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Sacramento To Reconsider Proposal To Ban Items From Protests

Nick Miller / Capital Public Radio

Nick Miller / Capital Public Radio

A proposal to ban protesters from carrying things like bats and pepper spray during demonstrations failed to get approval from council members on Tuesday —  but that doesn't mean the proposal is dead.

Law and Legislation Committee members voted not to send the plan, which was proposed by the Sacramento Police Department, to the full council until members had a chance to discuss it further with the community.

At the meeting, Councilmember Jay Schenirer said a change like this can't be rushed. “I'm actually more worried about people coming into town who want to incite violence than I am about Black Lives Matter or our own protest groups,” Schenirer said. “So, I think that we have work to do."

The police department has said that violent groups in other states are a cause for concern in Sacramento, and that banning items such as glass bottles, large pieces of wood and water guns is necessary to enhance public safety, because the items can sometimes be used as improvised weapons.

Tanya Faison, founder of the Sacramento Black Lives Matter chapter, spoke at the meeting and argued that people need items like pepper spray to defend themselves in case they are attacked during a protest.

"We don't know if it's going to be a mob or a mother,” she said of who demonstrators might encounter demonstrations. “In order for me to feel safe anywhere, whether it's at a protest or just walking down the street, I need to have my pepper spray.”

Betty Williams, who leads the Sacramento chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said she isn't against banning all the items, but was worried that people wouldn't be able to carry pepper spray while riding mass transit to and from events.

"There are some things I think that we can compromise on where both sides would be safe,” Williams said.

Under the proposal, canes would be prohibited. Attorney Mark Merin told the committee attempts to deal with that item alone would make a new law like this unenforceable.

“You should just stay out of the mire of trying to regulate people who are engaged in otherwise legal activity,” Merin said. “I mean, you can use your fist and it’s violent. You can’t say you have to keep your hands in your pockets.”

Deputy Chief Dave Peletta said the department will go back to the drawing board. "I think we'll look at everything and bring back what we still think is best practices and things that will withstand the court challenges later on,” he said.

Peletta shot down claims that the proposal has to do with the Sacramento District Attorney Office’s pending announcement on whether to charge officers who fatally shot Stephon Clark last March.

He did acknowledge the new rules would have been in place in time for the announcement, however, because it was first presented as an emergency ordinance in front of city council last month.

Peletta noted that the proposal was based on similar laws in Los Angeles and Berkeley.

Bob Moffitt

Sacramento Region Reporter

Bob reports on all things northern California and Nevada. His coverage of police technology, local athletes, and the environment has won a regional Associated Press and several Edward R. Murrow awards.   Read Full Bio 

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