By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO – Sacramento Police officers have shown bias in favor of white supremacists and Trump supporters in the streets, charged community activists here who are suggesting city officers should be investigated to see if they are members of those right wing groups.
Civil rights groups and community organizations – after evidence that military and police may well have been involved in the insurgency at the D.C. Capitol a couple of weeks ago – will pose those questions and more to the Sacramento City Council at a “Protest Activity” forum at a City Council meeting Tuesday.
The Vanguard obtained a list of accusations by the advocates, including one that noted “Substantiated reports (show) Proud Boys, Trump supporters, and other white supremacists… harassing pedestrians of color, unhoused people, and downtown residents. There are even reports and videos of physical attacks. The Sacramento police have not intervened.”
Other claims include one that Sacramento Police treatment of white supremacists is in “stark contrast to the way police brutalized Sacramentans who protested police brutality last summer after George Floyd’s very public and horrifying execution by Minneapolis police.
“Sacramento police, supported by the National Guard, responded with ruthless force against protesters without provocation or serious threat of violence from protesters. Many people in our city are still living with the physical and psychological harms from these events,” according to activists, referencing the indiscriminate use of rubber bullets, tear gas and other “less-than-lethal” measures.
The City is facing a number of lawsuits for injuries caused by that response to sign-toting peaceful demonstrators.
The civil libertarians added that during the Trump “Stop the Steal rallies, the police treated white supremacist groups differently than the counter protesters. Up until very recently, the police only arrested counter protesters. During the events, the police would have their backs to white supremacist groups and only monitor the counter protesters.”
“This business as-usual agenda item is not nearly enough given the danger of escalated white supremacist presence in our city, and given the disparate police response to white supremacist’s actions compared to Black Lives Matter protests.
“But it is an opportunity to educate City Council about just how impactful and harmful their inaction and the police response has been. It is also an opportunity to ask for a more appropriate community forum to address violent policing at protests,” according to a statement released by community groups.
Among points being made by the community, released to The Vanguard, are:
- Disparities in police response:
- Every week for the last two months, Proud Boys, Trump supporters, and other white supremacists have circled the State Capitol building to protest the presidential election outcome. There are many substantiated reports of Proud Boys harassing pedestrians of color, unhoused people, and downtown residents. There are even reports and videos of physical attacks. The Sacramento police have not intervened.
- The city’s police response to white supremacist groups post-election is in stark contrast to the way police brutalized Sacramentans who protested police brutality last summer after George Floyd’s very public and horrifying execution by Minneapolis police. Sacramento police, supported by the National Guard, responded with ruthless force against protesters without provocation or serious threat of violence from protesters. Many people in our city are still living with the physical and psychological harms from these events.
- Even during the Stop the Steal rallies, the police treated white supremacist groups differently than the counter protesters. Up until very recently, the police only arrested counter protesters. During the events, the police would have their backs to white supremacist groups and only monitor the counter protesters. Sacramento City police only tracked counter protester license plates. In fact, white supremacist group covered their license plates (an illegal act) with no repercussions from law enforcement. After the events, the police were only surveilling (and raiding homes of) counter protesters.
- Police are increasing the danger:
- In some cases, Sacramento City police prevented counter protesters from leaving when white supremacist groups encircled them.
- Residents of the Downtown area are fearful of leaving their homes when white supremacist groups have a heavy presence with no clear direction or statement from the city or police condemning white supremacist.
- White supremacist groups have harassed and harmed unhoused people and passersby without intervention from police.
- Police are surveilling and harassing people who protest:
- The harassment of counter protesters is a form of political repression and has a chilling effect on free speech, which is prohibited by the First Amendment.
- Sacramento city police are showing up at homes of counter protesters and knocking down doors.
- Antiracist and Antifascist protesters report that police, who they have never met, are calling them out by name when they are in downtown Sacramento.
- Collective psychological trauma:
- The police response to protesters doesn’t just put people at risk of physical violence, but risk of serious psychological trauma.
- This is not a single-issue concern that can be addressed in a single city-council meeting; it has been ongoing for years.
- This city council meeting risks retraumatizing people without a trauma-informed approach to addressing violent and disparate policing.
- Police can be white supremacists, too:
- The city must address that some of their law enforcement are white supremacists, too.
- The Proud Boys posted videos of an officer telling them, “we’ve got your back!”
- And there are other examples of the police expressing their support and protection of white supremacist demonstrators, like when a Proud Boy spit on a counter protester while one police officer stared at the counter protester and said: “I didn’t see anything.”
- Sacramento City police are disseminating inaccurate information about post-election protests:
- The police have stated that there are two “violent” groups holding “opposing demonstrations.” But one group is a white supremacist group threatening violence with ties to an insurrection at the nation’s capital, and the other group is present to counter white supremacist violence. These inaccurate statements call into question the willingness or capacity of the city police to assess actual risks of real danger for Sacramento residents.
- The City deserves a special meeting for these issues:
- An agenda item at the end of a business as-usual meeting is insufficient for the depth of these issues.
- Were Sacramento police officers present during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation’s capitol?
- What are the policies and procedures for political expressions of law enforcement officers who are in uniform? When they are not in uniform?
- How is Sacramento screening officers for their allegiance to white supremacy?
- Will the city explain the disparate treatment of people protesting police violence against Black people, and the treatment of white supremacist groups who are protesting the validity of a presidential election?
- What criteria does the city use to surveil people who are exercising their First Amendment rights?
- How do the police and city determine if danger is present during a protest?
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