The San Jose police chief, backed by the city’s mayor, said Thursday that coordinated violent attacks attacked officials by agitators who hid in masses of peaceful protesters and then turned the streets of downtown San Jose into a ” War zone ”.
Mayor Sam Liccardo stood next to Police Chief Eddie Garcia at a press conference Thursday to support the law enforcement agency, which has been criticized for its harshness in the ongoing protests against police violence sparked by the Minneapolis assassination of George Floyd.
The detachment used tear gas and fired rubber bullets at the crowd, and an officer was suspended after being videotaped during an explosive outbreak by a protester.
Garcia played a 5-minute video of footage from days of chaotic street violence in San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley. The video included rioters beating the windows of civilian and police vehicles, rolling burning dumpsters through the streets and hurling objects on police lines. It showed an injured officer being brought to safety by his colleagues and another injured officer lying on the ground.
“When my boots hit the ground, I stepped into a war zone. It’s not an exaggeration, ”said Captain Jason Dwyer of the department’s special operations division. He told of stones, bottles and chunks of asphalt thrown at officers last Friday and in the days that followed. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Garcia said he wanted to address public criticism that officials were too strict with violence against protesters.
“What began as peaceful, righteous demonstrations against injustice on Friday was a riot of pre-planned violence with a total determination to destroy property,” Garcia said.
He described “agitators hiding in the crowd” by peaceful demonstrators and officials who were hit with metal rebars, chunks of asphalt, and “stones and bottles in large numbers” from both the ground and sometimes roofs. An officer was beaten, knocked unconscious and treated in a hospital last Friday evening, he said.
During a protest outside City Hall on Saturday afternoon, there was “a large coordinated attack on officers with flying projectiles thrown by about 30 people,” which struck in a crowd of about 300 people at different locations at the same time, Garcia said.
In several cases, police intelligence has identified suspects planning an attack on the police, he said.
At a demonstration at City Hall on Monday evening, “we identified agitators bringing heavy black duffel bags” filled with stones and some people were armed with knives and walkie-talkies to communicate with others in the crowd, Garcia said.
Garcia did not say whether any of the protesters belonged to a group or whether one of the “agitators” was part of more than 150 arrests in San Jose in the past week.
“You have sporadic agitators in the crowd. But we have information that shows that some have handheld radios, ”he said. “There are levels of sophistication and coordination.”
A curfew at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday helped the crowds at dusk and reduced violence, he said.
Garcia again apologized Thursday for the official’s behavior, who aggressively yelled at protesters, labeled it unprofessional and said it will not be tolerated. He said the department would investigate their behavior during the protests and “hold us accountable for any mistakes.”
Liccardo, who kneeled with protesters outside City Hall over the weekend, said the police response helped “protect the safety of the people in the crowd as well as the officials”.
“It was chaos. A lot was thrown at officers, they showed admirable reserve, ”said Liccardo.