Federal Court Ruling: Protestors Attacked by San José Police Will See Their Day in Court

Federal Court Ruling: Protestors Attacked by San José Police Will See Their Day in Court

August 4, 2023

A ruling yesterday by a Northern District of California federal judge allows a lawsuit to move forward against the City of San José and the San José Police Department (SJPD) for violating racial justice protestors’ civil rights. Rachel Lederman of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) and its Center for Protest Law & Litigation; co-counsel Shook, Hardy & Bacon; and civil rights attorneys R. Michael Flynn and Jim Chanin represent protestors and bystanders who are suing the City of San José for the violation of their Fourth Amendment right against police excessive force and First Amendment right to freedom of speech and assembly.  

In May 2020, the SJPD fired hundreds of so-called "less lethal" Projectile Impact Weapons (PIW) into crowds during protests in downtown San José that followed the murder of George Floyd. Among the many injured was bystander M. Michael Acosta, who was trying to walk home when Officer Jared Yuen shot him in the eye. Acosta's eye was destroyed, and he has undergone multiple surgeries to remove his eye globe and reconstruct his eye socket. SJPD shot the dangerous munitions into the crowd in an indiscriminate manner, using up their entire supply of PIW on the first night of protests, May 29, 2020. The police then made an emergency purchase in order to replenish their supply of munitions to continue their unlawful barrage of force on protestors the following day. 

“This ruling to allow the case to proceed to a jury trial is a victory for those who were attacked indiscriminately by police. While the City of San José asked the court to silence protestors by shutting down this litigation, their efforts failed. We will now be able to hold the city and police accountable for their unconstitutional violence against Black Lives Matter protestors,” said Rachel Lederman, Senior Counsel with PCJF. “While we’re disappointed that the court dismissed some of the plaintiffs’ legitimate claims, the City of San José will nevertheless be on trial for allowing officers to shoot and beat non-threatening protestors. We’re exploring appropriate avenues for recourse on the remaining claims.”  

“We are determined to make San José a safer place for people to protest police racism and violence without fear of losing an eye or testicle,” said Michael Harrison, who leads Shook’s civil rights and racial justice pro bono efforts. “Shook is honored to collaborate with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund to bring a resolution for the people of San José and to hold law enforcement accountable.” 

The case is NAACP of San José / Silicon Valley, et al., v. City of San José, Northern District of California U.S. District Court Case No. 4:21-cv-01705-PJH. 

Read the ruling here.