Amid worries that demonstrations near California’s Capitol could become violent, the Sacramento Police Department arrested three activists aligned with antifa on the eve of Wednesday’s inauguration.
A police spokesperson says these individuals previously committed violent actions during demonstrations near the Capitol when tensions have been high between Trump-supporting Proud Boys and groups aligned with antifa.
But advocates with civil liberty groups argue law enforcement is unfairly targeting activists who oppose former President Donald Trump and his supporters, and that officers are not doing enough to hold Proud Boys and extremist militia groups accountable.
Elizabeth Kim, president of the Sacramento chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, says Tuesday’s arrests demonstrate that anti-Trump groups receive “completely different” treatment.
“It seems as though law enforcement has changed up their tactics,” Kim said. “And instead of conducting arrests at demonstrations, it seems that they're waiting until after to execute raids, arrests.”
She added that the arrests on Tuesday, which came less than 24 hours before President Joe Biden took his oath, are not new, and that activists have been “raided” by Sacramento law enforcement in recent weeks.
A police spokesperson declined an interview but told CapRadio the arrests were based on warrants for felony assault related to protests that have occurred nearly every weekend since Election Day.
On Tuesday, “three people were arrested for the active warrants. Two of those people were additionally arrested on narcotics charges, including narcotics sales. One other person was arrested for weapons violations and a probation violation,” the police spokesperson wrote in a text message.
During a City Council meeting on Tuesday, Police Chief Daniel Hahn insisted that Proud Boys (the street gang that espouses racist views and has committed violent acts in Sacramento and in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6) and individuals associated with antifa and black bloc (the far-left movement with anarchist views and whose members have committed violent actions during downtown gatherings) are treated equally.
Black Lives Matter Sacramento founder Tanya Faison argued on Tuesday local law enforcement agencies use more forceful tactics and violence against Black-led groups while offering leniency to white-led protests.
Kim with the local National Lawyers Guild agreed. “We have observed very dramatically different treatment of protesters on either side of the fence,” she said, adding that her group has video of officers escorting Proud Boys and Trump supporters to their cars after demonstrations.
“Whereas the other side, the counter-protesters to these Trump rallies specifically have been pushed, told to stay back, have never been allowed to cross over police barricades,” Kim said. “We've seen them be assaulted against, battered against. We have video footage of that and they've treated media journalists, legal observers and protesters as all the same on the left side, which is completely different from how they treat the Boys.”
Mayor Darrell Steinberg has faced questions about the police department's response to demonstrations, and had called for Tuesday night’s special meeting to discuss the issue.
There were no arrests during Wednesday’s demonstrations outside the Capitol, where individuals associated with antifa marched through downtown, but very few Trump supporters showed up. One person, who police say confronted demonstrators from his car, was cited for illegally having pepper spray.
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