San Jose’s 8:30pm curfew, which was instituted Sunday evening in response to protests, will be lifted at 5am on Thursday.
At Tuesday’s virtual City Council meeting, the city’s elected leaders listened to hours of impassioned pleas from members of the public who expressed their frustration with the curfew and what they felt was an excessive use of force levied on mostly peaceful protestors. The council voted 10-1 to lift the curfew in a few days, with District 6 representative Dev Davis the sole dissenter.
On Sunday evening, San Jose joined the ranks of cities across the country that enacted curfews over reports of planned looting and increasingly tense standoffs between police and protestors. On Tuesday morning, a spokesperson for the San Jose Downtown Association said the organization had documented hundreds of graffiti tags and 21 small businesses vandalized in the city’s core over the weekend.
“[On Sunday,] what the curfew allowed us to do was we had a large number of people downtown when the curfew hit,” police Chief Eddie Garcia told the council. “A lot of those people left, leaving the crowd to be thinned out to individuals that were more agitators than anything else.”
In his 30-plus years on the force, Garcia said he’s never seen this level of violence in San Jose. Over the weekend, he said protesters lobbed beer bottles, sticks, rocks, frozen water, 2-by-4 planks and containers of urine.
“We can’t allow our city to dissolve into chaos,” he cautioned.
But as witnessed through the hours of testimony given by members of the public, the curfew ended up creating a larger divide between the authorities and peaceful protestors. Over several hours of public comment, many people urged the council defund the police and oust Officer Jared Yuen, who was caught on video swearing at protestors.
“Looters are not going to follow a curfew anyways,” downtown Councilman Raul Peralez said. “And if anybody believes that that the curfew is going to force somebody that has the plan to go out and specifically loot to go inside, that’s not going to happen. The curfew at the moment I think is just pissing off a lot of our good-hearted citizens.”
If protests turn violent later this week, the council plans to call an emergency meeting to decide whether to reinstate the curfew.
“While I do stand in solidarity with the protestors, we’re not encouraging people to break laws and loot and be destructive in our city," Councilwoman Maya Esparza said. “If that happens, there needs to be consequences to that in order to protect our community and actually minimize violence in the long-term.”
Vice Mayor Chappie Jones echoed Esparza’s comments, but said he had some concerns that problems would reignite. “There needs to be some type of communication out to the community that the police will be out and force and try to mitigate any kind of activities,” he said.
Garcia had to leave the meeting early. But Councilman Johnny Khamis told colleagues that he got a text from the chief, who was not particularly happy with the council’s direction.