Two organizations say Sacramento law enforcement is trying to discourage demonstrations against police brutality by keeping two protesters locked up on trumped-up claims that they’re public safety risks.
Sacramento police arrested Andrea Iribarren Hart and Christopher Joseph Hill in Cesar Chavez Plaza Saturday night on charges of resisting arrest, booking logs show. Hart, 29, of Sacramento was also booked into jail on charges of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger and of shining a laser pointer at an officer, both potential felonies. Hill, 36, of Sacramento was also booked on felony rioting.
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office’s online jail inmate tracker showed that Hart and Hill remained in custody on Monday, and were ineligible for bail under California’s Penal Code section 1275, which allows judges to deny bail based on “the seriousness of the offense charged, the previous criminal record of the defendant, and the probability of his or her appearing at trial or at a hearing of the case.”
Elizabeth Kim, president of the National Lawyers Guild’s local chapter, called the use of the public safety hold in these two instances “an abuse of power.”
“It is a way to punish protestors, when the ‘risk’ to public safety is minimal, evidenced by the very little harm and damage to property, and zero acts of violence this past weekend, other than the one individual brandishing a sword, who was not arrested,” Kim told SN&R in an email.
UPDATE: Hart and Hill were released Tuesday, after spending three nights in jail.
Neither Hart nor Hill have criminal records in Sacramento County. They will get their first appearance before a judge late Tuesday afternoon, when they’re scheduled to be arraigned in the jail’s first-floor courtroom.
Protests began Thursday night in Sacramento following an Aug. 23 incident in which an officer in Kenosha, Wis. shot Jacob Blake multiple times in the back after he walked away from police and leaned into an SUV where his sons were sitting.
Downtown Sacramento has thus far experienced fewer demonstrations and less property damage than what followed George Floyd’s sidewalk strangulation on Memorial Day.
But District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and Sheriff Scott Jones, whose office buildings were vandalized Thursday night, ramped up their rhetoric, with Schubert declaring Sacramento Antifa “a domestic terrorist and anarchist organization” in a prepared statement on Friday.
The social media account for Sacramento Antifa posted photos of the damage to the DA’s and sheriff’s buildings without taking credit for it, which the elected prosecutor referenced in assigning legal blame.
During a press conference in front of the jail, Jones accused the night-shift agitators who followed the peaceful matinee protesters of attempted “insurrection” and vowed to protect county assets, local businesses and people—in that order.
“There are two things that these people understand,” Jones said of the dark-clad individuals he called anarchists, “overwhelming opposing forces and consequences.”
The sheriff said his officers would be out in force and that he had requested the National Guard. While the city called in the Guard for nearly a week in early June, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said it would be premature now and could inflame tensions.
Jones also suggested his officers wouldn’t differentiate between peaceful demonstrators and bad actors once darkness fell and the groups intermingled.
“We will end this. It has been one day and I’m already done with it,” he said. “We have plenty of room in this building behind me.”
Booking logs show only eight arrests that night in connection with the unrest—and none by the Sheriff’s Office. The California Highway Patrol arrested six people for unlawful assembly and other charges, including 20-year-old Jane Smith, who was also denied bail but scheduled for release Tuesday. Sacramento police arrested Hart and Hill.
NorCal Resist, which operates a donation-run bail fund for people who are in custody for protest- or immigration-related reasons, said it is in contact with the families of Hart and Hill, and hopes to bail them out once they’re arraigned Tuesday.
Kim and NorCal Resist member Autumn Gonzalez say using Penal Code 1275 to deny them bail is unusual, but not unheard of.
Kim said the same thing happened during the Occupy protests years ago, while Gonzalez noted the California Highway Patrol used the penal code to deny bail to two dozen protesters arrested outside the governor’s mansion last month.
In a separate release, NLG Sacramento said it would hold a Tuesday morning press conference to discuss an excessive force incident involving a police officer accused of battering a young female protester and breaking her phone.