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Two Women File Lawsuit Over Alleged SDPD Bias During Pacific Beach Protest

San Diego police officers forming a chain separating pro-Trump supporters and counter-protesters in Pacific Beach on Jan. 9, 2021.
Matthew Bowler
San Diego police officers forming a chain separating pro-Trump supporters and counter-protesters in Pacific Beach on Jan. 9, 2021.

Two women who allege San Diego police showed favoritism toward a group of Trump supporters during a contentious protest last month in Pacific Beach filed a lawsuit Friday against the city of San Diego, its mayor and its police chief.

The Jan. 9 protest involving both Trump supporters and counter-protesters led to a confrontation between the two groups, resulting in five people being detained by police, three of whom were placed under arrest.

A few hours after the two groups gathered, the demonstration near the intersection of Mission Boulevard and Hornblend Street was declared an unlawful assembly by San Diego police.


The department said five officers were assaulted during the protest, resulting in minor injuries, and a window at a nearby business was smashed. Police also said rocks and bottles were thrown at officers, and some were pepper-sprayed.

According to the lawsuit, the unlawful assembly declaration was only directed toward the anti-Trump crowd and excessive force was used against the counter-protesters identifying as anti-fascist.

Representatives with the city and police department did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the lawsuit, though SDPD Lt. Shawn Takeuchi told the San Diego Union-Tribune last month that the order to disperse was only given to one group because some counter-protesters threw objects at officers, while the Trump supporters did not.

Mandy Lien and Erin Smith, the plaintiffs in the suit filed in San Diego federal court, allege the police department engaged in "viewpoint discrimination" by only directing one side to disperse, though Lien alleges she witnessed members of the pro-Trump group "instigating and pepper-spraying people."

Officers ordered counter-protesters to move back, but Smith could not do so due to a group of people standing behind her, according to the lawsuit.


In response, an officer shoved Smith and she tripped and fell to the ground, then was struck by a group of officers with batons, the lawsuit alleges.

Smith was also struck in the back of the arm with a pepper ball fired by officers after she, her mother, and Lien were walking away from the protest, the lawsuit alleges.

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