Lorraine Reich: Open letter to Sheriff Moon, Police Chief Ellis and Chief Alex Gammelgard
Please allow me to introduce myself. I am an attorney at law and board member of the Peace and Justice Center of Nevada County, an anti-war and civil rights nonprofit organization founded by Utah Phillips that has had a presence in Nevada County for nearly 20 years. I am also a member of the local affiliate of MoveToAmend, a national nonprofit organization seeking reformation of the U.S. Constitution. Lastly I have also served as chair of our local ACLU chapter. Altogether, these groups comprise nearly 1,000 citizens of Nevada County.
Speaking for myself, and on behalf the local members of these organizations and those whose voices remain unheard, I am among a great many citizens in Nevada County who are extremely disturbed over the rise of “patriots” who we frequently see parading through our towns in their pickup trucks waving the American flag. While they shout out how “police lives matter,” I believe their true message is that of racism and xenophobia.
At the local Black Lives Matter protest on Aug. 9, we saw this group descend on the peaceful protesters. It was abundantly clear their aim was to intimidate and disrupt the demonstration by yelling obscenities, making threats and physically attacking the BLM demonstrators. The crimes they committed that day are well documented by witnesses and cell phone videos. Many of the peaceful protestors were injured, their signs ripped out of their hands, and their property destroyed. There were several instances of outright assault and battery. Surely you have seen their hateful faces in the videos that ensued.
While it is most concerning that these hooligans got away with committing crimes against the public in broad daylight, even more disturbing was the abject failure by all law enforcement present to protect the citizens, enforce crowd control, and carry out necessary arrests.
Numerous personal accounts and cell phone videos taken that day document officers turning away after being asked for help, and officers standing with and actually walking with the angry hooligans. We saw the officers’ unsuccessful attempts to separate the groups as they herded marchers toward the outskirts of town with flagpoles and fists. This was reminiscent of the failure to protect non-violent demonstrators we witnessed when we watched the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, which as you may remember turned into weeks of bloody protests against police and government authority.
Now as we approach Nov. 3, and one of the most contentious elections of our times, these same “patriots” may cause trouble, disruption, and potential incidents of violence as they parade at the government Rood Center and throughout our towns. If you have any doubt of this, you must visit armyfortrump.com to see that President Trump is calling on citizens to join his “army” to “fight for President Trump.” Make no mistake, Trump’s army will indeed be “at the ready” to keep Trump in office despite the election results.
Many fear that the days following Nov. 3 will be even more chaotic and rife with uncertainty as the results of the election go undetermined until the final votes are counted. These are the days when trouble is most likely to occur by political fanatics.
We don’t know if the failure by the police officers to appropriately respond to the violence on Nevada City’s streets on Aug. 9 was out of fear of personal harm, because they actually sympathized with racist “patriots,” or because they are unfamiliar with constitutional and civil rights.
Whatever the case, the citizens need to know that their government will protect them, and equally important, that our government will protect every citizen’s right to vote. Please take this matter seriously and have your officers ready to defend the election process, the counting of the ballots, and ready to take appropriate, non-violent action.
On behalf of myself, the Peace and Justice Center, and the citizens of Nevada County, we are requesting that you immediately address this matter. Time is of the essence! What will be the Nevada County government’s response to make sure our officers will protect our citizens when they peacefully assemble, or when they demonstrate, or protest at future events? What will be officers’ response the next time thugs such as these “patriots” come out to harm peaceful citizens trying to exercise their constitutional rights, their electoral rights, their right to vote?
In closing I will add that the events of Aug. 9 marks a serious problem for the safety of Nevada County citizens and our democratic future. The failure of law enforcement to protect and serve have given these violent and hateful “patriots” the message that they can get away with illegal and violent acts on citizens with impunity. It also sends the message to law enforcement that such behavior is acceptable and must be tolerated when it is not.
Hateful and violent speech Sunday is not protected speech under our Constitution and cannot be sanctioned by our local government. Thank you for your consideration of this serious and extremely urgent request.
Lorraine Reich is an attorney in Grass Valley and board member of the Peace and Justice Center of Nevada County.
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