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Human Right Violations in Santa Rosa, California

Policing the Black Lives Matter Protests

Published:  July 10, 2020

The Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights has released a groundbreaking report on police violence against protesters over the last weeks. "Human Right Violations in Santa Rosa California - Policing the Black Lives Matter Protests," details the excessive use of force and human rights abuses perpetrated on the public by the Santa Rosa Police Department(SRPD) and other law enforcement agencies during protests following the murder of George Floyd.

Not limited to current events, the report places a meticulous lens on the historical climate of white supremacy and racism within the county, citing a direct link to the brutality and racial profiling of Sonoma County law enforcement agencies, also shown in the disproportionate targeting and abuse of Black, Indigenous and Latinx protesters. SRPD also utilized aggressive kettling tactics, deployed teargas on minors and families, and utilized rubber bullets, stingball and chalk grenades, causing extreme injuries and trauma, most notably in the case of Indigenous Pomo protester Marqus 'Red Bear' Martinez.

Beginning on May 30th, the Commission was overwhelmed with incident reports of severe human rights violations during protest, arrest and detention of the public. These ranged from extreme use of force, physical and emotional abuse, to groping and insinuations of sexual assault against arrested female protesters, racial profiling and targeting of BIPOC protesters, denial of medical treatment, refusal to provide names and badge numbers, targeting of street medics, and retaliation, denial of social distancing, phone calls, water and medical attention at the Main Adult Detention Facility. Equally troubling was the lack of action on the part of law enforcement and the District Attorney to arrest, charge and prosecute drivers that attempted to, or were successful in ramming into protesters, now numbering at least eight occurrences, with more emerging. Highly disturbing are reports of police collusion with outside agitators to cause damage, harm and destabilize peaceful protest efforts, thereby justifying extreme use of force. Seeing that statements and press conferences released by law enforcement and elected officials were in direct conflict with these reports, the Commission brokered a meeting on Juneteenth with Santa Rosa Mayor Tom Schwedhelm and Santa Rosa Police Chief Rainer Navarro, with assistance from County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, to allow injured BIPOC protesters to safely confront the City of Santa Rosa with their accounts.

Out of a follow up discussion with protesters to identify demands, this report was developed to demand accountability and inform the public of the truth. These demands include an independent investigation of SRPD, a ban on the use of military grade weaponry on the public, and calls for the firing and criminal investigations of the officers who perpetrated the abuse. The report is being submitted to the Santa Rosa City Council, the County Board of Supervisors, the California Department of Justice, United States Commission on Civil Rights, the United States Department of Justice, and the United Nations Human Rights Committee, among others.

View the full Comprehensive Report (PDF: 1 MB)

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Commission on Human Rights
County of Sonoma
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