What Is Black Lives Matter Sacramento
How many black lives have been taken by Sacramento Law Enforcement? Who was keeping count? Who was fighting for those who no longer had a voice? How many black men and women did we have to lose for it to be too much? These were probably the questions Tanya Faison asked herself before launching “Incite Insight” in 2014. As you could probably imagine, with Sacramento being the capital of California, there are many grass-root organizations but none that focused on being the voice of black folks in the community. As a result, in October of 2014 Incite Insight was launched to address police brutality and dismantle systemic racism against people of color locally. It didn’t take long for a core group to form around the cause, giving what time they could to the organization. The killing of Adriene Jamar Ludd in October 2015 sparked outrage within the community as the story kept changing amongst police involved and witnesses. Alicia Garza reached out to anyone that could fight for Adriene within Sacramento and eventually got connected with Tanya. Incite Insight transitioned into what now is the Black Lives Matter Sacramento chapter in November 2015 and have adopted the principles that guide our everyday work. Tanya Faison is the founder of the chapter, Diana Anderson, Donielle Prince, and Sarah Howell are the current chapter leads.
Challenges We Face In Sacramento
For years, the leaders of this city have done whatever they want with no one holding them accountable. Sacramento has an extremely layered system of politics and oversight, that is intricately intertwined making it very difficult to dismantle. Sacramento is not just a city within California, it is the state’s capital, which makes for interesting intersections and slows the rate of progress compared to other cities. In learning to navigate the complexities of Sacramento’s political dynamics, we have found a litany of challenges. For example, the Sacramento Police Department currently has unlimited real time city camera surveillance without any regulation; coupled with a police commission that has no power or policy over misconduct or police killing.
The city council has been a joke, with respects to a concerted effort to bring substantial and equitable change to the city and all of its people. Our city is being gentrified at an alarming rate, and our city council is in bed with the organizations funding the impending doom. There are strong ties with developers, real estate agents and investors. The mere fact of being homeless in Sacramento is a crime. Community members cannot feed unhoused folks without a permit, and sleeping outside is a criminalized. The pockets of our city council are filled with the money of police, correctional officers, and probation unions. It is plain to see who our city council works for and has allegiance to.
The Sheriff of Sacramento rules with no accountability. The representatives that oversee the actions of the sheriff are all appointed by the Sheriff. The “Inspector General” position was created to oversee the Sheriff for accountability purposes but the position is currently filled by a 30 year veteran of the Sacramento Police Department appointed by the Sheriff. Sheriff Scott Jones maintains unethical practices and relationships with business that profit from his influence. He has been accused and sued for sexual assault of female deputies. Over the course of his career he has cost the Sacramento taxpayers roughly 1.5 million dollars in lawsuits for rape, torture, excessive force, and in custody deaths.
What Black Lives Matter Sacramento has accomplished in a glance
Since November of 2015, the mission of Black Lives Matter Sacramento has been to empower our local communities that have often been on the receiving end of injustice, inequality and disenfranchisement. Through education and action, it is our goal to intervene where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. We are committed to boldly challenging state-sanctioned violence within our city and against our community members. This fight includes but is not limited to standing against the displacement of people of color; the oppressive nature of politics, politicians and business, as usual, that values profit over basic human rights; and behaviors and excessive force associated with law enforcement that lead to mass incarceration, police brutality and death. At the end of the day, this work is about uniting communities and working with organizations while seeking equality and equity. We understand that People Power is one of the most powerful tools to combat systemic injustice.
Justice For Adriene Ludd
On October 22, 2015 Adriene Ludd was killed by Sacramento County Sheriff deputies in Carmichael, CA. Immediate outrage was the response, soon after we met with the Ludd family, who also saw the inconsistencies in the statements from the Sacramento County Sheriff department. It was apparent excessive force led to the death of Adriene Ludd and the actions associated with his death were based on implicit biases and racial profiling. To bring attention to the case we held a candlelight vigil November 27, 2015. We made it our business to press the Sheriff’s department, specifically Sheriff Scott Jones, for information with regard to Ludd’s death and demanded the inspector general investigate the Sheriff’s department. This investigation revealed that 56 shots were shot by officers, including numerous times in the head and back. The investigation further exposed the complete negligence of Deputy David McEntire, who was found to have shot at Adriene 30 times. McEntire is also guilty of previous misconduct, excessive force and murder in other cases.
By organizing numerous demonstrations and press conferences in front of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department building, it was our goal to not only keep Adriene Ludd’s name fresh in the minds of our community but to also to hinder Sheriff Scott Jones’ bid for Congress. We have consistently updated the public and media about our demands for information from the Sheriff’s department, so the Ludd family can get some closure.
