The right response to George Floyd

Members of the California National Guard patrol outside the state Capitol on Thursday. (Photo by Foon Rhee)

Essay: Instead of a curfew and the National Guard, Sacramento should be defunding police and limiting use-of-force

By Katie Valenzuela

When I watched the video of George Floyd dying at the hands of police—crying out that he couldn’t breathe, calling out for his mother—my heart broke, again. He shouldn’t be dead. Neither should Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade or the thousands of others who have been killed by those whose job is supposed to be public safety.

I was so proud to see hundreds of my neighbors take to the streets to protest. This was the Sacramento I knew, the city I got to know so intimately through months of canvassing and community events during my campaign. My neighbors were refusing to accept injustice. They were demanding action.

Those powerful voices were met, however, with the very force they were protesting against. I watched live streams in horror as law enforcement shot protestors with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, sometimes without warning and sometimes even as those individuals were attempting to comply with orders. They shot at children, reporters and legal advisers, with some videos showing troubling evidence that they were aiming for people’s faces.

If the tragic deaths of Stephon Clark and Joseph Mann at the hands of Sacramento police didn’t send enough of a message, let me be clear: Issues of law enforcement accountability and use of force are not limited to Minneapolis. The police response to the protests reaffirmed that we still have a lot of work to do here in Sacramento.

“I’m humbled by the bravery of those who have continued to peacefully protest after these brutal events, and shocked by our city’s response.”


Katie Valenzuela, policy director for the California Environmental Justice Alliance, was elected in March to represent District 4 on the Sacramento City Council starting in December.

I’m humbled by the bravery of those who have continued to peacefully protest after these brutal events, and shocked by our city’s response. Rather than condemn the actions of police against peaceful protestors, city officials have focused on the vandalism and burglary conducted by a few people—often blocks, if not miles, away from protestors—to justify a curfew and the presence of the National Guard.

That is not what we need. I am calling on the mayor and City Council to immediately commit to the following actions:

1. Redirect funding from police to community services. Investment in services to address community needs will reduce calls for police, and are far more evidence-based and cost effective than using police to address social issues for which they aren’t trained.

2. Update use-of-force standards. Sacramento has never adopted the Community Police Review Commission’s recommendations after Assembly Bill 392 passed into law. We have the opportunity to do that, and to eliminate the use of barbaric tactics such as neck restraints or use of tear gas—a chemical banned for use in warfare.

3. Create a fully independent Community Police Review Commission. The commission needs to be established in the city charter and have the ability to issue subpoenas.

It’s not enough to say we understand, or to stand with protestors. Those of us who are in positions to make change have a responsibility to act—because Black Lives Matter.

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8 Comments on "The right response to George Floyd"

  1. As a business owner in Sacramento who had to hold looters at gunpoint Saturday and Sunday night I am absolutely against the cancellation of a curfew and removal of the National Guard. This is the absolute wrong approach to the problem. We all know and understand that the protestors are not the ones looting or causing crime. We absolutely support the protestors and we absolutely support the need for significant change. You are incoming city council so the question that you would be getting from me which is what I am asking current city leadership. How are you going to protect innocent residential and business establishments as that was a major failure this past weekend. The ultimate result from in action by you and city leadership to address the core issues of all of this will drive every business out of midtown and downtown. When that occurs and there are no services the residents will leave as well. Then you will have a shell of abandoned buildings that will create a blight like you have never seen before. I lived in SE Michigan. I watched what happened to Detroit. Don’t make the same mistake simply because you fail to see the point of view from all sides of the equation.

  2. Police and the Army are necessary in order to keep the government in business. When the US Government and enemies of this system square off, the government is the lesser of two evils. Rioters and looters have a beef with the government and the American system, but they destroy my property and rob me. They take me for a fool. When the government uses laws to fight outlaws, outlaws win. For survival, government must respond with bombs and bullets. If laws are a problem, do away with them and delouse the country. HM

  3. What you are describing, Hugh Montgomery (lol), is called state-sanctioned terrorism. The government responding to its own citizens with bombs and bullets is also 1) unconstitutional and unprecedented and 2) The tyranny that Republicans are ALWAYS talking about. Are right-wingers supposed to impose martial law, government military occupation, and curfews?

    I believe where you are coming from is what we refer to as “racism.” You are a racist, Hugh, as well as a sloppy bootlicking sheep. Pathetic.

  4. I”m afraid for my neighborhood and my city with Ms. Valenzuela’s recommendations.

  5. I fully support the Councilmember-elect’s call to reduce the police budget and invest the money instead into social services, mental health crisis intervention, etc. Good on her for being brave enough to shift the policy conversation in this direction, in the face of what I’m sure will be significant pushback from the police union. I hope my own councilmember (Guerra) will support this as well. It will not only address many of the legitimate grievances giving rise to the protests — it’s simply the smart and right thing to do.

  6. Katie, more money definitely needs to go to social services but less police is not a fix – better police is the fix. You need to clarify your statements and provide a proposal as to how this would actually look….

  7. YES !!! we need fewer better trained police (those who won’t feel it is justified to kneel on a person handcuffed behind their backs and kill over $20) and more social workers and housing to help the homeless – Katie Valenzuela’s changes must be implemented, since the Mayor has no convictions on carotid restraints.

  8. Katie,

    Your words do reach for some redress for the naked racism that is a part of our local cop-culture — IT’S BEEN THERE FOR DECADES….since the LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSISTANCE ADMINISTRATION started discarding (via SALE, IMPACTING THIS TOWN’S BUDGET) and dumping its junk war machines to wage war against those of us who stand in their way of corporate tyranny and fascism….

    IT WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH TO MERELY PASTE A DOILY UPON THE TURD THAT IS OUR TOWN’S POLICE PRACTICES — DERIVED STRAIGHT FROM NAZI GERMANY (AND THIS IS NOT MERE HYPERBOLE), WITH NEONAZI’S RECRUITING FROM OUR VERY OWN P.D. AND FIRE DEPTS….

    TRUE SYSTEMIC CHANGE EMBRACES INJUSTICES INVOLVING ECONOMIC, POLITICAL, LEGAL, EDUCATIONAL, HOUSING, AND A HOST OF OTHER CATEGORIES THAT COULD BE EFFECTIVELY REMOVED WITH SENSITIVE ‘LEADERS’ (OR THEIR PRETENDERS) WHO HAVE A GRASP ON THE PROBLEMS THAT ORDINARY PEOPLE FACE, ESPECIALLY THOSE OF US WHO ARE MOST VULNERABLE….TO THE RAVAGES OF CORPORATE CAPITALISM….

    YES, I ASKED YOU TO BE VERY BOLD — THIS IS YOUR TIME TO DO SO….PLEASE DO NOT JUST NIBBLE AROUND THE EDGES, LIKE THE KAREN BASS BILL TO BE DISCUSSED TOMORROW IN THE LOWER HOUSE….RATHER, BE BOLDER AND MORE CREATIVE….THIS IS WHAT WE NEED AT THIS TIME…NOT MERE WASTED SPACE…..

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