Fourteen demonstrators chained themselves to the front gate of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mansion in Fair Oaks Monday morning to protest the mounting death toll and rising infection numbers in state prisons and immigration detention centers. All 14 were arrested by the California Highway Patrol for trespassing.
The California Liberation Collective, which organized the action, called on the governor to grant mass clemency, stop transfers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers and halt the expansion of immigration detention in the state. Crowded and unsanitary conditions have made prisons and ICE facilities hotspots for the virus, with both inmates and staff becoming infected. At San Quentin State Prison, 63 percent of inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus.
In addition to those arrested, roughly 100 people joined the 6 a.m. action outside the governor’s suburban home. Protestors built an altar to those who had died while incarcerated and painted a mural on the street reading “Newsom, Free Them All!" The action came as immigrants detained at Mesa Verde and Yuba detention centers staged a work stoppage and hunger strike, respectively, to push for life-saving measures.
When asked about the protest at a Monday afternoon press briefing, Gov. Newsom pointed to the expedited release of nearly 12,000 prisoners in response to the coronavirus. “We have a criteria that’s bracketed in terms of those that would be eligible for early release,” he said. “And we have a responsibility to those individuals as well as to the community, victims’ families and the like to do so in a thoughtful way.
“The worst thing we could do is mass release where people are just released out onto the streets and sidewalks, and end up in benches and in parks, on the side of the road. That’s not compassion. That would be compounding the problem, making the problem, in fact, worse.”
Fourteen demonstrators locked themselves to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s front gate Monday morning in protest of growing COVID-19 infections and deaths in California’s jails, prisons and immigration detention centers.
Protestors build an altar on the sidewalk outside the governor’s mansion.
Protesters outside the governor’s mansion.
Luis Ángel Reyes Savalza from Pangea Legal Services speaks to the crowd while chained to Gov. Newsom’s front gate. “We’re doing everything we can through the courts, hunger strikes and the media, but Gov. Newsom is not paying attention. I’m putting myself at risk because people in detention are at risk.”
Police advanced toward protesters in formation and with batons in hand. Despite a statewide mask order and near-daily public pleas from Gov. Newsom for Californians to wear face coverings in public, none of the officers from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office seen here was wearing a mask.
Juan Prieto with the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA) holds hands with fellow protester Brisa Cruz before being arrested.
Amber Akemi Piatt, a public health worker from Oakland, addresses the crowd: “Continuing to incarcerate people and transfer people from one carceral facility to another will only create more outbreaks like the horrific — and preventable — ones we are currently seeing at San Quentin State Prison and Santa Rita Jail.”
Lisa Knox, an immigration attorney who represents clients in California, was arrested as part of the action.
Officers prepare to use a bolt cutter to cut attorney Etan Newman from Pangea Legal Services out of his chains before arresting him and 13 others who locked themselves to Gov. Newsom’s front gate. Arrestees were held in the Sacramento Jail for 13 hours before being released late Monday evening.
After protesters were arrested, Fatima Avellán with Survived and Punished led chants outside the governor’s mansion.