In the aftermath of racial violence in Virginia, several hundred people turned out in downtown Sacramento on Sunday night for a rally that mixed messages of solidarity, hope and anger.
More than 500 people, including Mayor Darrell Steinberg and city council members, gathered at Sacramento City Hall and marched to the steps of the state Capitol in response to events in Charlottesville, Va., where a rally of white supremacists sparked clashes that left one dead and dozens injured, according to media reports.
“We gather with a resolute commitment that we will grieve for those who lost their lives, that we will stand with those who are scared and say with clarity and confidence, there is no moral equivalence between white supremacy and the hundreds of millions of people in this country and in Sacramento who reject such hate and work to include and build, not to exclude and destroy,” Steinberg said at City Hall.
Steinberg’s speech was interrupted by a raucous group of protesters angry over the city’s ban on urban camping and a proposed city ordinance that would restrict picketing in residential areas.
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Their chanting marked the beginning of an at-times contentious evening that included spirited speeches that veered far from the unity theme.
During one such speech on the Capitol steps near the end of the night, Elika Bernard of Black Women United called out Steinberg and other elected officials and compared Sacramento to Charlottesville, decrying what she said was unfair treatment of African Americans in the city.
“Where were you when Joseph Mann was gunned down in Del Paso Heights?” Bernard said. “Where was the press conference when the KKK rallied on these steps? Where were our elected officials? We cannot say that our work is good until the brown people in our community are safe.”
Despite the at-times heated rhetoric, the crowd remained peaceful. Officer Eddie Macaulay, Sacramento Police Department spokesman, said he was not aware of any arrests or violence at the event.
For many of those gathered, the night represented a vigil for Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman killed by a hit-and-run driver in Charlottesville. Many people held candles and signs in her honor. Two Virginia State Police troopers also died when their helicopter crashed while they were monitoring the demonstrations.
“Someone died yesterday and that is just beyond the pale. Enough is enough,” said Julie McManus, a West Sacramento resident who came with her husband, Jim.
Asia Venable, 28, said she came to the march because she was raised near Charlottesville and her father still lived there.
“I grew up with all that racism,” she said. “I don’t want it in my city and I don’t want it in my country.”
After the event, Steinberg said the dissent was unexpected, but understandable.
“What I heard tonight from people who tried to shout over me, I heard a lot of pain,” Steinberg said. “My job as mayor is to listen and not judge. And if I can help people feel heard, even if its uncomfortable, I’m OK with that. Better people should shout at me than suffer silently. And better that we give voice to all than silence anybody.”
In Roseville, people marched from downtown to Sculpture Park in support of Charlottesville and to send a message against racism.
Elsewhere, a rally in Seattle previously planned for Sunday by the conservative pro-Trump group known as Patriot Prayer drew hundreds of counter protesters. Police arrested three men and confiscated weapons as Trump supporters and counter-protesters converged downtown.
A barricade separated the two groups as Seattle police officers stood by dressed in riot gear. Police said they used pepper spray and blast balls to disperse crowds after fireworks were thrown at officers. In a statement, police said they observed some people in the counter protest carrying axe handles and two-by fours as they infiltrated the hundreds of peaceful demonstrators.