SAN JOSE (KPIX) — It was a Cinco De Mayo unlike any other on Tuesday with Mexican restaurants in San Jose serving meals to go instead of hosting what would normally have been a massive street party if not for the ongoing shelter-in-place order.
Authorities in the South Bay made it clear early that people would not be allowed to ignore social distancing protocols outlined by county health officials.
San Jose police blocked entrances to a shopping center in east San Jose early Tuesday evening after a large crowd gathered to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
The crowd formed quickly at King and Story Roads. Cars and trucks drove through the parking lot, many with large Mexican flags attached to the vehicles.
Around 6 p.m., hundreds of people flooded the parking lot. That included young children who gathered to watch the vehicles perform dangerous stunts. People found themselves shoulder to shoulder with other spectators.
Social distancing was hardly being observed In the part of the Bay Area hit hardest by the coronavirus.
Within a half hour, dozens of police officers moved in to disperse the gathering.
San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia said Tuesday his department would deal with public safety issues as they came along but he made it clear officers would not be enforcing the social distancing health order.
“You’ve got individuals that are being released out of jail and out of custody for major type crimes. To expect police to go into crowds to give citations and make arrests based on the public safety order is not very credible. It’s not going to happen,” Garcia said.
Once police blocked off the shopping center parking lot, the crowd of cars, trucks and spectators scattered.
As night fell, the celebration slowed down. It became a cruising event through downtown San Jose.
Many consider cruising the streets to be a cultural tradition and a family outing.
“Twenty years ago, this is where I met my wife,” said Ricky Torrez, of San Jose.
Ricky and Paula Torrez met on a Cinco de Mayo cruise night. They’re now married with three kids.
“We’re going to be out, but we’re going to do it the right way. Just stay in your own car and wave and you can do all that,” said Paula Torrez.