Protesters Sue San Jose for Police Violence During George Floyd Demonstrations

Local civil rights groups and individuals are suing the city of San Jose and its leaders for injuries and violence by police during 2020 George Floyd protests last May.

On Thursday, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of San Jose-Silicon Valley, the nonprofit San Jose Peace and Justice Center and a dozen individuals injured from the protests filed a class action lawsuit in federal court naming Mayor Sam Liccardo, City Manager David Sykes, former SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia and other officers as defendants.

The lawsuit alleges that the demonstrators and observers were “brutalized” by San Jose police and met with “racially targeted repression” during the late-May demonstrations.

Their goal for the lawsuit: financial compensation for all those injured and “significant reforms of the way that San Jose police are trained and directed to police protests,” lead attorney Rachel Lederman said.

The case is filed as a class action “on behalf of all those who were subjected to police violence, including the use of tear gas and other chemical weapons, explosive grenades, impact munitions, and batons; and all those who were arrested for violating the curfew,” according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

One of the plaintiffs is San Jose resident Michael Acosta, who said he lost his left eye from a rubber bullet fired by police on May 29. At the time, he was photographing the protest, which was a block from his home.

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

Acosta suffered one of the more serious injuries at the protest, but many others, including unhoused advocate Shaun Cartwright, San Jose State University alumna Cindy Cuellar and others had serious bruises, burns and injuries as a result of projectiles shot by police, according to the lawsuit.

California Assemblyman Alex Lee (D-San Jose) is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit because of the injuries and difficulty breathing he suffered because police deployed a chemical agent believed to be tear gas, lawyers said.

“This display of force was an egregious disregard of San Jose residents’ rights to freely express their disapproval of violent and discriminatory policing,” said Tifanei Ressl-Moyer, Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “The city must reconcile with the harm its police have caused, interrupt its culture of white supremacy, and end the legacy of violence.”

Lederman said at least two people were shot in the eye, four in the groin and several others on their body, but it’s very difficult to know how many in total were injured.

She said she has talked to 20 people who were injured and there is another lawsuit against the city with eight different plaintiffs who were also injured.

“I’m sure numerous other people sustained minor injuries, who we haven’t even 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.”

She said she believes it is inaccurate because the number of injuries reported by the city is based off of emergency medical response, but she said most people didn’t receive any medical assistance.

Even Acosta, who was shot in front of “a huge line” of police did not receive assistance from officers and had his friend drive him to the hospital, Lederman noted.

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

Following the protests, the City Council discussed various reforms, most notably a ban on rubber bullets that failed 11-1. The only vote in favor of banning projectiles was San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

The council voted to publicly post police body-camera footage and voted to put Measure G, which was passed by voters in November to give the city's independent police auditor more authority, on the ballot.

But plaintiffs in this case said the city’s response was inadequate and “embarrassing.”

“It’s been a travesty for the leadership of this city, not to step out and do more for those who were injured or those who were arrested wrongly for running or for defending themselves from the aggressiveness of the police,” said the Rev. Jethroe Moore II, president of the NAACP of San Jose/Silicon Valley.

Moore seemingly fought back tears at the Thursday virtual news conference when he discussed his experiences at the protest.

He said he saw many young children and adults be “dragged across the ground” and pushed by officers, even when they tried to listen to police orders.

“I started trying to direct and help [protesters],” he recounted. “I said no, let’s kneel, let’s pray. Let’s sit let’s not show any resistance to him. And [police] just got more aggressive and aggressive toward us in the crowd. We couldn’t get up, we couldn’t move back, we couldn’t step back quicker than they were pushing us.”

The San Jose Police Officers’ Association, which represents SJPD’s 1,100-plus sworn staff, released a statement following the announcement of the lawsuit.

“San Jose Police officers did the absolute best job they could under volatile and dangerous conditions,” it read. “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.”

It continued: “Our officers were put in harm's way day after day without adequate staffing support. The San Jose Police Officers’ Association supports the rights of everyone to protest peacefully and we have submitted proposals to the city to increase police staffing so we can better manage these events.”


  1. Next time there are riots masquerading as protests, I hope the Police will use “live” ammunition.
    David S. Wall

  2. What a load of B.S. I’m sorry people were hurt, but they we’re ordered to disperse several times. It’s their own fault they failed to follow that lawful order. I wish the price some of them paid were not so high, but if they were acting in a morally responsible way they would have followed the law and not have been injured. I understand their anger and empathize with them, but it was their own actions that led to their injuries.

  3. What about the Highway 85 Shooting of Andrew Robert’s in 2019.
    White lives matter.. All lives Matter..
    He Died..SJPD HUMM. ?

