Fourteen Donald Trump supporters filed a federal lawsuit accusing San Jose police of failing to protect them from violent protesters afterÂ a campaign event last month.
The civil rights case seeks unspecified damages and class-action status for all Trump backers attacked after the June 2 rally for the Republican presidential candidate in downtown San Jose.
Plaintiffs claim the cityâs response was weak and politicized, and that police complacency undermined their constitutional rights to free speech, peaceful assembly and due process. Police arrested 20 people after the protest and fielded two-dozen reports of assault.
City spokesman Dave Vossbrink said the city has yet to see the lawsuit filed by attorney Harmeet Dhillon, the vice chair of the California Republican Party.
One of the plaintiffs, 38-year-old Log Cabin Republican Juan Hernandez, says he emerged from the chaos with a broken nose and blood-spattered shirt.
âWalking out of the rally, you could see that it was like Armageddon,â the Santa Clara residentÂ told San Jose Inside days after the event. âThere were no boundaries, no rules, no officers enforcing public safety.â
On his way from the San Jose Convention Center to a nearby parking garage, HernandezÂ says, he watched other Trump supporters get physically attacked. Hernandez wore a blue âMake America Great Againâ Trump hat and his friendâDustin Haines-Scrodin, another plaintiffâwore a red one.
âWe didnât have time to take it off,â he said. âAnd as soon as we made eye contact with them, I was like, âOh shit. This is it.ââ
People began hitting him and his friend, he saysâabout five assailants wailed on him until his adrenaline kicked in and numbed him from the blows. When his nose cracked on someoneâs fist, blood began spurting ontoÂ his clothes.
âEveryone kind of just froze,â he said. âSo I grabbed my friend and we took off running.â
For an hour after the rally let out, the lawsuit claims, police did little to quell the violence and continued to direct Trump supporters toward the protesters. Frank Velasquez claims in the lawsuit that an anti-Trump demonstrator snatched the hat off of his sonâs head. The protester,Â Anthony Yi, tried running away but fell at the San Carlos Street-Almaden Boulevard intersection. Velasquezâs son, Nathan, tried giving Yi a hand up.
âAs Yi stood up, [he] struck Nathan in the head with his fist, causing â¦ severe bodily harm, including a concussion and severe emotional distress,â the lawsuit states. âYi also possessed a knife at this time.â
The notoriousÂ âegg ladyââa Florida bodybuilder and physical therapistÂ named Rachel Caseyâalso figures into the case. After leaving the rally, she said, police directed her into a mob of protesters. After admittedly taunting them, she says she tried to get into a nearby hotel, but the security guards blocked the door. It wasnât until people had thrown eggs, a tomato and a bottle of water at her that they let her inside.
The lawsuit says a 14-year-old boy and a 71-year-old woman were also attacked in full view of the police, who reportedly apologized for being unable to help them.
âThe San Jose Police Department failed to declare the demonstration an unlawful assembly until a full 30 minutes or more of violent altercations had ensued,â the lawsuit claims. âIt was not until approximately one hour after the Trump rallyâs conclusion that police brought out megaphones and told demonstrators to leave or face arrest.â
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, a Democrat, blasted Trump for stirring up unrest and outright violence that local law enforcement has to break up.
âAt some point, Donald Trump needs to take responsibility for the irresponsible behavior of his campaign,â the mayor told the Associated Press the night of the campaign rally.
Dhillon says in the lawsuit that LiccardoâsÂ remarks indicate that the cityâs reaction to the violence was influenced by the political viewpoints of San Joseâs policymakers.
In an interview with the Mercury News after the rally, San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia called allegations that he told his officers to âstand downâ absurd.
âI have a lot of control over my officers, but my officers do now know the meaning of the term stand down,â he told the newspaper last month. âThey would not follow that order nor would I even expect them to.â
In a public statement before the rally, Garcia said he wouldÂ âdo everything possible to protect the First Amendment, those attending our community, and our officers.â
ManyÂ activists who staged peaceful demonstrationsÂ outside the event expressed dismay that the violence distractedÂ fromÂ theirÂ goal, which was to denounceÂ Trumpâs exclusionary immigration stance, outspoken bigotry and other inflammatory rhetoric.
Click here to read a copy of the complaint.