The San Diego chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union Thursday demanded police department records regarding the law enforcement response to protesters who refused an order to disperse after Friday’s rally by Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Separately, city attorney candidate Bryan Pease filed a $70,000 false arrest claim against the city, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman.
Police said around 35 people were arrested during and after the rally at the San Diego Convention Center. More than 1,000 Trump opponents demonstrated outside, mostly peacefully.
About an hour after his appearance ended, and with remaining protesters refusing to leave the area, police in riot gear ordered them to disperse, cleared them out of the Gaslamp Quarter and pushed them along Harbor Drive toward Barrio Logan.
While the SDPD has come under some criticism, particularly among some Latino community leaders, the agency has also received some praise for its handling of the incident. Trump himself tweeted that police did “a fantastic job.”
In a statement, the ACLU said it sent a letter to the city asking how many officers responded to the protest, how the SDPD prepared for the event, how many complaints have been received about officer conduct, who made a decision to remove barriers before the crowds had left, how the determination was made to have officers don riot gear, and how the department came to declare an unlawful assembly.
The ACLU also asked for any uniform or dashboard video of the protests and arrests.
According to the organization, most of the arrests took place in Barrio Logan, not near the center.
Pease, in a news conference held outside City Hall, contended that all but five of the arrests were for refusal to disperse, not criminal acts.
“I was standing in a grassy median area with one of my campaign signs informing people that they had a free speech right to express themselves and police tackled me, and arrested me and held me in jail for 10 hours,” said Pease, who is best known for representing animal rights advocates who want to protect the harbor seals at the Children’s Pool beach in La Jolla.
He is one of five city attorney candidates running in Tuesday’s primary election.
“You can’t just declare martial law, which is what they did — they suspended all First Amendment rights in downtown San Diego and they forced everybody out…in a militarized formation, all the way into Barrio Logan,” he said.
Pease said he would drop his monetary claims if the city agrees in 30 days to follow recommendations in a federal report on SDPD misconduct that was issued last year, and hire an expert on police practices — of his choosing — to train officers on how to handle protests without violating the First Amendment.
Gerry Braun of the City Attorney’s Office said the agency has not received the Pease claim.
—City News Service
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