West Sacramento Police Under Fire in Arrest of Two Black Port Workers

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On Thursday, a massive protest of 150 International Longshore and Warehouse Union members, who gathered outside the Yolo County courthouse in protest of an arraignment hearing of two of their fellow members charged with obstruction of justice. It was described to me by one of observer as “the largest and best organized protest that anyone could remember seeing in Woodland.” A bus full of Longshoremen turned out with a flat-bed truck which served as the stage. The case was continued to the 22nd of this month.

The following is the description of the incident from the union website:

“On August 23, West Sacramento police and private security guards viciously attacked, maced and arrested two Local 10 brothers, Jason Ruffin #101168 and Aaron Harrison #101167, coming back to work on the SSA terminal after lunch. When the guards insisted on searching their car, the longshoremen questioned their authority to do so and called the Local 10 business agent. While one was talking on the phone to the BA and without provocation, they were assaulted, dragged from the car, handcuffed, jailed and charged with “trespassing” and “obstructing a police officer”.

How the hell can longshoremen be “trespassing”, returning to work after lunch, having already shown their PMA ID cards to guards at the terminal. Was it racial profiling because the two longshoremen were black? Authorities citing a new maritime security regulation that permits vehicle inspection doesn’t mean maritime workers can’t question it. It doesn’t take away a union member’s right to call his union business agent, And it certainly doesn’t give authorities, private or government, the right to assault and arrest you without provocation.”

According to their attorney quoted in the Woodland Daily Democrat:

“I think this is the result of a big misunderstanding at the port of West Sacramento that day. As the court process progresses, that will be established.”

However the former ILWU Local 10 president sees this as more nefarious:

“They roughed them up and maced them and they think they have the right to do that. You have a clear case of police brutality and racial profiling.”

According to the Daily Democrat:

“This is just more fodder against the West Sac PD,” said Rev. Ashiya Odeye, director of the Justice Reform Coalition, a Sacramento-based civil rights advocacy group. “This just shows what they’ve been doing to the citizens of West Sacramento. But now they have made the mistake of doing this to members of a union.”

Odeye, along with other activists, have been mounting a grass-roots opposition to an injunction being sought by the Yolo County District Attorney’s office against a local gang in West Sacramento in part because of what Odeye said were rampant reports of police brutality against innocent residents in the area.

The Deputy Chief of Police for West Sacramento Police Department gives a very different story as to what happened.

According to the Daily Democrat:

Henry Serrano, deputy chief of police for the West Sacramento Police Department, said that’s not what happened.

Serrano said Harrison and Ruffin normally work at a port in Oakland, and were new faces in West Sacramento that day.

He said they were then randomly selected for search by port security upon their return from lunch. The search was performed in accordance with Coast Guard requirements – not because of their race, Serrano said.

“Every so many vehicles they check,” Serrano said. “So that’s where they were confused about that.”

Harrison and Ruffin refused to be searched, which resulted in West Sacramento police officers coming to the port to assist security personnel.

The police ordered the two port workers to clear the driveway if they would not submit to the search – they refused to move, Serrano said.

“For over five-and-a-half minutes our officers try and talk to these individuals and try to explain to them, ‘you don’t have to be searched if you don’t want, but you can’t just sit here, blocking the drive,'” Serrano said. “There’s no compliance and eventually the officers tell them they need to get out of the car.”

Failing to comply with what Serrano said was a lawful order, Harrison and Ruffin were removed from their car by the officers.

Serrano said the entire incident lasted no more than several seconds as the driver was squirted with pepper spray and taken from the vehicle.

“The passenger wasn’t even touched until he was handcuffed,” Serrano said. “They were not being compliant with a lawful order, which is subject to Coast Guard regulations.”

Serrano added that a port security videotape of the incident, which is currently in evidence, verifies his version of events.

