SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — San Jose police on Thursday defended the tactics the department used to quell violence and looting during the recent protests over George Floyd’s in-custody death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Multiple nights of unrest and violence gave way to a calmer scene in the South Bay over the last couple days.
Full Coverage: George Floyd Protests
But with the curfew being lifted Thursday, law enforcement and city officials are now facing questions about how to approach the continuing protests.
On the tenth day of protests across the country, activists are calling in part for police departments to change their use of force policies.
Thursday afternoon’s Black Lives Matter protest was peaceful as the evening hours approached, a scene very different from the most fiery and violent night in the South Bay just six days ago.
San Jose officials admitted some mistakes were made during the earlier confrontations, but have been encouraging peaceful protests. They’re also emphasizing the need to protect the city.
“We are responding to the acts of violence against our police officers and we are responding to individuals trying to destroy our city,” said San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia.
“The police have their duty they need to take care of. But at the end of the day, our voices need to be heard. We’re going to make sure they know we are here and we want justice,” said LaChristian Taylor, a protest organizer for Black Lives Matter in San Jose.
Tensions have cooled after days of escalating violence. Police say rocks, bottles and crowbars were thrown at officers. They responded by firing non-lethal projectiles and in some cases tear gas. They arrested 180 people, with the majority of them from San Jose.
“There were individuals running around through downtown with accelerants and lighters lighting fires. We give up that space, I guarantee you it was only a matter of time before they started structural fires and we would’ve been one of those cities on the news burning. We made the decision to not give up,” said San Jose Police Captain Jason Dwyer.
The 8 p.m. curfew that Garcia said was extremely helpful as officers tried to quell the violence has been lifted by the San Jose City Council. It’s a move that will require a difficult balancing act.
“Nobody intends to live under curfew for any extended period of time. Nobody believes it’s a tolerable way to live. This is not a state of martial law. That’s not what we’re going to become we are going to use this in a very targeted way if we ever use it again,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.
“We may see individuals that would have abided by curfew law and but then decide to stay. You know when that happens you have a large crowd and violence erupts with an even larger crowd, then there’s a possibility that innocent people get hurt,” said Garcia.
The mayor called for serious consideration before trying to enforce another curfew.
“We need to hesitate before rushing to impose these kinds of constraints on civil liberties on one million human beings in our city,” said Liccardo.
But Liccardo added it is a ‘fast moving situation’ and the curfew issue needs to be reevaluated and reassessed day to day. An emergency meeting will be called with the San Jose City Council if the data and intelligence shows it is needed according to Liccardo.