By Jordan Varney
DAVIS — A car caravan, organized by Yolo County Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), protested outside the Davis City Council meeting last night. The June 15 Council meeting, with some City Council members in the City Hall chambers, was ongoing when protesters drove first through downtown, and then through the City Hall parking lot honking their horns, blasting music, and banging pots and pans.
Cars were decorated with signs saying, “Defund the Police, Invest in the People” and “Care Not Cops.” Protestors honked their horns and handed flyers to onlookers.
Yolo DSA Co-Chair, Kazia Hart, explained why they had rallied people last night, saying that “we are here because our community, and the entire world frankly, has been asking for a reimagined public safety.” She explained that the City Council has talked about changes but “they just keep giving the police more money and we know that that doesn’t make our community safer.” She explained that “we are here to force our public representatives to represent us.”
Davis City Council is currently in the middle of the budgeting process for the next two fiscal years, with the final budget vote slated to be on June 22. In recent budget discussions during City Council meetings, public commenters called in requesting that City Council earmark funding for a Director of Public Health and an independent Public Safety Department.
Hart said the outcome she wanted to see from the meeting last night is for City Council to “create space in the budget at least for a person who is going to start developing an independent Public Safety Department.”
She clarified that “we understand that departments are a big project, something that isn’t done overnight or in one meeting, but funding one position, one person to start actually building that, that will show us that they’re committed to the project.”
Hart stated the commitment of DSA and the people gathered shows “we’re going to keep pressure on [City Council] until they actually make that department.”
After driving through downtown, protestors from the car caravan gathered outside the City Council chambers and chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police.”
Chair of the Police Accountability Commission, Dillan Horton, spoke at the Council Chambers. “A year ago we came to a different City Council budget meeting,” Horton explained. He said that community members left “90+ minutes of public comment” and told City Council “‘I want you to defund the police.’”
Horton elaborated that last year commenters expressed they wanted City Council to “(1) defund this system of unaccountable over-militarized policing in our community; (2) invest in sustainable solutions to public safety concerns in our community; and (3) make sure that responses to mental health crises, support to those undergoing drug or alcohol issues, outreach to our unhoused population, and yes traffic enforcement is handled by trained professionals independent of the police department.”
Horton explained this is important “so that everyone in our community feels safe, not just the wealthy and well-connected.”
Horton said that City Council “had an opportunity and indeed an obligation to fulfill on that need, to do what was right by this community and set us down a path toward justice and better community safety in this city. Time and time again I am so disappointed to say to you all that they have chosen not to do that.”
Horton explained that “when you all called into that budget meeting last June they said ‘we can’t do that. That’s too complicated, and really it’s too fast. It’s not that we disagree it’s just you want us to do it too quick.’”
He explained the Temporary Joint Subcommittee to the crowd and the 9 recommendations they generated in the year between the June 2020 budget meeting and the one last night.
“Members of this City Council have said that they support those 9 recommendations,” Horton said. Councilmembers have indicated that “‘indeed we are actually working right now to fulfill them.’
“But what we saw, so horribly disappointed to tell you all, on April 6 was a bunch of […] garbage.” Horton explained that the document proposed on April 6 was “full of excuses.” He relayed that the April 6 proposal indicated implementation of the 9 recommendations was “too difficult for our community, a […] university town to accomplish.”
Someone shouted from the back that Davis needed a new City Council.
“Here we are again, 366 days later, demanding the same [stuff].” Horton said. “Asking our enlightened, educated, forward thinking government for the same [stuff].”
Horton seemingly spoke for the crowd when he said that “we have come here to deliver what I think is a simple message to this city government: Time is up!” The crowd cheered and hit their pots and pans.
After Horton spoke, a bike played music from speakers and some protestors danced while others banged rhythms on their pots and pans. One person tooted along with a vuvuzela.
Attendees wrote with chalk on the trash cans, the walls, and the ground right outside the Council Chambers. The messages read, “Liars,” “Which Side Are You On?” and “No Leadership Here, Defund Now!” On a pillar facing the City Clerk’s office, one message said “City Council has no backbone, Vote Them Out, Bye-Bye.”
Police Accountability Commissioner Morgan Poindexter elaborated on the issues with the proposed City budget raised by Horton. “This budget, even withstanding the possibility of new police hires, is clearly a continuation of the status quo. The status quo which prioritizes and upholds law enforcement over those who are vulnerable in our community,” she said.
Poindexter explained, “This is seen through the consistent increase in the police department budget despite calls from the community to do the opposite. This budget represents a tone-deaf lack of understanding for community needs. City Council must not understand what it means to reimagine public safety.”
DSA Co-Chair Dov Salkoff summed up the reasons behind the protest. He explained that there is a broad understanding that “crime is intimately linked to poverty. We could be hiring social workers, community navigators, and mental healthcare professionals to alleviate the worst poverty in Davis. Why are we spending more money on police?”
Salkoff expressed disappointment in City Council. “Mayor Partida and councilmember Frerichs marched with us last year for Black lives and an end to police brutality,” he said. “Councilmember Arnold even called for re-imaging public safety in the local newspaper. But when it comes time to act, they have shown themselves to be opponents of progress. They are not on our side.”
Jordan Varney received her masters from UC Davis in Psychology and her B.S. in Computer Science from Harvey Mudd. Varney is co-editor of the City Desk for the Vanguard at UC Davis.
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