What: Community groups will stage a protest outside the Alameda County Sheriff's office to decry the Department's re-tweeting of known White Supremacist Richard Spencer and to draw attention to a disturbing pattern of racist, anti-immigrant comments and stances at the department.
In particular, the twitter scandal places the Sheriff's intense opposition to SB 54, the California Values Act, sometimes called a "sanctuary" bill, under new scrutiny. Across the state, groups are urging the Sheriff's Association - of which Ahern is a past President - to stop bullying Gov. Brown into further weakening the bill.
When: Wednesday, August 16, 5:30 PM
Where: Alameda County Sheriff's Office, 1400 Lakeside Dr.
Who: CA Immigrant Policy Center, Asian Law Caucus, ACUDIR coalition, others
Why: The scandal is the most public eruption of a long-simmering pattern of racist incidents at the Department. For example:
- In May, Sheriff's Deputy Ray Kelly - also at the Center of the White Supremacist tweet scandal - responded to outcry over the arrest of a fruit vendor with this remark: “If you don't enforce this type of selling, it will begin to look like a Third World fruit market.” Instead of apologizing, Kelly's response to community criticism was to state: "“If they want to take offense with that comment, I guess I’ll have to deal with it.”
- Late last year, Sheriff Ahern signed a letter on behalf of the State Sheriff's Association endorsing white nationalist Jeff Sessions' nomination for Attorney General. Echoing Kelly's dubious claims today that he pressed the wrong button on twitter, the Sheriff claimed his signature was attached to the letter as a matter of "routine business." But he also admitted to personally voting in favor of sending the letter.
- Sheriff Ahern told advocates at a private meeting last year he could identify undocumented immigrants by "language, luggage, and clothing," which sparked concerns of racial profiling. Challenged about these comments at a community forum on June 30 this year and whether they could lead to racial profiling, the Sheriff dug in further: "Question was, can you tell by somebody's appearance if they are undocumented? And my response was, when somebody is working at the Oakland International Airport, for example, and somebody comes across [on] an international flight and they're traveling into the country, and they're dressed in their country of origin clothing, and carrying a suitcase, they may not be a documented person."
Taken together, these comments suggest the Sheriff's department is enmeshed with an agenda that can only be described as racist and xenophobic. All of our leaders, from the Governor down to the County Board of Supes, must decide which side they are on: the side of common humanity, community, and fair treatment for all people regardless of their background - or the side of bigotry and hate.
The Sheriff's Department continues to help the Trump administration deport people by notifying ICE as community members are being released from jail - a practice SB 54 would limit. Opposition from the Sheriffs' Association has already led to exceptions being placed in the bill, and groups are urging Gov. Brown to resist bullying from the Sheriffs and sign the bill in the strongest form possible.