Activists hit racial profiling in West Sacramento

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Coalition for Justice for Immigrants, an alliance of civil rights, labor and immigrant rights groups, announced a campaign to end a long pattern of racial profiling and police harassment of Latinos here May 11.

The coalition accused the West Sacramento City Council and Mayor Christopher Cabaldon of allowing the police department to selectively harass activists and people of color in the working-class town, located just across the river from the state capital, where the community is 43 percent Latino.

The accusations followed a Superior Court judge’s dismissal of terrorism charges against Arturo Solorio Rodriguez on May 9. Solorio had been held without bail for 17 days, accused of being “in possession of a false bomb with intent to cause fear to others.”

Witnesses testified that not only was there no bomb, but that the backpack Solorio allegedly planted in the midst of an anti-Bush demonstration in West Sacramento on April 22 had been lying in that location for four weeks and that police had been informed about it.

Solorio and other immigrant rights advocates had been distributing leaflets advertising the May 1 National Day of Action Boycott and Protest when the Latinos in the group were detained by West Sacramento police, who, along with police from Elk Grove, Sacramento County and Woodland, were monitoring the demonstration.

The four men and one woman were searched, and a truck belonging to Frank Gonzalez of LULAC West Sacramento was broken into and also searched before Solorio was arrested and the others released.

“They did a thorough body search, and violated my private parts in front of the men. I feel as if I was raped,” said Martha Garcia, leader of Americans for Freedom in West Sacramento. “If I had tried to protect myself, I could have been beaten and arrested.”

“The police in this town are out of control,” Garcia told reporters. “The rights of the citizens are violated every day. For as simple a thing as a cracked windshield, you are pulled over, arrested and fingerprinted.”

For over a year, she said, many West Sacramento Latino citizens have been under a “gang injunction” that prohibits them from “congregating” or being out after 10 p.m., under threat of arrest or fine. “There is no such thing as the Broderick Boys,” said Garcia, referring to a reputed street gang. “We have no drive-by shootings. We have people who have never committed a crime targeted under this injunction.”

“I believe that they want our land,” Garcia said. Two-thirds of the land in the former towns of Broderick and Bryte are marked for eminent domain, she said.