·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Civil Rights

California Lawsuit Claims San Jose Police Used Excessive Force Against Black Lives Matter Protesters

— March 16, 2021

One protester says he lost an eye after taking a few minutes to photograph protests on his way home.

California civil rights activists have filed a lawsuit against the city of San Jose, claiming police used unnecessary and excessive force against Black Lives Matter protesters.

According to The Associated Press, the lawsuit was filed by the NAACP of San Jose-Silicon Valley and the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. While the complained was lodged on behalf of two injured civil rights activists, attorneys hope to open the suit to anyone who was harmed or wrongfully arrested during the summertime protests against police brutality and the murder of George Floyd.

The prospective class action names the following defendants:

One of the plaintiffs—identified by The Associated Press as 49-year old Michael Acosta—said he was out running errands when he saw an ongoing demonstration.

Acosta purportedly paused to photograph and film the protest. But within minutes of making his detour, Acosta was struck in the eye by a crowd-suppressant projectile.

“I could hear the sounds of people running and shouting and explosions still going on around me and it was honestly terrifying,” Acosta said. “I felt helpless and afraid.”

Police brutality image via Pixabay. Public domain.

Acosta, notes San Jose Inside, ended up losing an eye to a rubber bullet.

“I never could have imagined that I would be shot in the face and end up losing my eye,” he said. “Over nine month later on, I’m still trying to adapt, to acclimate […] the world seems darker, sometimes narrower, harder to focus.”

While Acosta’s injuries are among the most serious so far listed in the lawsuit, at least two dozen others were harmed by law enforcement’s indiscriminate use of projectiles.

But Rachel Lederman, the lead attorney on the case, believes more people were injured and have yet to come forward.

“I’m sure numerous other people sustained minor injuries, who we haven’t heard from,” Lederman said. “It’s clear that the city of San Jose’s estimate in which they state that only a very small number of protesters were hurt […] is completely inaccurate.”

Lederman explained that San Jose has so far tallied injuries based off emergency medical service reports.

However, most of her clients—including Acosta—did not receive immediate treatment from EMS personnel or on-duty police officers. Instead, they were treated and, in some cases, moved to safety by other protesters.

“Every one of our plaintiffs,” Lederman said, “was aided by other demonstrators and not by the police.”

The San Jose Police Officers’ Association, which represents the city’s approximately 1,100 sworn officers, has—predictably—defended its officers’ reaction.

“San Jose Police officers did the absolute best job they could under volatile and dangerous conditions,” the SJPOA said in a statement. “While many were there to protest peacefully, that certainly was not the case for everyone. Many of our officers were physically attacked during the protests, we had over 100 officers injured in a 24-hour period, the most in our department’s history.”

Nevertheless, the city of San Jose has since moved to ban or curtal the use of some crowd control techniques. In June, Mayor Sam Liccardo proposed banning the use of rubber bullets in crowded settings altogether, but his motion was overturned by the San Jose City Council.

The city’s police chief, Eddie Garcia, has since responded to pressure by issuing a new policy instructing officers to refrain from using rubber bullets except to stop an ongoing physical assault.


Demonstrators sue, accuse San Jose police of excessive force

Protesters Sue San Jose for Police Violence During George Floyd Demonstrations

Join the conversation!