SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — A lawsuit filed against the San Jose Police Department accuses the department of singling out gay men during sting operations held several years ago.
In page after page, the class action lawsuit describes how in 2014 and 2015, San Jose police officers posed as decoys and solicited men they perceived to be gay to have sex with them in this ball field bathroom at Columbus park.
When the men agreed, the officers arrested them for loitering near a bathroom to commit a lewd act and other crimes.
About two dozen men were caught up in the sting.
Prominent gay rights attorney Bruce Nickerson filed the suit accusing the SJPD of treating the men differently because of their sexual orientation and denying their constitutional rights.
“It is the Gay equivalent of stopping Jim Crow laws,” said Nickerson. “You want to know how many decoy arrests there were for male/female lewd conduct? Zero.”
The restroom has long been known as a gay cruising spot where men meet each other for sex.
Last year, safe sex advocates set up a table outside the restrooms to hand out free condoms.
The restroom itself is small, with one urinal and one private stall. Condom wrappers were seen littering the floor.
Last year, a Santa Clara County judge dismissed charges against six men arrested by San Jose police and criticized the department out for singling out gay men.
Nickerson helped some of those men clear their arrest records and some of them have joined the class action.
San Jose LGBTQ leader Gabrielle Antolovich of the Billy DeFrank Center said San Jose police mishandled the case.
“Arresting people does not change anything. But to have a dialog and discussion about Ok, we have two different kinds of people using the same space, what are we going to do about that? “