Late Night Police Harassment in Sacramento
Monday, June 23, 2003 - Sacramento, CA - At about 11:30pm we received a call saying there was a group of kids being harassed and detained by cops at 10th St and J. Four of us drove over and witnessed the activity with still and video cameras. There were six cops. Officer Justus was in charge.
The young people they were detaining were lined up against a chain link fence. We were told that they were being detained because one of the people was under 18 and in violation of curfew. I don't know why they were stopped in the first place, as they walked to their car to go home. Within a few minutes of our arrival the officers let them go, after one of the young adults said he would assume responsibility for their minor-friend. However, they were worried that, if they continued walking the remaining blocks to their car, the officers would find reason to harass them further, being as the minor remained out after curfew. We agreed the driver would give the minor a ride home and that we would accompany the young adults to their car to protect them from further police harassment, then return to the welcome center in our car.
However, police circling became so insistent and constant, and the way ahead seemed so isolated, we turned back and decided to all go to the welcome center and decide how to get people home from there. At any given time, there were typically 3 police-type vehicles driving by slowly, stopping near us, veering toward us, etc. As I would do when documenting harassment, I took pictures of the cars and of the officers if they drove up beside us. At times, they attempted to verbally intimidate, at others, they would continue to drive by slowly and/or stop beside us. We continued filming and taking pictures of them and their cars as they harassed. At one point an officer yelled that I had no right to be taking pictures of him. I said I had every right to document criminal behavior.
We called a friend to stay on the phone with someone, to try to arrange for them to pick us up and to have someone else attempt to contact legal support. As we crossed F on the west side of 13th St, the number and positioning of law enforcement vehicles made it apparent that having a friend pick us up would simply be endangering them. If cops felt fine with this level of harassment for the simple act of walking home, it was hard to predict was strange and awful offense civilian driving would seem.
13th St. between E and F at around midnight. Officer Moore, Miller, Santos and an officer whose name I can't recall stopped us. I believe Officer Moore was driving. As we walked North from F to E street on 13th, he swerved his at a speed that could have done substantial bodily damage in front of me. I walked around the car because I was started and scared; based on the aggressive, persistent nature of the police harrassment of us, I feared for my safety, and that of those I was walking with.
They asked us for ID, and we asked why we were being harassed and stopped. They insisted we just identify ourselves and give them our ID. We declined saying we had no obligation to do so, and asked again what we were being charged with or accused of. Us: "Why would we have to identify ourselves when we've done nothing wrong?" Police: "Cuz" Then they focused on one walking companion and insisted he identify himself and produce an ID. He declined. He asked if he was being detained. They said Yes. He asked what he was being detained for. They answered that it would be for not producing ID. The detainee once again stated that it was well within his rights to decline to identify himself when he'd done nothing wrong and was simply walking home. Then they said we were taking pictures of government buildings. We stated that that was patently false and that we only took footage and pictures of them ... because they were following and harassing us. The police then told the person they were targeting that he was under arrest. They handcuffed him behind his back. The officer, whose name I forget, lead the detainee back to the other squad cars.
Officers Moore, Miller and Santos remained behind, Moore and Miller shining a flashlight on us. I asked them their names. They replied. I wanted to verify Officer Moore's name, but he was adamant about not repeating it, saying he did not have to. I appealed to his pledge to "serve and protect," in vain of course. He asked my name. I said I would not give it to him. He asked why I refused to give my name while I insisted on getting his. I said that I believed he was a criminal, and that I would not give my information to criminals. That belief was supported, I said, by the behavior of himself and his cohorts, that they were harassing and intimidating and terrorizing people who were doing nothing but walking home, and that that made him a terrorist. I stated that if I had any belief in the fair execution of laws in this land, I would demand he lay down his arms and submit to a citizen's arrest because he was committing a crime, because he was breaking the law; constitutional law, probably city law, and quite possibly state law.
For some reason, he and Officers Santos and Miller backed up a little. But cop cars of all makes an models continued to arrive and assemble. Cops jaywalked and blocked streets with their cars. Neighbors were out on their porch videotaping and loudly stating that the officers were being watched. They stayed on their property and witnessed and videotaped and spoke.
The last "law-enforcement" vehicle that arrived, I'm told was federal. Six baton-weilding cops jumped out and went to talk to the other law enforcement operatives, who numbered between 20 and 30. Cops were also talking to the people across the street, and we feared for their safety while we thanked god they were there. Eventually they let the detainee go. They were still mostly assembled as we walked off. We believed they may follow us. Soon after we arrived at the welcome center, two white vans with cops in medium riot getup, minus unhelms, waited. We closed the doors and called legal support. They hassled two other young girls who we eventually found rides for. They left after about a half an hour, probably around 2am (Tuesday, June 24). There was a white van and a knock again within the hour, but then they went away.
It's 4am now.
contribute to this article
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion