Nearly 24 hours after a peaceful march Friday turned into a tense riot with injuries, a handful of arrests and vandalism in downtown San Jose, a group of about 200 protesters took to the streets again Saturday.
They began in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library around 7 p.m. About 90 minutes later, three had been arrested and the remaining protesters were forcibly moved down Fourth Street. Hundreds of others were scattered across sidewalks and the City Hall plaza.
I’m at MLK Library in downtown #SanJose, where a pod of nearly 200 peaceful protesters sit across from eight police officers. Chants, music and conversation are met with occasion supportive honks from passing cars pic.twitter.com/U5rR4qGz6s
— Katie Lauer (@_katielauer) May 31, 2020
Paired with a soundtrack of Rage Against the Machine and occasional supportive honks from passing cars, the protesters chanted, offered free water and snacks and talked amongst themselves. A few protesters brought eggs to throw at authorities, but were discouraged by others and they left them behind at the library.
But tensions grew after demonstrators began marching along Fourth Street toward City Hall, holding signs and chanting “Black Lives Matter” before meeting the police line. After protesters refused to leave the street, police officers fired rubber rounds and drew their batons. One police official said the officers only fired when protesters spilled into the streets, but anyone on a knee or with their hands up would not be shot.
Officers moved to only blocking the block of Santa Clara Street across from City Hall by 8:45 p.m., and protesters followed. Officers were occasionally firing rubber rounds and began spraying tear gas, as some protesters started interacting with police. By 9 p.m., a total of three people were handcuffed with zip ties and arrested.
Leonard Lara of San Jose said he came to City Hall to watch the protest, and said he hopes protesters realize the officers have the situation more under control than Friday.
“In all reality they’ll cause more problems, and it’s going to hurt taxpayers more,” Lara said. “There has to be some control, unlike what’s happening in Minneapolis.”
Lara expressed surprise by the reaction to Floyd’s death because he said people get killed by officers often, like Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was jogging in Georgia.
“In reality, what can we do? That’s reality, protesting is all we can do. They make the laws and enforce them,” the 36-year-old said. “I just hope people don’t get hurt.”
Two and a half hours after protesters first gathered, around 100 people started peacefully marching and chanting away from City Hall and toward Highway 101, where they blocked traffic for more than an hour Friday. Several officers in police cars followed the protesters down Santa Clara Street.
Tim Harper, a 40-year-old construction worker, stayed behind. He said he helped move an injured officer during the protest Friday. Later that night, while trying to help a child who had been hit with a rubber round, he said he was shot, too.
“I had to come out here because I’m proof of how corrupt these people are,” Harper said. “I helped one of them drag (the officer) to the car. I wasn’t aggressive, I had my hands up and they still shot me. It doesn’t matter what color skin you have.”
Carrying an upside down flag around the protest, he said it represented the trouble going on across the country.
“Most people don’t know what the flag means – it means our country’s distressed,” Harper said. “It’s not only black or Mexican (issues), you know I’m white. It’s a bigger problem.”
Contact Katie Lauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.