Assembly Candidate Alex Lee Says Arrest Shows Need for Meaningful Police Reform

It was around 10pm on Sunday when San Jose police walked up to 25th District Assembly Candidate Alex Lee on Fourth and Santa Clara streets, zip-tied his hands and shoved him into the back of a paddywagon.

Lee, one of very few political candidates to join protesters, had spent the weekend marching against George Floyd’s death specifically and police brutality writ large.

But on the third night, San Jose imposed a hastily-drafted 8:30pm curfew to give cops a tool to clear the streets and round up stragglers. Lee said police never announced the curfew and only a few people even received an emergency order about it on their phone.

Lee said he was chatting with a TV reporter when “a police SUV rolled up onto the curb, lights on.” “They did not say there’s a curfew,” Lee recounted. “One police officer approached me and said, ‘Hey can I talk to you?”

Moments later, his hands were restrained behind his back. A Latino man who had briefly emerged from his apartment to check out what was going on was also detained, Lee said.
“He wasn’t resisting or anything, but they just arrested him,” he added.

Officers then brought the protestors to the SAP Center, where they cited the group for the equivalent of a misdemeanor. After writing scores of tickets, cops transported the low-level offenders to either the Great Mall in Milpitas or the Eastridge Mall in San Jose. There were no buses running and the curfew-scofflaws had to call friends for rides home.

“It didn’t feel so much as getting people off the streets and going home,” Lee observed. “It was more as if it was this intimidation tactic.”

After his first brush with the law, the Assembly hopeful said he’s even more motivated to bring “deep reform of our policing” to Sacramento.

Lee, a Democrat, is running against Republican Bob Brunton in the fall election.

Send a tip to The Fly

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

21 Comments

  1. When you get to Sacramento, Alex, tell Gavin Newsom to call the legislature if he’s got some new ideas for laws. We’ve had enough of one-man rule.

  2. > Lee said police never announced the curfew and only a few people even received an emergency order about it on their phone.

    Dear Failed Candidate Lee:

    There are riots and vandalism in progress. There are TWO states of emergency.

    Curfew or no curfew, obey the cop.

    If you don’t want to obey the cop, think of him as a “first responder” and obey the first responder.

    Frankly, I don’t see a bright future for you, Mr. Lee. In order to have a bright future, it helps if you’re bright to begin with.

    • Are you following his race? Forgoing an act of God he’s going to win the general election after dark horsing his way out of a crowded primary, so I’m not sure “failed candidate” is the proper way to address him.
      When I watch the videos of people doing donuts and setting dumpsters on fire, I’m glad SJPD was there, but when I see SJPD beat civilians with batons and then present edited footage of it at a news conference, I see a clear example of injustice and dishonesty. You should be able to accept the fact that SJPD was needed to keep order and at the same time be willing to criticize their response. The handling of the curfew is a good example. Apparently the curfew was ordered after officers had already hit the streets, and so there was some confusion in applying it that resulted in violations of people’s civil liberties, which is not trivial. A perfect example of a concrete problem. Maybe the answer is training officers to listen differently when interacting with members of the public, maybe it is training officers on these specific situations, maybe it’s how the curfew is enacted next time. But the longer that you deny that there is a problem, the longer you refuse to participate in this process of coming up with a reasonable solution to make people’s lives better, the more dangerous the powder keg of tension grows.

      • > Maybe the answer is training officers to listen differently when interacting with members of the public, maybe it is training officers on these specific situations, maybe it’s how the curfew is enacted next time.

        You’re overthinking the problem.

        Just obey the cop when he says move your butt on down the road, curfew or no curfew.

        Civilization does not have time to stop the economy and hold a sensitivity training session everytime someone wants an explanation for “get out of the way”.

        • Why do you think the media are exempt from the curfew, Bubble? Why do you think we even need a media? If you want to live in a country where people aren’t allowed to even speak to the police, where they “just obey” as you are demanding, then you should go live in North Korea and not ruin this country.

          • > Why do you think the media are exempt from the curfew, Bubble?

            “Goats among the sheep.”

            What the hell is “the media” anymore?

            The nihilists and anarchists believe in winning “by any means necessary”

            “Truth” and “rule of law” are outdated “bourgeoise notions”.
            They are self-imposed constaints that civilization accepts in order to have civilization.

            But the nihilists aren’t interested in civilization, they’re interested in power.

            A fake journalist can stab a cop in the back just as well as a ninja warrior.

            If “real journalists” won’t act like real journalists are expected to act in a civilized society, “real journalists” will be assumed to be and treated like fake journalists.

          • Dude, you’re telling me to obey the police no matter what and that the media isn’t important because truth doesn’t matter. What is the difference between what you are telling me right now and 1984?

            What are you TALKING ABOUT ninja warrior journalists stabbing cops in the back? Are we having a serious conversation? Who are these dangerous journalists that you want to take away everyone’s rights to protect us from? Because I’m talking about reality, things that happen not in the imagination but unfold in space-time. Journalists were tear gassed, shot in the back with rubber bullets, and detained unlawfully. If you think it should be okay to do these things to journalists who cover events such as this, then you don’t understand the importance of a free press to preventing government tyranny.

  3. So he’s not even in the Assembly yet, and he expects to be excused from the obligation to follow the law. Will he expect even more deference from the police once he’s in?

    “It was more as if it was this intimidation tactic.” Given that your whole reason for getting arrested was a stunt for exposure, it seems the ledger is even.

