By Eric M. Johnson
(Reuters) – Police in the California city of San Jose, motivated by the political leanings of city officials, allowed an angry mob to assault Donald Trump supporters as they left a rally for the presumptive Republican presidential candidate last month, a lawsuit filed on Thursday alleges.
The civil lawsuit, filed by 14 Trump supporters against the city of San Jose, its mayor, police chief and a number of other individuals, says police funneled Trump supporters outside the city’s convention center directly into a crowd of hundreds of “physically violent and aggressive” protesters.
The plaintiffs add that city officials directed roughly 250 San Jose police officers not to intervene amid a melee of “violent criminal acts perpetrated by dozens of anti-Trump protesters.”
The San Jose City Attorney, Richard Doyle, said he had not yet read the complaint, but that police made many arrests and the city is “committed to first amendment rights and protecting people.”
A police department spokesman referred inquiries to Doyle’s office.
Mayor Sam Liccardo, a Democrat, said in statement that the city will do “everything necessary” to prosecute those who acted illegally.
“The ludicrous accusation that I somehow directed the police department to ‘stand down’ at the rally is utterly false,” Liccardo said.
Tense and sometimes violent demonstrations have peppered Trump’s political rallies in New Mexico and California in recent months. Protesters are also expected to converge on the Republican National Convention next week in Cleveland.
Hundreds of people in San Jose, many angry over Trump’s statements about immigration, gathered outside his event last month. Members of the crowd waved Mexican flags, chanted anti-Trump slogans, and burned Trump hats along with at least one U.S. flag.
The lawsuit alleges Liccardo, police chief Edgardo Garcia, and some 40 other people stripped Trump backers of their rights to free speech and assembly.
According to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensation, one Trump backer was pelted with eggs and spat on, while another, a 71-year-old woman, had her hair pulled and her glasses broken.
At one point, the lawsuit says, a 14-year-old boy was struck in the back of his head as members of the crowd shouted, “Kill him!”
Speaking at a campaign event the day after the events in San Jose, Trump described the rally as “a love fest inside. No problems whatsoever.” But then his supporters “walked out and they got accosted by a bunch of thugs,” he said.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Bill Rigby and Richard Pullin)