One of the most high-profile arrests on the first night of San Jose’s curfew was Assembly candidate Alex Lee.
Lee said he ended the day with his hands zip-tied in a police wagon transporting several other protesters detained for being out past curfew Sunday night. He said he was talking to reporters outside a news van when police approached him at the intersection of Fourth Street and Santa Clara Street around 10 p.m.
“A police SUV rolled up onto the curb. Two officers get out . . . and they say ‘hey, you’re under arrest,’ ” Lee told San José Spotlight. “There’s, like, no warning. They didn’t read my Miranda rights or anything. They just arrest us, even though I tell them what we’re doing.”
Lee said he was legally observing the protest with another person past the curfew time before being detained and thrown in a van.
Despite a news conference announcing the San Jose curfew less than four hours before it was set to start, Lee said police did not make an announcement to protesters at City Hall.
“It was really hearsay in the crowd,” Lee said.
Once Lee was detained, he said another man, who was walking outside his apartment on Fourth Street, was detained and thrown into the van with him. He was not part of the protest, according to Lee.
Lee said police picked up several more protesters and crammed them into the van – close enough to transmit coronavirus – before stopping at SAP Center to process them. He estimated that police had him in their custody an hour and a half.
“At which point, I asked them, ‘what was the point,’ if they’re just going to release us?” Lee said. “The police officers there said ‘it’s like a traffic ticket, you know, we arrest them,’ and I’m like, ‘you don’t arrest people for traffic violations.’ ”
Lee said police dropped people off at various locations and eventually left him at the Great Mall in Milpitas along with 20 people.
“What is appalling to me is a lot of the folks I conversed with live in downtown San Jose,” Lee said. “We still are out breaking curfew and the only way to get home from another city is still to break curfew so it doesn’t make any sense.”
Police did not respond to requests for comment about their curfew enforcement.
Police Chief Eddie Garcia said that officers will be “judicious” in enforcing the curfew.
“We’re not going to be proactive with it, we’re not instituting martial law if someone’s out of their homes,” Garcia said during a news conference Sunday. “This is a call for our officers to be able to mitigate any necessary agitators in crowds.”
But Lee said police were indiscriminate with who they detained.
“It ranged from people who were walking home or at their home at that time of day or people who were chased down by police,” Lee said.
After 8:30 p.m., Sunday, the first day the curfew went into effect, hundreds of protesters remained on the streets for the third day of protests over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by Minneapolis police. Police announced over loud speakers that protesters were subject to arrest if they did not go home. They fired at least one round of rubber bullets.
About an hour later, the group of demonstrators dwindled to about 50 people and were surrounded by police on 9th Street, between E. Santa Clara and San Fernando streets. The demonstrators ran from police through the adjacent neighborhood and jumped over backyard fences.
Lee said police should repeal the curfew and officers should not show up at demonstrations with armor and riot gear. “There is really no reason to form all these lines of armored police,” he said.
On Friday, police in San Jose shot tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters after an officer was hit with an unknown object.
Garcia dubbed the use of force as a “tactical response” that’s been used by police in several other cities.
“We are protesting police brutality, and I don’t understand how that makes us less eager or less motivated to to fight against the very thing that we are experiencing,” Lee said. “Their oppressive measures, their blatant harassment and criminalization of protest is exactly the thing we’re fighting against, and the more and more they do it, the more and more people will be pissed off and ready to protest.”
Lee said the police’s treatment of protesters will influence his political campaign. Lee in March finished second in the race for the Assembly District 25 seat to replace Assemblyman Kansen Chu. He will face off with Republican Bob Brunton in November.
Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.