Since the death of Ludd, the family has not received the police report, autopsy report, or the 3 dashcam videos that captured the incident. Considering the details of the incident changed several times, we stress how it is imperative that the family and community have access to these pertinent pieces of information. We have repeatedly demanded that the family receive this information, along with the release of body cam footage. Finally, we demanded that the Sacramento Sheriff’s department implement AB 953, a California law that took effect in 2015 that would curb racial bias in policing based on data with respects to racial and identity profiling.
One year after Ludd’s death we held a Black Love Block Party in his honor. It was a free event with food, music, games and activities for the kids and educational materials about what BLM Sacramento is doing in and around the Sacramento area. Overall, it was a day of solidarity and love with a focus on family and community,
Part of our efforts in seeking justice for the Ludd family was making sure Sheriff Scott Jones was not elected to represent the community of California District 7 in Congress. In preparing for this task, we discovered Sheriff Scott Jones had ties to a widely known hate group called FAIR and has cost Sacramento in over $1.5 million in lawsuits paid for by Sacramento county taxpayers. Lawsuits for excessive force, in custody deaths, sexual assault, torture, military weapons use against inmates in his jails--these are a few examples of how our tax dollars were egregiously spent defending both Jones and his subordinates’ actions.
Justice for Dazion Flenaugh
The murder of Dazion Flenaugh has brought a special attention and focus on not just another unarmed black man being profiled by Law Enforcement but how Law Enforcement deals with those experiencing mental illness or crisis. Flenaugh was murdered by the Sacramento Police Department on April 8th, 2016 in the middle of South Sacramento’s Mack Road community, a heavily populated area of African Americans. Since his death, the family has not received a police report, toxicology report, or autopsy report. In January 2017, the Sacramento Police Department, finally released what seems to be partial footage of the events that led up to the murder and afterwards. While the video has missing pieces, we now know there were several opportunities for the officers on the scene to be heroes in the eyes of this community and to the Flenaugh family, to deescalate the situation. Tragically, this did not happen.
Tellingly, Flenaugh’s body was at the morgue for over 30 days. We have been told that his body was so decomposed that he had to be cremated, leaving the family with no body to bury. Because of the egregious treatment of Flenaugh, we demanded and followed up aggresively to ensure that the then Mayor, Kevin Johnson, pay for Flenaugh’s funeral expenses. We held the mayor to the fire and in keeping Flenaugh’s name ever so present on the minds of the City Council and the community, we were successful in securing the legal representation of Attorney Mark Harris for Flenaugh’s family and Johnson did cover the funeral expenses. As a result of the Flenaugh case, more attention and pressure was put on SacPD, specifically regarding the use and non-use of body cams and the procedures associated with the editing and release of police camera footage. The video shown to the Flenaugh family and the media is a monument to the department’s disservice; it is apparent the department picked through the footage and omitted many important parts of the incident from the publicly released video.
The video is proof of the unprofessional and callous attitude of Law Enforcement when handling this case: officers referred to Flenaugh as a “freak” and suggested civilians beat him in the head with a baseball bat. It is this unprofessionalism that we believe the department and commission should address. We, along with other social justice organizations, have demanded the family receive all of the footage and documentation leading up to and throughout Flenaugh’s tragic interaction. We have made our concerns heard at numerous Sacramento City Council meetings, where it has been our goal to give power to the People via a Community Police Commission. We have urged the Sacramento PD to revise the power of the commission, to better provide transparency and accountability, and eliminate police prescence. In efforts to give a voice to the Flenaugh family, we have met with and supported them through this process. We have encouraged the powers that be to honor their word and pay for his funeral. We have held candlelight vigils, and we continue to protest in his name.
It is because of cases like Flenaugh’s that the City of Sacramento has passed a new ordinance saying all video associated with police involved shootings be released within 30 days of the incident and police may no longer be associated with the Community Police Commission. While that has been a moderate success, it was later discovered that the Sac PD officers have discretion to turn their body cams on and off as they see fit despite the ordinance. Again, we continue to pressure the City Council and Commission to correct this oversight.