  4. The focus of the lawsuits seems to be just what the community should be focused on: 1) compensating victims of San Jose Police Department (SJPD) violence and; 2) significant reforms in SJPD training and practices. Like police unions nationwide, the SJPD has been allowed to set its own operating rules despite what the Police Officers Association (POA) contracts with the City and their own Duty Manual say about their roles, rights and responsibilities in our community ( Because the POA is one of the larger and more active donors for Council member campaigns and constantly lobbies those members, they have been able to maintain a choke hold on City policing policy, despite the infinitesimally small reforms last year.

    If the ultimate authority over the actions and policy of the City police force is not the elected City government, then residents have to start asking some basic and serious questions: 1) What is required to ensure public safety and the enforcement of law in our city of 1,000,000?; 2) What are ways of achieving public safety and law enforcement that are consistent with basic human and civil rights regardless of race, gender, class, faith tradition, sexual preference, etc.?; 3) What kind of policing force is consistent with the answers to 1) and 2)?

    Properly understood, “defunding” the police means reducing the size of the force consistent with San Jose’s real policing needs, using the released resources to address community problems that police cannot solve but are routinely involved in (e.g. houselessness, mental health crises, drug addiction, domestic disputes, poverty). This would reduce the 30% share of the City’s operating budget currently absorbed by the SJPD ( id=66457 (see page 125)). “Defunding” the police actually means allocating city resources in a way that more effectively improves the safety, welfare and well-being of city residents.

  5. A March 1 article in Scientific American reviews a recently-released study that concludes: “…[P]laces with Black Lives Matter protests experience a 15% to 20% decrease in police homicides over the ensuing five years [2014-2019], around 300 fewer deaths. The gap in lethal use-of-force between places with and without protests widens over these subsequent years and is most prominent when protests are large or frequent…Protests also influence local police agencies, which may explain the reduction. Agencies with local protests become more likely to obtain body-cameras, expand community policing, receive a larger operating budget, and reduce the number of property crime-related arrests…” ( Keep in mind, this study excludes the period during and after the unprecedented, massive protests across the U.S. during 2020.

    However, police killings in four of the cities with the some of the most militant activist communities–Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco and St. Louis–suffered increases in police killings during 2014-2019, prior to the George Floyd protests since May 2020 (See Related to the class-action lawsuit against the San Jose Police Department (SJPD) covered in Mr. Alaban’s article, it would be interesting as a local project to review policies and practices of the SJPD before and after 2013, especially after the summer 2020 street confrontations.

    In response to some of the commenters above, it is important to note that there were fewer police killings of Whites as well during the 2014-2019 period, again reminding us that the movement for Black lives has important positive consequences and by-products for White lives and all lives.

    Resistance matters. Activism matters. Black Lives Matter.

  6. There’s the right way…. Then the San Jose way….

    Notice that the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office (Basically showed up to save the day) is not listed in these Lawsuits…. Hmmmmmm….

    The 800-pound Gorilla (The San Jose Police Department) got let out of its cage and started to wreck shop like we are in Russia. Hundreds of videos are out on YOUTUBE that show the violent communication between SJPD and the public… then of course “Target Practice” followed…

    Yet there are no videos like that with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department?? They had hundreds of Deputies on hand to hold the line with the same so called “Non-Lethal” crowd control equipment.

    The SO didn’t start a Rubber Bullet Battle?? They didn’t start giving the public the “Beating Stick”?? They also didn’t start verbally attacking people like some of our favorite “Bad Actors” from SJPD. Those officers talked a lot of “SHAT” see YOUTUBE vids…. Wooooooow…. Tell me how you really feel??

    This could have all been avoided if we had strong leadership at the San Jose Police Department….

    The Community and the San Jose Police Department “Upper Brass” have a horrible relationship thanks to “Fast” Eddie Garcia our previous failure of a Police Chief.

    Eddie, along with the rest of the Muppets in charge, have spent years destroying relationships and stabbing community leaders in the back. Just read in this article how Police Chief Pumpkin Head left Reverend Moore “High and Dry” at the protest?? Not Cool…. Been there done that….

    I was there filming (Legal Observer) and witnessed firsthand Reverend Moore and Derick Sanderlin put themselves in harm’s way to defuse this situation…. These true community leaders needed Chief Eddie Garcia to pull thru with his promises…. Nope… Fast Eddie is all talk…. He jumped ship on everyone….Just a “Big Bull Shatter”….

    I am also not sure if the public understands that hundreds of community leaders where actually at this protest trying to help defuse what was turning into a bad situation fast. Many of them where shoot with Rubber Bullets and Tear Gassed (See Lawsuit and Youtube Vids) Guess how many of these community leaders reached out to Eddie?? Yes folks…. he did them all Dirty….