Future protests are planned if the charges against these two workers are not dropped.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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20 thoughts on “West Sacramento Police Under Fire in Arrest of Two Black Port Workers”

  1. Anonymous

    It is my understanding that one should follow direct orders given by police. They cannot force you to speak. If the police choose to search your car, you can tell them clearly that you are not giving consent for them to do so. The guys had someone on the phone who could’ve heard the non-consent. But refusal to get out of the car, move the car to the side of the road, etc. are just asking for trouble, put your hands behind your back, etc. seems to me something that people should not do and will always end badly.

  2. Anonymous

    It is my understanding that one should follow direct orders given by police. They cannot force you to speak. If the police choose to search your car, you can tell them clearly that you are not giving consent for them to do so. The guys had someone on the phone who could’ve heard the non-consent. But refusal to get out of the car, move the car to the side of the road, etc. are just asking for trouble, put your hands behind your back, etc. seems to me something that people should not do and will always end badly.

  3. Anonymous

    It is my understanding that one should follow direct orders given by police. They cannot force you to speak. If the police choose to search your car, you can tell them clearly that you are not giving consent for them to do so. The guys had someone on the phone who could’ve heard the non-consent. But refusal to get out of the car, move the car to the side of the road, etc. are just asking for trouble, put your hands behind your back, etc. seems to me something that people should not do and will always end badly.

  4. Anonymous

    It is my understanding that one should follow direct orders given by police. They cannot force you to speak. If the police choose to search your car, you can tell them clearly that you are not giving consent for them to do so. The guys had someone on the phone who could’ve heard the non-consent. But refusal to get out of the car, move the car to the side of the road, etc. are just asking for trouble, put your hands behind your back, etc. seems to me something that people should not do and will always end badly.

  5. Anonymous

    West Sacramento PD do so much racial profiling, it’s ridiculous. That’s why I moved from there. Every colored person will get harassed or pulled over at one time or another, because of this profiling. I am a mexican female with no criminal record. When the have pulled me over they asked me, How long I had been on probation? I asked them, “why don’t you ask me if I’ve ever been arrested first!” I have seen them put little kids in handcuffs and put them in the back of their car for not having their helmets on when riding their bicycles on their street. It pisses me off. They are racist in West Sacramento. Even one of my white friends have said they don’t get bothered at all in West Sacramento and if they do get pulled over, they only get warnings.

  6. Anonymous

    West Sacramento PD do so much racial profiling, it’s ridiculous. That’s why I moved from there. Every colored person will get harassed or pulled over at one time or another, because of this profiling. I am a mexican female with no criminal record. When the have pulled me over they asked me, How long I had been on probation? I asked them, “why don’t you ask me if I’ve ever been arrested first!” I have seen them put little kids in handcuffs and put them in the back of their car for not having their helmets on when riding their bicycles on their street. It pisses me off. They are racist in West Sacramento. Even one of my white friends have said they don’t get bothered at all in West Sacramento and if they do get pulled over, they only get warnings.

  7. Anonymous

    West Sacramento PD do so much racial profiling, it’s ridiculous. That’s why I moved from there. Every colored person will get harassed or pulled over at one time or another, because of this profiling. I am a mexican female with no criminal record. When the have pulled me over they asked me, How long I had been on probation? I asked them, “why don’t you ask me if I’ve ever been arrested first!” I have seen them put little kids in handcuffs and put them in the back of their car for not having their helmets on when riding their bicycles on their street. It pisses me off. They are racist in West Sacramento. Even one of my white friends have said they don’t get bothered at all in West Sacramento and if they do get pulled over, they only get warnings.

  8. Anonymous

    West Sacramento PD do so much racial profiling, it’s ridiculous. That’s why I moved from there. Every colored person will get harassed or pulled over at one time or another, because of this profiling. I am a mexican female with no criminal record. When the have pulled me over they asked me, How long I had been on probation? I asked them, “why don’t you ask me if I’ve ever been arrested first!” I have seen them put little kids in handcuffs and put them in the back of their car for not having their helmets on when riding their bicycles on their street. It pisses me off. They are racist in West Sacramento. Even one of my white friends have said they don’t get bothered at all in West Sacramento and if they do get pulled over, they only get warnings.

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