A throng of about 100 protesters rallied Thursday evening in a march from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office to the San Jose Police Department, where some officers filmed them as they walked by. They had three demands:
Fire Officer Phillip White, who tweeted threatening remarks against people protesting police brutality; charge the two San Jose State University officers who on Feb. 24 killed Antonio Lopez Guzman; and drop resisting arrest charges against Lamar Noble, who was caught on a dashcam being roughed up by three sheriff deputies.
Outside police headquarters, San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel accepted a petition with more than 15,000 signatures asking White be fired.
"Being a native of San Jose, this is important to me, as a person of color and as a chief," Esquivel told the crowd outside the agency's headquarters. "Believe me, this is very troubling for us as an organization. It is not what we stand for, and can I guarantee you we are looking at this, as we have been, proactively and aggressively to bring justice."
White was placed on paid leave, stripping him of gun and badge while the agency investigates his remarks. A 20-year SJPD veteran, White also worked as part of Internal Affairs, the unit charged with investigating ethics complaints. This makes him the second officer in Internal Affairs currently subject to a review. Sources say Sgt. Craig Storlie is also being investigated after a judge ruled that he lied under oath, making false statements in court that put an innocent man behind bars.
Protesters on Thursday called for Esquivel and the Independent Police Auditor to re-examine all Internal Affairs complaints handled under White's watch.
One of White's most contentious tweets invoked a divine right to kill. Another mocked Eric Garner's last words, "I can't breathe," which has become a rallying cry in nationwide protests against police violence against unarmed black men.
"Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter," White tweeted last weekend.
"Officer White wanted to be famous, so we'll make him famous," Raj Jayadev, one of the march organizers, belted into a megaphone outside the District Attorney's Office. "It will be the fastest firing of a San Jose police officer we have ever seen. Let's end that guy's career today."
The coalition of protesters—led by the Asian Law Alliance, Silicon Valley De-Bug and the Silicon Valley chapter of the NAACP—used the demonstration to call attention to other local cases of police force.
When Guzman was killed earlier this year, after police said he was charging them with a saw, he left behind his partner Laurie Valdez and their son, 5-year-old Josiah. Valdez spoke at Thursday's rally, calling for the DA to release bodycam footage of the incident and to at least consider bringing charges against the two officers.
"What is the point of body cameras, of patrol cameras, if they can't tell us what happened?" asked Jayadev. He added: "We want prosecutorial discretion to bend toward the arc of justice."
Valdez said a thorough review would bring closure for her and her son. "I don't know what to do when my 5-year-old says he wants to die so he can see his father," she said. "My son doesn't know that death is forever. ... My kid needs healing."
Parents of Diana Showman, a 19-year-old woman with mental illness who was shot dead by San Jose police in August, also joined the rally. Showman was holding a power drill that police say looked like a real gun. She was killed by a single bullet.
— SVDebug (@SVDebug) December 19, 2014
Noble spoke at the event, describing his 2013 traffic stop while video of the incident was projected on the wall of the San Jose police department. Here's that footage, which he fought for a year to obtain:
It shows three officers walking up to Noble's SUV, pepper spraying him, pulling him out to the ground and wrestling with him on the ground to cuff him—all over the crackling soundtrack of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" from the cop car's radio. The recording ends with a sheriff's deputy walking to his cruiser and placing his jacket over the camera, while Noble repeats over and over that he's done nothing wrong.
Noble says they told him he was pulled over for running a stop sign. He asked which one, at what intersection, and officers didn't say. Then, Noble says, officers told him his brake lights were out. He pressed the brake pedal to prove that wasn't the case. Then things got violent.
Officers maced him, physically removed him from the car and drew their guns. One of them punches Noble in the head. Instead of writing a ticket for a traffic violation, they charged him with resisting arrest.
"It's not right," Noble told San Jose Inside after the protest, shaking his head. "The video shows it all."
Earlier in the day, nearly 100 public defenders held their own rally on the steps of the Hall of Justice on Hedding Street, a rare political statement and a show of solidarity with the national movement protesting racially biased policing. Some held up signs that said "Black lives matter" and "Hands up, don't shoot."