  4. Take off the rose colored glasses, Huh Really. The media no longer deliver “the truth”. Journalists haven’t delivered true news for years. It’s all opinion, editorializing, with only the factoids which fit their invidual points of view being “reported”. The word news should be removed from newspaper. TV and radio are just as bad. And that goes for the right as well as the left; although the left dominates the markets.

    • You think that because you believe some journalists have low standards of journalistic ethics the response should be to shoot journalists with rubber bullets and allow police officers to violate city orders telling them not to detain reporters? I don’t have rose colored glasses on, you are advocating for anti-American authoritarianism that is completely antithetical to the ideas of freedom from government tyranny that our founders believed in. It’s disgusting to hear someone who has presumably grown up in an American society where he has enjoyed the benefits of freedom brazenly argue against the first amendment. You might claim to be on the side of law and order, but you are talking about extralegal, extraconstitutional, tribal warfare, in violation of everything from the laws of the City of San Jose to the Constitution of the United States and in-between, because your feelings are hurt by the things some people are printing?

    • I usually find the intellectually limited person is the first one to abandon rational argument and resort to frustrated ad hominem attacks. Come on, Bubble. You comment on everything you read, so I know you’ve read the articles about what happened, but you are writing comments like you live on another planet. You read about Len Ramirez getting shot in the back. Was he not acting like a “real journalist,” and who on God’s green earth gets to decide who the real journalists are? Did he have a knife? Was he near a cop’s back? I think it’s intellectually limited that you think we have to choose whether we support or oppose entire professions, like it’s black or white that cops are good and journalists are bad. You can insult my intelligence, but I never make my decisions by retreating to my tribe.

      • > I usually find the intellectually limited person is the first one to abandon rational argument and resort to frustrated ad hominem attacks.

        I responded to your post, and simply said “obey the cop”.

        You replied with non-responsive hypothetical, speculative, self-justification.

        Not worth the brain energy to straighten you out. I tried to save you from a life of failure and disappointment, but you rejected my helping hand.

        • I’m not here to argue about an argument, but be honest about what you said. In what context are you saying that people should “just obey” cops? Because you were responding to my comments on the implementation of the curfew, a specific event you acknowledged implicitly when you commented on an article about it. Did you mean to say that journalists who have been cleared to lawfully observe a police response should not question a police officer when he tells them to leave? In response to my clarifying questions about the role of the media (I.e. a free press), you dodged the question about what YOU believe by pivoting to this idea that those who disagree with you don’t believe in truth, seemingly suggesting that you don’t think journalists should be able to cover events because you disagree with what they write.

          I’m reminded of a quote from the New Pope. “A father should be obeyed, even when he is wrong.” I’ll be ashamed if I ever say anything like that to my children. That sort of thinking prepares people to become pawns of authoritarian governments. Should cops be obeyed, even when they are wrong? Should governments be?

          If you want to clarify what you actually believe, I’m still here.

          • > Because you were responding to my comments on the implementation of the curfew, a specific event you acknowledged implicitly when you commented on an article about it. Blah. Blah. Blah.

            I’ll repeat what I said earlier:

            “You’re overthinking the problem.”

            You must have a college degree, or something.

            In a riot situation, obey the cops. No one will get hurt. Not the time to dazzle the world with the brilliance of you poly sci term paper.

          • That just brings things us back to the earlier point you did not address: why are the media exempted from the curfew? Why is there value in having a neutral party to observe and report events? You are saying that if the police declare a protest a riot, no one should question their orders, even if those orders are to detain journalists?

  5. Alex Lee, congratulations on your courage to support First Amendment rights with action. Many police officers are honorable people who are disappointed when their departments spin or edit the truth.

    Please use your future court appearance to subpoena as many officials as possible to put their testimony on the record for your defense. You have the right to open a legal defense fund that is separate from your campaign account. Raise money for an assertive and lengthy defense and accept no plea bargains before your hearing. If your non-violent case is dropped, then similar cases of curfew violation will need to be dropped for 100s of others. Push for a finding of factual innocence and create a stack of depositions, so 100s of others can use the records you surface to have their protest arrest records expunged also (provided they did not commit violence or theft or vandalism).

    Your job as the winning Democrat is to represent AD25. This community – a working class community – will back you for 12 years (6 terms) if you graciously show courageous leadership that inspires a new generation. Teach people how to speak legal language by being strong and peaceful and persistent and activist and challenging and present.

    Speak truth to power even as you take power. Bend, but do not break as you prepare to lead. Show humility to serve by speaking up as an inspiration to teenagers and young adults to put intergenerational community service above hopelessness. Income inequality, renter strife, academic opportunity gap, allocation of federal CDBG funds, Latino and Asian coalition-building – you can lead for suburban change in Santa Clara, Milpitas, Fremont, Newark. San Jose change will be challenging because the city is huge. Use the smaller cities in AD25 to inspire statewide grassroots organizing in the suburbs. There is way more racism in the suburban cities because there are no full-time city council members there to demand full-time accountability. The ‘burbs hold the population majority, but are run by bureaucrats – not electeds. Remember that San Jose is the only city in Santa Clara County where Council members are funded to hire full-time personal staffers. Zero political staffers in the other cities where council members are not paid full-time.

    Many people will tell you to shush up. Please redefine “speak up” as you no longer need to speak loudly to be heard. You won. Now you lead.

    • > Remember that San Jose is the only city in Santa Clara County where Council members are funded to hire full-time personal staffers. Zero political staffers in the other cities where council members are not paid full-time.

      Trolling for a staff job, Chris?

      Aren’t you the guy who was frog marched out of public service?

      You keep trying to get back in. Take “NO” for an answer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *