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Complaints mount after anti-Trump protests

Posted at 4:09 PM, Jun 03, 2016

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — This Northern California city and its police department are facing mounting complaints of a tepid and tardy law enforcement response to attacks of Donald Trump supporters after a political rally.

Videos circulating online show physical clashes occurring in front of San Jose police officers dressed in riot gear and standing stoically in a line outside the convention center where Trump spoke. Critics also complained that assaults occurred on side streets near the venue that lacked police presence.

"Potentially more could have been done," said San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, chairman of the council's public safety committee.

The questions about the San Jose police response came while a crowd in Redding, California, continues to swell ahead of a Trump rally there scheduled for Friday night. None of the protesters found in abundance Thursday in San Jose were visible in Redding, a politically conservative city 150 miles north of the state capital, Sacramento.

The San Jose Police Department said in a statement Friday that officers initially didn't want to ratchet up the violence by responding aggressively and with physical force.

"While several physical assaults did occur, the police personnel on scene had the difficult task of weighing the need to immediately apprehend the suspect(s) against the possibility that police action involving the use of physical force under the circumstances would further insight the crowd and produce more violent behavior," San Jose police officer Albert Morales said in a prepared statement.

San Jose police arrested four people Thursday. One officer suffered minor injuries after a dozen or more people were punched and car windows were broken Thursday night. Trump hats grabbed from supporters were set on fire on the ground. At least one woman was pelted with an egg.

Police stood their ground at first but after about 90 minutes moved into the remaining crowd to break it up and make arrests.

"Many of the attendees were attacked out in the open," said Pete Constant, a former San Jose councilman and former police officer. "It appears that law enforcement was more focused on protecting private property."

Thursday night's crowd, which had numbered over 300 just after the rally, thinned significantly as the night went on, but those who remained near the San Jose Convention Center were rowdy and angry.

Some banged on the cars of Trump supporters as they left the rally and chased after those on foot.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, a Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, criticized Trump for coming to cities and igniting problems that local police departments had to deal with.

"At some point Donald Trump needs to take responsibility for the irresponsible behavior of his campaign," Liccardo told The Associated Press by phone.

Liccardo defended the police Friday.

"San Jose police officers performed admirably and professionally to contain acts of violence and protect individuals' rights to assemble, protest and express their political views," the mayor said.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere Friday in Redding was far calmer than in San Jose.

The region is fertile ground for Trump's insurgent candidacy, where rural conservative residents often feel slighted by government officials in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

"It's about representation and it's about making America great again," said Jan Hanks of Shasta, a small town west of Redding.

Clinton and Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders also have scheduled campaign stops in California on Friday as they look to Tuesday's state primary.