Frank Runninghorse, left, and Craig Emery, right, outside a Concord City Council meeting on a potential immigrant detention site in the city. (Guy Marzorati/KQED)
Hundreds of East Bay residents packed into Concord City Hall on Wednesday afternoon, many hoping to protest reports that the former Concord Naval Weapons Station was being considered by the federal government to detain undocumented immigrants.
Those fears were soon assuaged: Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston told county supervisors that he had heard from state officials that the plan was off the table.
"I was recently advised by California Office of Emergency Services high-ranking officials that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said there will be no relocation camps established in Concord, or anywhere in California," Livingston wrote in an email to the Board of Supervisors that was shared with the Concord City Council.
When the email was read aloud at the beginning of the meeting, the hundreds of residents in attendance broke into applause.
Concord Mayor Edi Birsan thanked those residents who came out to the midday meeting at short notice to voice opposition to the idea of a detention camp in the city.
"Politicians are not moved by silence," