These violent riots should all be handled this way.
— Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) May 30, 2020
SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Police in San Jose Friday evening have declared a protest over the police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this week an unlawful assembly, firing tear gas into the crowd of activists following a hectic afternoon of freeway shutdowns and smashed windows.
The protest had spilled onto city streets after activists had earlier shut down busy US Highway 101 in both directions for an hour, smashing windows of police cars and other vehicles during the angry protest march.
After shutting down the freeway, a growing crowd of protesters ended up gathering about a block from San Jose City Hall at the intersection of Seventh and Santa Clara Streets, where a line of police in riot gear stood across from the main group of demonstrators, with some activists coming closer to the officers waving signs and taking video with cell phones.
Police could be seen firing non-lethal projectiles into the crowd that gradually grew in size, numbering upwards of 1,000 people by some estimates.
At least one demonstrator got in a physical confrontation with officers, scuffling with several policemen before being taken away. In a separate incident, a San Jose police officer was knocked unconscious by a thrown rock before being helped by fellow officers into a police vehicle and taken from the scene.
Shortly after 5:30 p.m., police announced that the protest had been declared an unlawful assembly and the crowd was ordered to disperse. The police line began to advance on the protesters down Santa Clara Street towards city hall with officers firing tear gas into the crowd.
Protesters continued to confront officers, leading to additional scuffles and arrests. Protesters could be hear chanting “Hands up don’t shoot!” as they stood their ground or in some cases took a knee in front of the line of officers in riot gear. At least five or six more protesters were taken into custody as the standoff continued.
Earlier, a group of what appeared to be around 300 protesters started blocking all southbound lanes of the highway near Santa Clara Street at around 3:10 p.m. Some vehicles were managing to skirt their way around the crowd, but the southbound traffic backup was already stretching for miles.
Traffic was also stopped in the northbound direction as CHP officers diverted cars off the freeway at Alum Rock Avenue. The exiting freeway traffic triggered gridlock on city streets in the area.
The main group of protesters blocked southbound lanes for the better part of an hour before walking across the freeway to the northbound side and eventually getting off US 101 at about 4:15 p.m.
However, CHP and San Jose police units could still be seen holding up southbound traffic after an initial group of vehicles was able to pass. Northbound traffic was moving again as of about 4:20 p.m.
There were some reports of confrontations between protesters and drivers on the freeway, including some broken vehicle windows. Protesters were also seen smashing the windows of San Jose police vehicles as well as flattening at least one tire and defacing the police SUVs with graffiti at Santa Clara Street.
The protesters appeared to be headed back to San Jose City Hall about a half mile away from where the group had blocked the freeway.
KPIX 5 reporter Len Ramirez was with the protest when the march wound its way to the Santa Clara Street freeway onramp.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo issued a statement on the protests early Friday evening.
“Anger and peaceful protest will always be appropriate responses to injustice; violence will never be. San Jose is united in outrage over the atrocious crime committed in Minneapolis and in sadness over George Floyd’s horrible death,” the statement read.” SJPD will take a measured approach in facilitating peaceful protest, but there will be no tolerance of violence to our people or damage to our city.”
The police officers’ unions of San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco issued a joint statement Thursday condemning the actions of the Minneapolis officers.