A lawsuit by Donald Trump supporters attacked after a campaign event in San Jose, California, back in the summer of 2016 can proceed with a lawsuit against the city, under a ruling by a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the lawsuit alleges that police officers in the sanctuary city deliberately exposed the Trump backers to danger as they were filing out of the building where the June 2016 rally was held.
“After the rally at the McEnery Convention Center, police directed those in attendance to leave from a single exit. There, according to the lawsuit, they were ordered to head out onto a street where hundreds of anti-Trump protesters were waiting, even though a safer route and other exits were available,” the Chronicle reported.
“Twenty plaintiffs in the suit said they were beaten or struck by objects thrown by the protesters, and one plaintiff said an officer told her that police had been instructed not to intervene. The plaintiffs said police arrested three people for allegedly assaulting officers, but no one for attacking Trump supporters.”
The judges ruled that if what the supporters allege in the lawsuit is accurate, “the officers acted with deliberate indifference to a known and obvious danger” and “violated the Trump supporters’ constitutional rights.”
San Jose’s lawyers tried to argue that police weren’t responsible for the danger created by the protesters and that police shouldn’t be second-guessed. The judges didn’t exactly buy that the case should be dismissed based on that, as evidenced by the panel’s unanimous, 3-0 ruling.
“The attendees allege the officers shepherded them into a violent crowd of protesters and actively prevented them from reaching safety,” Judge Dorothy Nelson wrote in the decision.
“The officers continued to implement this plan even while witnessing the violence firsthand” and even though they knew about the earlier attacks outside the convention center, the Chronicle reported. She also noted that if the allegations in the lawsuit were proved, it would show police bore responsibility for the attacks.
Harmeet Dhillon, the lawyer for the plaintiffs and a Republican national committeewoman, said she was happy the 9th Circuit “agreed with us that, where police put citizens into harm’s way, they can be held liable for the consequences.”
She added that the suit “seeks to vindicate important civil rights of all Americans.” San Jose City Attorney Richard Doyle, predictably, said he would be looking into an appeal and that the city disagreed with both the court’s view on police liability and “the plaintiffs’ view of the facts.”
The rally was controversial even at the time; after his officers failed to protect the rally attendees, San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia praised his force “for both their effectiveness and their restraint” and posited that “additional force can incite more violence in the crowd.”
Meanwhile, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo decided to put the blame elsewhere, noting: “At some point Donald Trump needs to take responsibility for the irresponsible behavior of his campaign.”
While the habit of blaming Trump for everything from racism and inequality to the War of 1812 and that really awful final Creedence Clearwater Revival album may work in the media, that doesn’t quite fly in court (and indeed, the defendants didn’t exactly fall back upon it).
Neither, however, does the argument that deliberate police negligence and inaction in the face of attacks is merely a matter of discretion. Officials in San Jose need to answer some very important questions.