Justice for Joseph Mann
Joseph Mann was killed by the SacPD on July 11th, 2016. If the Sacramento City Council and Police Department had addressed our concerns with respects to the Dazion Flenaugh shooting, we might not be discussing Mann. Mann was suffering from mental crisis and experiencing homelessness; problems that affect Sacramento and other cities alike. The core problem remains: Mann was another black man killed at the hands of local law enforcement. Since Mann’s death, we have continued to put pressure on the City Council and demand power for the City’s Community Police Commission. We have been in continuous contact with the Mann family and continue to assist them in keeping Joseph’s name on the minds of the city council, media and community. In the Del Paso area where Joseph was gunned down, we have held protests, and our position remains, based on video evidence, that he was running from police, afraid, with his hands raised in the air.
As with Ludd and Flenaugh, and now with Mann, we take every opportunity to lift their names, say their names and honor their names. To raise them and legitimize them as members of our city, and tragically, as senseless deaths at the hands of Law Enforcement in the greater Sacramento area. The Mann family has sued the city of Sacramento and a settlement has been reached, but no amount of money can right the wrongs of the Joseph Mann killing. To this point, the Mann family continues to join Black Lives Matter Sacramento as we fight for justice and demand the much needed changes to law enforcement agencies and the decriminalization of Black men across this country. Although, the DA in Sacramento County felt compelled to clear the officers in the deaths of Ludd, Flenaugh and Mann, Black Lives Matter Sacramento and other social justice organizations continue to show up in the hundreds to demonstrate People Power.
Our campaign against gentrification focuses on the historically Black neighborhood of Oak Park. Gentrification has been and is firmly present in this specific community. Our efforts are centered on educating folks on gentrification, fighting for the longtime residents of color in Oak Park, and establishing a stronger resident-community voice in the neighborhood development decisions made going forward. We have canvassed the area with a survey to collect data and assess the needs and concerns of the community. We are pushing the Oak Park Neighborhood Association (OPNA) to be more accessible to longtime residents of color. We have enabled conversations about over policing in Oak Park and we will be meeting with business owners to push for jobs to folks of color, folks that are from that community. We are also meeting with city officials to bring the needs of the community to them. Our ongoing relationship with OPNA focuses on shaping policy regarding grant money received to address gentrification. It is important to establish how that money is invested for long term efforts with respects to serving the needs of the people.
It is our goal to target the areas of Seavey Circle and New Helvetia, as these areas have also been overshadowed by gentrifications. In all three of these areas, there is seemingly affordable housing but if the trend of gentrification continues these affordable communities will be torn down and built into expensive townhomes for the new Golden 1 Arena. We have determined 50% of the people living in these areas will be displaced and the city has no plan to rehouse those affected.
Sacramento Community Police Oversight Commission
We are fighting for our police oversight commission to have more power. At the present, this commission only has the power to review data. Even with this power, the data are highly limited. The data does not include any active investigations nor can the data be related to police misconduct. When the pressure Black Lives Matter Sacramento put on the City Council built momentum, organizations like Sacramento ACT and LEAD joined us in the fight as a collective coalition effort. After some commission changes, the City Council moved to grant the commission more power.
Several coalition members visited and researched the powers of other city’s oversight commissions to explore how their oversight commissions are set up and what powers they wield. In this vein, the City Council was presented with examples from other city council commissions like Berkeley and San Diego. During this time we discovered multiple City Council members, such as Steve Hansen and Angelique Ashby, had accepted hefty contribution from police unions. Which, as you could imagine, could cause a conflict of interest.
If the Council and Commission truly desires accountability and transparency, there is clearly more pressure needed. To this point, the Council has passed an ordinance that mandates the release of all police video and audio associated with police involved shootings within 30 to the family of the deceased. By no means do we want to minimize the importance of that ordinance but there is so much more work to be done. The Council and Commission, if it is to be independent and therefore effective, must exclude itself from any association with Law Enforcement considering the layered power structures in the city of Sacramento. While all of our requests have not been granted, the fight continues.
Elk Grove Unified School District
In 2016, Nyree Holmes, an African American honor student, was escorted from his graduation ceremony for wearing a Kente cloth around the collar of his graduation gown. Citing a policy preventing accessories to cap and gown ceremonies, the on duty officer took Holmes from the stage after he crossed it and escorted him out of the building. Needless to say, this was unacceptable.
In working with the school district, the school board was receptive and open to changing the policy for future graduates. Going forward, we will continue to work in collaboration with the school district to implement policy that will reflect and respect the diverse student populations that attend school in the Elk Grove district. It is our goal that this will be a launching pad allowing us to approach other school districts in the Sacramento area. For example, a strong point of contention concerns the presence of Sheriff Deputies on school campus. We maintain that this focuses on discipline and does not allow for restorative justice for students. We also urge that school staff be reflective of student population and that school staff accommodate student diversity based on race, needs, and access.
