San Jose could repeal car-cruising ban, advocates say it discriminates against Latino lowrider culture

The City of San Jose is one step closer to lifting the car-cruising ban it implemented 30 years ago. Advocates of cruising say the ban discriminates against their Mexican American culture and heritage.

Supporters of lifting the ban say it hasn’t been enforced in decades so, what’s the point of having it? Now it seems the San Jose City Council agrees with them. 

The lowrider culture has been around since the 1940s but in San Jose, there’s been a ban on cruising in the city since 1992. On Wednesday, a council committee voted unanimously to lift the ban.  

"Over the years, I was stopped dozens of times by the police and nearly every time, I was made to sit on a curb while I and my car was searched. I was questioned about presumed gang involvement."

San Jose City Councilmember Raul Peralez spoke candidly Thursday about his own experience with cruising and why he supported lifting the ban. The city says it cracked down on cruising to help curb gang violence and other criminal activity. 

"The lowrider community has evolved and they’ve changed. So now everybody that’s actually out here with a lowrider car, a restoration or custom car, they’re all working people. They’re all tax-paying citizens, they have businesses," said Robert Diaz, Vice President of the United Lowrider Council of San Jose. 

Still, San Jose Police Lieutenant Stephen Donahue isn’t on board with lifting the ban and during the committee meeting said:

"This is a tool we use to ensure the safety of the public, and this is something that while right now it is not a tool being used very often, this is not something we want to lose out of our toolbox."

"The prohibition on cruising served as a tool to perpetuate and give legal credibility to racial discrimination and the enforcement and criminalization that followed," Peralez said. 

Peralez also says cruising is not the same thing as a sideshow

Diaz and other lowriders participated in Night Market at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Thursday, showing off their custom-made, lowrider cars. 

"Growing up, we always wanted our own cars and now we do. To me, it’s just relaxing and enjoying everybody’s company," Diaz said. 

The fines and signage associated with cruising will be removed through the budget process when the ban is officially lifted in June.