteen Donald Trump supporters sued San Jose in a federal class action Thursday, claiming police directed them into an angry mob that assaulted them after a political rally, because city officials are hostile to their political beliefs.
The plaintiffs, led by Juan Hernandez, say San Jose’s mayor and police chief deliberately sent them into a crowd of angry protestors after a June 2 Trump rally, because of hostility to Trump and the Republican Party.
Hernandez notes that San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is “a registered Democrat and an outspoken critic of Trump.”
The class action also takes aim at Police Chief Eddie Garcia, in his individual capacity, like Liccardo.
And they sued Anthony Yi, 24, of San Jose, who was arrested and charged with assault after the rally, and two minors, identified only by initials.
“Defendants not only failed to protect those attending the Trump rally, but created the danger that ultimately harmed the class members and deprived them of their constitutional and statutory rights,” the complaint states.
When the rally ended, 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. This forced them to head directly “into the crowd of violent anti-Trump protesters,” according to the complaint.
Chaos descended. Many Trump supporters were assaulted by protestors, 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 complaint states.
Lead plaintiff Hernandez says he left the rally, followed the directions of police and was struck in the face and beaten, suffering 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 plaintiffs claim the police refused to intervene due to 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 protestor 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 repaired to the police line to elude the protestors, 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 he was assaulted again, the complaint states.
“The San Jose Police Department failed to declare the demonstration an unlawful assembly until a full thirty 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 plaintiff also blasted Liccardo for issuing a statement on the night of the rally, partly blaming 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.
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 criticized the violent protestors 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.”
The plaintiffs seek class certification, potentially including “all persons who attended the June 2, 2016 Trump rally at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California, and exited the rally from the east-northeast exit.”
They seek punitive damages for civil rights violations, assault and battery, and other charges, including negligence and emotional distress.
They are represented by Harmeet Dhillon in San Francisco.
A member of the San Jose Police Department directed an email inquiry to the City Attorney’s Office, which did not immediately respond.
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