Spectators at a San Jose sideshow on Halloween, 2018.

KPIX

San Jose Considers Making Watching Sideshows a Crime

Matt Bigler
April 30, 2019 - 2:10 pm

San Jose is trying to crack down on illegal sideshows by targeting the spectators.

Police Chief Eddie Garcia was expected on Tuesday to ask the city council to consider an ordinance that would penalize attendees with a fine of up to $1,000 and possibly six months in jail for watching flashy cars doing doughnuts and other stunts at the rogue street gatherings. 

Police cite recent social media posts saying, "Block them streets. They don't tow spectators in SJ" as a reason for the new approach to eliminating sideshows. 

Greg Jones of San Jose said it's unfair to punish spectators, but acknowledged that it could be effective. 

Related: Another Sunday, Another Round of Oakland Sideshows

"I get it," he said. "It deters the actions, right?"

City Council Member Johnny Khamis told KPIX 5 it's also dangerous to watch sideshows.

“People just watching are actually being killed as part of these demonstrations,” he said.

That's what happened in San Jose last Halloween, when a bystander was struck and killed by a driver.

The proposed no-spectator rule follows similar measures in Los Angeles and San Diego.

San Jose has an interesting history of cracking down on illegal street activity. In the 1970's the city tried to make low-riding illegal by targeting people for driving too slowly, but the lowrider culture was recently celebrated with an exhibit at the city's main library that just ended last month.

There was no illegal sideshow activity in Oakland, a hotbed for the events, over the weekend after an increased police presence. That city is currently looking at a community based strategy to deter the gatherings, which historically have been part of the city's culture.