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ACLU Seeks Police Records On Response To Trump Protests

Photo caption:

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Police outside the San Diego Convention Center, May 27, 2016.

The San Diego chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on 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.

RELATED: San Diego City Attorney Candidate Among 35 Arrested Following Trump Rally

In response, an SDPD spokesman asserted that the agency's leadership was "proud of the professionalism, restraint and patience displayed by the officers and (sheriff's) deputies involved during Mr. Trump's visit to San Diego."

"They provided a safe environment to allow for freedom of speech," Lt. Scott Wahl said. "The police department's decision to declare an unlawful assembly came as a result of violent behavior and unlawful acts within the crowd of protesters."

A total of 33 people, including five minors ages 16 and 17, were taken into custody during and after the rally at the San Diego Convention Center, according to police. All but five of the arrests were for allegedly refusing orders to disperse. Two others were for outstanding warrants, two for interfering with peace officers and one for battery, according to police records.

More than 1,000 Trump opponents demonstrated outside the convention hall during the event, mostly peacefully. About an hour after the candidate's talk 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.

The department spokesman said police officials would "provide the appropriate documentation once it becomes available."

"Most of the items, including overall cost, are in the process of being compiled," Wahl said. "We've already made available the arrest log ... associated with the event."

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, noted that the vast majority of protesters jailed during the event did nothing more than resist orders to disperse.

"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.

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