Civil Rights Attorneys Demand City of Sacramento End the Use of Police Response During Protests to Protect Free Speech

For Immediate Release

September 14, 2020 

Media Contact

Sam Lew, 415-272-8022, 

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area


Civil Rights Attorneys Demand City of Sacramento Protect Free Speech by Ending the Use of Police Response During Public Demonstrations 

A letter sent by more than 20 civil rights and community organizations demand City of Sacramento adopt policies that reduce the role of police during protests

SACRAMENTO — The ACLU Foundation of Northern California and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area sent a demand letter to the City of Sacramento this morning to eliminate the use of a police response to protests, asserting that protests are not a threat to public safety. The letter also demands that the Sacramento Police Department ban the use of chemical agents, rubber bullets, and other munitions to control crowds and take full responsibility for the physical and psychological injuries that Sacramento residents have sustained as a result of the violent police response to recent protests. 

The demand letter urges the City of Sacramento to: 

  1. Adopt policies that support and encourage robust debate and protest.
  2. Adopt policies that deemphasize the role of police during protests and prohibit the use of force beyond what is minimally necessary to interrupt a violent incident. 
  3. Adopt policies to limit law enforcement mutual aid services during protests. 
  4. Remedy the harm experienced by its residents and begin to build trust. 

The two civil rights organizations are currently representing Sacramento activists and individuals who have experienced severe and unnecessary police violence during protests since May 2020, including being tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, cited with charges of failure to disperse, and beaten by police. Recently, on August 28, 2020, a city police officer violently pushed a young woman against a wall and then to the ground, and shortly after broke her phone while refusing to provide his badge number. The letter details other egregious actions from the city police during public demonstrations.

The letter further maintains that the Sacramento’s Crowd and Riot Manual, which directs the Sacramento Police Department officers during protests, is riddled with constitutional violations and authorizes police to violate the First Amendment; amongst many other directives, the Manual prompts police to violate that right by directing police to stop protected speech if they even “anticipate” resistance and to use harmful crowd control tactics like tear gas to violate the basic right to free speech. 

“The City of Sacramento and its police department have violated the rights of Sacramento residents,” said Tifanei Ressl-Moyer, Thurgood Marshall Fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “The City must overhaul its practices and policies that suppress free speech and that specifically target people who are protesting persistent police violence against Black people. We welcome a conversation with the City to make these essential changes.” 

 “Sacramento Police Department has utilized a Manual that is supposed to set guidelines to ensure it protects protesters and activists as a means to wield terror in communities,” declared Abre’ Conner, staff attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “It needs to stop now. Black people cannot afford for the City to move slowly in creating safeguards for communities here.”

“The very presence of police at protests has become an act of escalation, especially when they show up in full-body armor carrying rifles and batons against angry protesters in t-shirts and jeans,” explained Keyan Bliss, an organizer with Anti Police-Terror Project of Sacramento, a community partner identified in the demand letter. “Their shows of force have never been proportionate, and it only reinforces the reason we take to the streets in the first place. For the police it’s overtime and paid leave. Justice or peace have nothing to do with it.”

Read the full demand letter here