Angry crowd protests as sheriff’s deputies clear south Sacramento homeless encampment

Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies faced dozens of protesters angered by the clearing of a homeless encampment in south Sacramento on Wednesday morning.

At least two people protesting were arrested for unlawful assembly at the camp near Stockton Boulevard and Fruitridge Road as of early Wednesday afternoon, according to a Sheriff’s Department spokesperson.

The Sheriff’s Department posted notices on tents Sunday, as Sacramento County intends to transfer the 5700 Stockton Blvd. property to the Sacramento Redevelopment and Housing Agency, which plans to build mixed-used housing and retail in a few years.

Protesters initially attempted to block deputies from entering the fenced-in driveway of the property, holding a large sign reading, “If you don’t have a solution, leave ours alone” and “no displacement w/out placement.”

“You’re welcome to hold your signs, you’re welcome to protest, you cannot impede what we are going forward with,” Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Christie Lynn told them. Officials arrived at the site about 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Deputies entered the lot to begin the eviction.

Shortly after 10 a.m., a line of sheriff’s officials wearing riot gear and holding batons lined up across the driveway, with protesters told they would be arrested if they did not clear the entryway to the lot.

By about 10:20 a.m., deputies had cleared the driveway after mostly verbal backlash, and a dump truck and sheriff’s van entered the gated lot.

Though the protest was largely peaceful, some brief scuffles occurred between deputies and protesters after the gathering cleared from the driveway and some people spilled out onto Stockton Boulevard, which was blocked off by law enforcement in both directions for several blocks from mid-morning into the afternoon. Deputies handcuffed at least one woman after a physical altercation.

Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Tess Deterding said as of about 12:30 p.m., two people were arrested by deputies for unlawful assembly.

A sheriff’s helicopter circling over the area gave repeated announcements declaring the assembly unlawful and telling those below they had five minutes to clear out of the roadway. Those announcements continued for at least 30 minutes, with protesters and spectators slowly making their way onto the sidewalks on each side of the street.

The two who were arrested had been in the area for about 30 to 40 minutes, Deterding said.

Tensions flared among spectators as well, as more than 100 people were lined up at one point watching from the sidewalk across Stockton Boulevard.

Many were shouting in protest of the eviction, but verbal confrontations arose among spectators as an occasional passersby would yell out in support of law enforcement.

A woman walking on the sidewalk shouted, “That’s right, throw out the trash,” and “They (deputies) are just doing their jobs.” She was confronted by a handful of angry protesters and a heated argument began, but the situation diffused within a few minutes without further incident.

Meanwhile, a woman who identified herself only as Niki said authorities need to be channeling efforts into survival and shelter resources for the homeless rather than eviction.

“They won’t let us in to help our friends move,” she said.

Stockton Boulevard remained shut down for a few blocks south of Fruitridge Road, with at least 15 sheriff’s vehicles remaining at the scene as of noon. For hours, drivers detoured through the parking lot of an adjacent strip mall.

By about noon, protests calmed and efforts centered on providing aid to the homeless leaving the encampment. Many of the evicted left through the front gate with shopping carts overflowing with belongings. Sheriff’s deputies assisted a few of them in pushing those carts off the property.

Dilapidated vehicles left the encampment as well. One man drove away in a beaten-up pickup truck with half-flat tires and a large crack in the center of the windshield.

Some activists and friends of those being evicted set up next to the front gate. At one point, Niki and others started passing water bottles and trash bags through the grates of the metal fence to those inside.

Inside the camp, about a dozen homeless people remained at 12:30 p.m., still packing up their belongings amid barking pit bulls and sheriff’s deputies.

The lot has served as a home for homeless people for about a decade. Betty “Bubbles” Rios previously told The Sacramento Bee that she has lived on the lot periodically since 2010, when the San Juan Motel, where she worked, was demolished, along with a trailer she was living in.

“Everybody here is a family,” Rios, 46, said. “We’ve all been together a long time.”

The Sheriff’s Department estimated about 70 people lived on the vacant lot. The SHRA requested the Sheriff’s Department clear the property.

Deterding said just after noon the eviction process itself was proceeded peacefully despite tempers flaring between law enforcement and protesters outside the lot.

“Housing has been out here at least twice a week for the last couple months trying to make contact, and also warn these folks that today was gonna be move-out day and that we needed to clear the property today,” Deterding said Wednesday.

An inhabitant of the camp, Steven Ford, said Wednesday that authorities had “implied it was OK for us to be there” over the last few months. Ford said he was not certain whether the authorities were law enforcement or SHRA officials.

“But then they were gonna clean up one section, so they moved everybody to the next section over,” Ford said. “If they were gonna tell us, ‘You can’t be here,’ in the first place, they should have said it to us then, when we had our stuff packed to move here.”

In the last six months, 69 calls for service to the encampment were made – including several for ongoing fights including weapons, which have resulted in injuries, Deterding previously told The Sacramento Bee.

“This is a vacant lot nobody’s using,” Rebecca Thompson previously told The Bee. “I’ve known most people out here for years. We all try to help each other.”

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