SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters rallied outside San Jose City Hall Friday and later marched peacefully to police headquarters to demand accountability from officers in their handling of demonstrators, a plea echoed by Mayor Sam Liccardo.
Friday’s protest in San Jose was much calmer than the violence and unrest seen in the downtown area a week ago. But there has been widespread criticism of the tactics employed by law enforcement to handle demonstrators during this week’s protests against police brutality and the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
“There have been a lot of concerns locally about when police have used tear gas when they’ve used rubber bullets, whether or not there was an excessive use of force,” said Liccardo.
The mayor, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, and councilmembers Raul Peralez, Lan Diep and Magdelena Carrasco on Friday introduced a proposal to the city council asking the police department to share criteria for crowd control methods, examine the use of projectiles such as rubber bullets, and reform use-of-force policies.
Liccardo announced the proposal during a Facebook Live address on Friday.
“Two things can be true. There are protesters who are peacefully here who are daunted and intimidated by seeing police in riot gear and feel as though their rights and feel as though their rights are infringed by this heavy police presence,” said Liccardo. “At the same time, these same officers are taking it from every direction with bottles, rocks, and everything else, they deserve to go home safely to their families.”
Among the half dozen viral videos of police interactions with protesters was one showing Officer Jared Yuen making profane remarks toward protesters and seemingly relishing the opportunity to become physical with demonstrators.
“I recognize the difficult situation that our police officers are put in every time they answer the call to protect people and property during a protest,” ” said Vice Mayor Chappie Jones in a prepared statement. “I also recognize that our residents who wish to express their first amendment rights should also be protected from harm. Police practices have evolved over time and we should continue to assess the efficacy of those practices to protect all of our citizens whether they are peaceful.”
San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia on Friday acknowledged the department was looking into the complaints and how his officers handle large protests.
“We have already begun to evaluate how we deal with crowd control situations to include how we deploy projectile impact weapons during a confrontation.”
If the mayor’s proposal is approved, the department would need to get community feedback surrounding potential reforms. The council would also return in August with ballot language to expand the authority of the independent police auditor.