Folsom Cordova Unified School District
When a middle school teacher at Sutter Middle School in Folsom, CA (a heavily upper middle class white populated area) made inappropriate comments about lynching to his class, the only black student in class felt uncomfortable and reported the incident to his parents. The comment was “When you hang one Black person, you’d have to hang them all, that’s equality”. After the family filed a complaint about the racist comments, it was brought to the attention of the media. Outraged by the comments, we attended the school board meeting following the incident. Black Lives Matter Sacramento, along with the support of Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Sacramento, felt compelled to demand the school district discipline the teacher. After this initial event, the teacher then hung a confederate flag in his classroom. Ultimately and as a direct response to the community reaction, he was briefly placed on administrative paid leave and forced to retire, though he will likely continue to receive a pension.
Community Alternatives to the Police
Our Community Alternatives to the Police break out meetings have occurred for four consecutive months. We are partnering with our communities to discuss and build a structure outside of the existing Law Enforcement apparatus. Through these meetings, we’re compiling a resource database to address the needs of the community, establishing an infrastructure of rapid response, and creating and maintaining neighborhood aid as if we are a community without the police. In short, we aim to make our communities safer and stronger by creating networks that do not only act as crisis services, but offer to strengthen a fabric of community members that might prevent a large portion of these crises all together.
As an alternative to 911 for mental health crises and in an effort to prevent the continuous and rampant criminalization of our community members, we hope to build a preventative foundation within the community and to de-escalate high-intensity incidents without calling law enforcement. Throughout this process we have been keeping the principles of transformative justice in mind, and while much of this is still theoretical in nature, we are adamant about fostering it into a material form and keeping our communities safe.
Allies and Partnerships
Black Lives Matter Sacramento is open to partnering with other organizations, but we will not compromise our founding principles. We have been supported by and partnered with the following organizations and communities in various formations:
CSUS, SacACT, Gender Health Center, ACLU of Northern California, ACLU Sacramento Chapter, LEAD, SURJ, Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento, HELLA, Occupy Sacramento, Sacramento Green Party, Organize Sacramento, Women Take Back the Night Sacramento, Brown Berets, Answer Sacramento, Community Dinner Project, Hmong for Black Lives, Sac NoDAPL, Jewish Voices for Peace, Democratic Socialist of America, Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee, Anti-Cap City.
What’s Coming Down the Pipeline
Black Lives Matter Sacramento aspires to accomplish so much more while maintaining our current efforts. This summer we plan host a Freedom School for families. We plan to discuss the various forms of oppression that are prevalent in our institutions, media, and discuss solutions to these forms of oppression. While doing so, we also want to promote empowerment and healing.
In the past, we have attempted to make change by appealing to City Council members but have seen no significant improvements. We are very disappointed in the actions they have taken to promote gentrification and voted unanimously for a new community police commission. The goal of the original commission was to oversee department policies, maintain diversity and eliminate police bias. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent to us that various limitations placed on the commission would render it ineffective and do virtually nothing to hold officers responsible for misconduct.
We will be focusing on policies that have criminalized individuals experiencing homelessness. Several unhoused people have died this winter due to lack of shelter and the confiscation of tents and blankets by SacPD. 2 of these unhoused individuals literally and tragically passed away on the doorstep of Sacramento City Hall. In the future, we hope to advocate the removal of the sitting Council members, empowering a completely new City Council that is more receptive and responsive to the people's concerns.
Several people have died in police related incidents in Sacramento in 2016. The prevalence of these deaths has sparked many discussions amongst chapter members and community members. These conversations have evolved into some ideas about alternatives to policing. In order to better protect our communities from brutality, we feel that police should no longer be called into our neighborhoods. We are currently creating a discourse within the community about what alternatives to policing would look like and how they would function. Some have suggested that we create resources (e.g. alternative professionals to call in crisis situations). We have also discussed the possibility of patrolling our own neighborhoods. Throughout this process we have been keeping the principles of transformative justice in mind. In the future we want to see these conversations form into concrete plans that will lessen police presence in our communities.
Locally, the loss of innocent lives, at the hands of police, have resulted in settlements, financial aid for funeral costs, and the loss of employment, but Black Lives Matter Sacramento wants more. We want to see officers held accountable for their actions, and we want more transparency from local departments. In the coming year, we plan to continue our fight for fair treatment and aim to see that those responsible for these deaths are brought to justice. Though this task has been arduous, this will always be one of our greatest hopes for the future.
Black Lives Matter Sacramento