By Cres Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO, CA – A 74-page federal lawsuit seeking to end Sacramento police violence against peaceful demonstrators opposing the brutal tactics of police in the deaths of people of color around the U.S. will move forward after a federal judge turned down the city’s motion to dismiss pleading, the plaintiffs announced Monday.
In addition to the Sacramento Police “violent” tactics at anti-police violence protests, the lawsuit also argues Sacramento police allowed “white supremacists,” participating in former President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” protests, to attack counter protestors, and “failed to intervene, failing to protect the victims…allowing the violence to continue largely without repercussions.”
The lawsuit charges Sacramento police “policies and practices” are “discriminatory, racist, and inhumane,” and asserts Sacramento City Mayor Darrell Steinberg has “admitted ‘implied racism’ in a culture of racism and violence against Black people within the Sacramento Police Department.
In “White v. City of Sacramento,” the six plaintiffs seek to “stop the City and its Police Department from using discriminatory, violent tactics against people who protest against police violence and white supremacy,” according to a statement by plaintiffs, who claim they were “brutalized and harassed” by the Police Department during protests in 2020 and 2021.
Sacramento protests in recent years, many of them after the police-caused deaths of Joseph Mann (2016), Dazion Flenaugh (2016), Nandi Cain (2017), Darrell Richards (2018), Brandon Smith (2018), Stephon Clark (2019), and Jeremy Southern (2020), have been violently dealt with by city of Sacramento police.
City police have attacked and arrested peaceful protestors, news reporters, legal observers and bystanders by the hundreds, fired pepper spray and other chemical munitions, and used so-called “rubber bullets” – leading to the maiming and serious injuries of people.
The city has paid out millions of taxpayer dollars in settlement costs for the deaths and false arrests.
In the lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge John A. Mendez, said plaintiffs in a statement Monday, “rejected most of the City and Police Department’s arguments,” noting the plaintiffs’ complaint “is a far cry” from a “shotgun wedding,” as claimed by the city of Sacramento which alleged the complaint was a “shotgun pleading” that led to the city being “overwhelmed” by the pleading.
Mendez rejected the City’s argument to omit the Police Department’s “troubling history of violence,” and allowed plaintiffs time to amend their pleading, as needed, to assert conspiracy claims, among others.
“This is a victory for our clients and the thousands of racial justice protesters in Sacramento. While the City and Police Department continue to ignore the unconstitutional and violent response by police against its citizens, this decision will allow plaintiffs to go forward in their fight for accountability and justice against police brutality,” said Pilar Gonzalez Morales, Director of the Accessibility Project at Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC).
This lawsuit was filed by the CREEC and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers noted in a statement, “The Police Department has a long history or repressing racial justice protestors with violence. Plaintiffs in this case experienced surveillance by drones and even home raids by the Police Department months after engaging in protest in support of Black lives and against police brutality.”
“The judge has signaled that the horrendous experiences the plaintiffs endured at the hands of Sacramento City Police have a rightful place in the courtroom. The Sacramento Police Department’s actions two years ago created an environment of fear for protestors of police violence by violently beating and surveilling protestors,” said Tifanei Ressl-Moyer, a Senior Staff Attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.
“If there are no consequences for the actions of the police, they will continue to act with impunity the next time the people of Sacramento take to the streets to defend Black lives. We welcome this decision by the Federal Court and look forward to holding the City of Sacramento and Sacramento Police Department accountable when we see them in court,” Ressl-Moyer added.
Plaintiffs Megan White, Jeronimo Aguilar, Loren Wayne Kidd, Lyric Nash, Nicollette Jones and Odette Zapata charged in the pleading the Sacramento Police Dept. has “conditioned the public to fear the violent and targeted force of the state when attending a protest, a demonstration or even a vigil for racial justice.”
The plaintiffs said they are filing the “civil rights action to vindicate the rights of Californians protesting against racism, white supremacy, and police violence in Sacramento (and are seeking) compensatory relief for severe injuries that Plaintiffs endured at the hands of the Sacramento police, and injunctive relief to stop the City of Sacramento and its Police Department from continuing to employ discriminatory, violent tactics against protesters.”
The lawsuit cited several instances of unconstitutional treatment by Sacramento police, including those involving former President Trump’s “stop the steal” supporters.
The pleading noted plaintiffs were attempting “to shield community members from violence perpetrated by white supremacists and Stop the Steal protesters (but) were assaulted by the white supremacists and Stop the Steal supporters in clear view of Sacramento Police Department officers (who) targeted the counter-protesters with extreme force and intimidation to stop their First Amendment activity.”
The suit charged, “Sacramento Police (have) allowed persons aligned with white supremacist and organized hate groups (including the Proud Boys) to demonstrate unhindered and unharmed. This disparate treatment is consistent with a years-long pattern and practice of discrimination on the part of (Sacramento police)…and has had a substantial chilling effect on Plaintiffs’ exercise of freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.”