“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