    All forms of Free Speech in the City of San Jose are under attack. The City has been abusing the ‘Civil Court” channel to file Lawsuits to silence political dissent. It does not matter if you are a protest of 200 or a protest of 1…. The City, the PD, the POA will stick their “Illness Spreading Germ Attorney’s” to shut you down for good…. And I am specifically talking about “Civil and Peaceful” protest… Not Property Damage and Violence…. That’s not cool…

    When you go the so called “Right Route” to put your grievances on the table the democratic way the City will come at you with “Both Barrels” if you hit them where it hurts….if you figure out the SCAM the retaliation starts fast…..

    Try waiting over ten hours at a City Council meeting to have your speaker card thrown out by the Mayor and the meeting adjourned before you can even speak. Or better then that…. Clap at a “Google Land Deal” meeting and get dragged out by SJPD with the “Green Light” from the City Council (They all remain silent) Or go to City Hall to inquire about filing a complaint only to get threatened with trespassing and told to leave the property or be arrested.

    Community justice does not exist in San Jose politics and the system is only designed to protect the City from liability….. Internal Affairs and the IPA are data collectors that are working against the public as far as complaints…. I have done the research and can show exactly how the system works….or should I say “Does not Work” for the public….

    These examples are just the tip of the “San Jose Free Speech Suppression Teams” tactics to shut you up. If you start to gain steam with your activism participating in City Government be prepared for the Lawsuit that’s coming your direction. The City has many of their former employees on the bench and strings will be pulled to honor civil injunctions that are outright harassment. They are Bullies….

    I personally have spent years being sued by the City for a protest of one…. Yes folk….one?? On a sidewalk…. Speaking Truth to Political Power and calling out the Muppet’s for their corruption at the PD…

    This same process is abused in Criminal Court thru Municipal Codes that are un constitutional to begin with…. The city is making up the Law without public participation….

    The City is spending millions to stop the public from having a voice about the future of our community.

    It is only getting worse folks…. The City is grooming Eddie Garcia 2.0 as we speak to follow in the footsteps of the previous Regime…. The people in power want things to remain the same…. Do you??

  7. This Video footage below is pretty much the start of the George Floyd civil unrest in the City of San Jose.

    I was leaving a COVID19 drive thru testing location at VMC on Santa Clara Street and drove up on the “Civil and Peaceful” march heading to HWY101.

    I do understand that there where so called “Bad Apples” on the Freeway but that was not what this group was about….

    Just like local sporting events in San Jose…. The “Bad Apples” that mix in with “Normal Folk” are arrested by SJPD and removed for causing problems (Breaking the Law) Done deal…. Game continues…..

    Videos don’t lie…. you be the judge….


    San Jose State College students chassed like dogs away from campus by SJPD??

    What are they doing wrong??

    A protest sign??

    Attending a rally??

    1st Amendment??

    The Police chased “Law Abiding Citizens” throughout downtown like it was a “Call of Duty” video game….

    They also chased and harassed the homeless that had nowhere to go….

    See Video

    Did these “really nice” young men deserve to be treated like this??

    You be the Judge….


    Was it right to dump people off at a Mall in another City for exercising their democratic values??

    See the aftermath first hand…. Hundreds of people where arrested, processed at the SAP center, taken to other cities, and dumped in parking lots…. no Bus or Light Rail service….

    Free Speech??

  10. SJPD arrested reporters, legal observers, faith leaders, social workers, homeless advocates, and whoever they could chase down like a dog…..

    This calculated attack also focused on several politicians, community organizers, and out spoken faith leaders. They where targeted by SJPD’s Intel Unit and teams where sent in to extract them. No Joke…. super duper shady shat!!!!

    Video Games or Real Life…. Shame on you SJPD…..

  11. I know people are having a hard time digesting SJPD’s response, but you know what we didn’t have?

    Weeks of uncontrolled rioting, damages to business’s and arson.

    I think no matter how much SJPD’s insurance has to pay out, it would have been dwarfed by allowing the situation to become the next Kenosha. Or Portland, or Seattle.

  12. Gee Mr. Goldberg, cops make up their own laws as they go, they must be Democrats. Cops shot an unarmed woman in the Capitol January 6th which seems to be perfectly fine with the entire news media and every Damn Democrat in the country. Police violence is a terrible thing to waste on mostly peaceful protesters, unless they are mostly peaceful Trump supporters.
    Your blatant double standards suck, but you understanding that hypocrisy would be same miracle as that turnup passing a geometry test.

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