By Catherine Pentoney
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – Despite FBI warnings that now-President Joe Biden’s inauguration could result in armed uprisings at all 50 state capitols Wednesday, the Capitol ground and downtown Sacramento today remained calm. And empty.
The hundreds of Trump supporters, “Stop the Steal” crowd, and Proud Boys who have collectively gathered outside of the Capitol Building in Sacramento almost every weekend since the presidential election in November were notably absent this past weekend and today.
However, nearly 100 individuals, whom the Sacramento Police Department identified in Tuesday’s City Council meeting as “Antifa”—which stands for anti-fascist—gathered, one group starting at Fremont Park in Midtown and the other at J. Neely Johnson Park in the Akali Flats neighborhood of upper Midtown.
The autonomous and anonymous individuals behind organizing the Neely Johnson Park group had promoted their January 20 Inauguration Day Protest as an “Abolish ICE – No More Kids in Cages” protest on their Instagram account, @officialsactivists.
While the Neeley Park group was gathering there, Midtown resident Robbie Brown walked his dogs past the park and stopped to watch. He opined that the scene was “[u]neventful. I think we’re making a bigger deal of stuff than what it is. There’s almost half as many media members here as people here, so, like, in my personal opinion, there’s not a whole lot happening. These people are hanging out, good for them.”
Around noon, the two groups combined for a march to the greenway that stretches before the west side of the California State Capitol.
In maybe their only real “action” of the day, bike police, whose numbers were almost equal to that of the anti-racism protestors, followed behind. They were followed by around 10 police vehicles, both marked and unmarked, with several officers inside of each, some with binoculars pointed toward the assembled protest group.
The police followed the protestors like this down the greenway until the demonstrators convened outside of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services federal building on Capitol Mall. One woman from the group spoke in a megaphone about ongoing Immigration and Customs Enforcement detentions and mistreatment of undocumented immigrants and children in the United States.
A man named Glenn, a father of two sons in the U.S. Army and two others in the Air Force, stood on the sidewalk across from the USCIS building to watch the scene. Glenn asked someone what the protest group was, and why they were gathered.
Glenn was informed of the vandalism that occurred over the summer and that has resulted in the overwhelming police presence at their gatherings.
Glenn replied: “The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki because of, you know, their beliefs. So how can you condemn these people who are maybe causing minor damage when you’ve killed thousands of people? That’s just my opinion.”
After about a half an hour outside of USCIS, the two groups again split, one headed back to J. Neely Johnson Park, while the other returned to Fremont. Their police entourage tailed both back all the way.
Following the No More Kids in Cages gathering, the State Capitol returned to its primary state of the past few days—a ghost town.
All that remained were an estimated several thousand California Highway Patrol, National Guard, Sacramento Police, Sheriff’s Department and some other outside agencies, including correctional officers, all positioned strategically throughout the perimeter.
The orange trees that scatter the Capitol grounds bore starkly vibrant fruit against the piercing blue, and unusually warm, January afternoon sky.
Around two in the afternoon, a 20-something man and his girlfriend, neither wearing a Covid-19 protection mask, strolled up to the West end sidewalk outside of the State Capitol. The man was carrying a blue tooth speaker, from which he was playing classic rock hits and Trump’s inauguration speech from 2016, and in the other hand, he carried an American Flag.
When he reached the middle portion of the newly-erected chain link fence blocking the entrance to the Capitol, the part where you can look through and be directly faced with the main steps to the building, he began to push and shake the fence, with the Stars and Stripes clenched in his hand.
He then mounted the fence, climbing about a foot off the ground, so that he could barely stick his head over the top of the fence. He looked over and waved his flag for half a minute. Then, he dismounted, shook the fence again, and stepped back in to the street.
While the CHP officers stationed on the steps of the Capitol may have stiffened, there were no movements or quick actions taken toward the man, an obvious Trump supporter.
For the peaceful No More Kids in Cages demonstrators opposed to fascists, law enforcement expended scores of personnel to watch them, although they did nothing as overt as the man who shook and climbed the fence barricade, with the flag and Trump speech.
Catherine Pentoney is a 2L at Lincoln Law in Sacramento and works in the Vanguard Sacramento Bureau.
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