The liberal-dominated Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is generally considered quite hostile to President Donald Trump. In the past, the court has ruled against his administration on a host of issues, but now, it appears to be on the verge of siding with some of Trump’s supporters.
According to Breitbart, a three-judge panel from the court has signaled that it is inclined to allow a lawsuit filed by aggrieved Trump supporters against the city of San Jose, California, to proceed. The lawsuit takes issue what allegedly occurred after a campaign rally by then-candidate Trump in June 2016.
Rally-goers say that following the conclusion of the campaign event, San Jose police funneled them through one exit out of the San Jose Convention Center and then forced them all to go in one direction upon leaving the venue, right into the waiting throngs of angry anti-Trump protesters.
Those protesters then attacked and physically assaulted numerous Trump supporters, all while San Jose police officers allegedly stood by and watched it happen without intervening. The inaction and “negligence” by the officers prompted a lawsuit, which has now made it to the Ninth Circuit.
According to Courthouse News Service, San Jose attorney Matthew Pritchard sought to dismiss the lawsuit by claiming the officers were entitled to immunity for their actions and inaction, as they couldn’t have known what dangers might stem from their crowd-control decisions.
The attorney also seemed to blame the Trump supporters for the violence that befell them, as they apparently should have known that attending a Trump rally in generally anti-Trump San Jose would have the potential for danger.
But the judges on the panel didn’t appear to side with Pritchard during Monday’s hearing.
“There was an angry mob at the end of one exit while police said the other exits were blocked,” Circuit Judge William Fletcher stated. “That sounds like the state created danger.”
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His dim view of the actions by the San Jose police in regard to the rally-goers was echoed by Circuit Judge Andrew Kleinfeld, who said of the plaintiffs, “It seems like they had to run the gauntlet.”
Harmeet Dhillon, the attorney representing the Trump supporters, explained to the court how police unnecessarily created a dangerous situation by blocking off alternative exits from the venue and forcing rally-goers into a funnel of anti-Trump protesters.
“It was so shocking. The police were sending them into danger,” Dhillon said, adding of the crowd-control decisions by police, “It’s a circumstance where police should have known they were creating a dangerous situation.”
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the qualified immunity argument posited by San Jose generally shields law enforcement officers from liability when the rights of private citizens are violated, such as the right to be protected from foreseeable violence, but only if that right has been established through precedent. San Jose argued there was no prior precedent in regard to how police should handle hostile groups at political rallies.
But Judge Fletcher disagreed, instead saying of the police’s actions that day, “We have an affirmative act by the police that produces danger.”
Judge Kleinfeld, who noted that rally-goers were forced to “run the gauntlet,” said he understood the Trump supporters could have avoided danger if they used alternative exits, but “the only reason they didn’t was that the cops forced them.”
The third judge on the panel, Dorothy Nelson, said she viewed the police response as unreasonable, but agreed with Pritchard that she was unaware of any prior rulings prohibiting the specific actions taken by police.
As for the violated rights of the Trump supporters, Dhillon argued, “They had the right to go to a rally. Once (police) put them in harm’s way, forcing them into a particular route, not allowing them to flee, they put the plaintiffs in danger.”
Obviously, this three-judge panel won’t be ruling on the merits of the case but will merely decide if the lawsuit can proceed. Assuming the court does allow it to move forward, it will be interesting to see how this case plays out and if San Jose will ever be held accountable for how it handled, and perhaps even facilitated, an angry mob descending violently on vulnerable Trump supporters.
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