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San Jose councilman wants metal detectors at City Hall

Months after protesters opposed to the sale of city-owned land to Google chained themselves to chairs in San Jose City Hall, Councilman Johnny Khamis says he wants to install metal detectors at the entrance to the council chambers.
“When anti-Google protestors succeeded in bringing chains into the Council Chambers and chained themselves to the seating, disrupting the people’s business being conducted in the chambers, it revealed a gaping hole in City Hall security,” the south San Jose representative wrote in a memo to Mayor Sam Liccardo suggesting funding for the idea be added to the budget. “Rank and file police officers suggested to me that metal detectors are needed to avoid a repeat of this type of violation, or something much worse.”
Hours into a City Council meeting in December where San Jose’s elected officials ultimately voted unanimously to sell more than $100 million in land near Diridon Station to Google, police officers used bolt cutters to remove protesters who had chained themselves to chairs in the chamber. Eight people were ultimately arrested, but not prosecuted . The chambers were cleared, with residents directed to an overflow room to watch via livestream while the council deliberated.
In his memo, Khamis said metal detectors — which he estimates would cost around $124,000 the first year and about $97,000 a year after that — could deter people from smuggling in items that could be used as weapons. Some nearby city halls already have detectors, including San Francisco, where former Supervisor Dan White fatally shot then-Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in the late 1970s. But the suggestion has sparked skepticism and backlash from some people.
“Our residents would rather see their tax dollars spent on improving public safety in their neighborhoods than at City Hall,” Liccardo said in a statement to the Mercury News.
Raj Jayadev, the co-founder and director of the social justice organization Silicon Valley De-Bug, said the idea is the opposite of how public officials should operate.
“It certainly would have a chilling effect on what elected officials say they want, which is more community involvement,” Jayadev said. “It’s just an insulting suggestion because it infers the public is a danger.”
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At a recent gathering in East San Jose hosted by the advocacy group Silicon Valley Rising — which has raised concerns about Google coming to town intensifying housing shortages and gentrification — some residents said they already felt uncomfortable with the police presence at City Hall, particularly during key votes like the Google land sale. Jayadev agreed.
Khamis said he has been surprised by the reaction.
“Honestly, I did not realize it was going to be controversial,” Khamis said. “Just looking out for public safety for everyone.”

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