Sacramento police have spent 7,176 hours of overtime and over $600,000 of taxpayer money monitoring the recent pro-Trump demonstrations at the state Capitol, Police Chief Daniel Hahn told the City Council Tuesday.
The department was asked to give a presentation on their tactics for managing the protests that have happened on a weekly basis since November, and at times have turned violent.
“One group, based on what some experts say is a white extremist group, seems to desire to return to our past while the other group seems to want to destroy our form of government all together,” Hahn said, referencing the clashes that have happened between the Proud Boys and antifa-aligned counter protesters.
“Regardless of their ideologies, they are both violent, and put our community in danger,” he said.
While many far right organizations have participated in "Stop The Steal" rallies in Sacramento, the police only identified the Proud Boys in their report.
The department’s main strategy in managing the capitol protests has been to keep counter protesters and far right groups like the Proud Boys separated. They also denied that their approach to the recent demonstrations have been unequal, showing footage and photographs of police lines facing both sides of protesters, and police escorting both demonstrators away from action.
“Law enforcement has been accused of taking sides in regards to these protests where we’ve favored one side or protected one side over the other,” Deputy Police Chief Kathy Lester said. “Sac PD works very hard to show fair and equal treatment regardless of ideology.”
“There’s also an unwelcome affiliation with the police from the far right, commentary that they are 'on the side' of law enforcement,” Lester added.
But many local activists and members of the public who called into Tuesday night’s discussion disagreed with this assessment. They reiterated that the recent treatment of the majority white protesters at the capitol in recent weeks has been different from treatment Black protesters met in June after the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“Chief Hahn, you consistently go to the media and equate white nationalist groups with the people that are doing the job of the city, and fighting racism in our streets. These things are not acceptable,” a statement released by Black Lives Matter Sacramento said.
The department did admit that the Proud Boys are a hate group recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center, while antifa is not.
Since November, Sacramento police have made 27 arrests of demonstrators —- 16 were identified by police as antifa counter-protesters, and 11 as Proud Boys.
A public commenter Maria Elena said the police presentation did not address the racial bias in the police force.
“These two groups that are predominantly Anglo were able to be separated for long periods of time by law enforcement,” Elena said. “Our Black and Brown advocates who have been on the streets would not see that length of time and that amount of space between them."
The National Guard was called in in response to demonstrations held by racial justice activists over the summer after property damage occurred. The National Guard has been called in again to protect the state Capitol building, but was not present for any weekend demonstrations after the election.
According to Black Lives Matter Sacramento, the summer’s demonstrations also resulted in multiple protester injuries by rubber bullets. Police report that 11 officers were injured at protests between November and January, but did not report any injuries of protesters.
Other commenters felt that the department was making a false equivalency between the Proud Boys and their supporters, and counter protesters.
“There are clear inequities in how the police responded to white supremacist gatherings in protest versus how they responded to protests in the summer and in the past,” Tifanei Ressl-Moyer, a civil rights attorney said. “The police are falsely and dangerously equating Proud Boys with counter demonstrators. One group is a white supremacist group threatening violence, and the other group is present to counter white supremacy, they are not the same.”
Council members Mai Vang and Katie Valenzuela also echoed the concerns of activists, agreeing that it did not appear that police tactics were applied equally to different demonstrations this year. In response, Mayor Darrell Steinberg has called for an independent review of the police footage, to be conducted by the city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability.
“Let’s take all this raw emotion tonight and let’s move it in a direction that is constructive and maybe leads to some reconciliation,” Steinberg said.
The department said it will have its officers on 12-hour-shifts for Inauguration Day and the rest of the week.
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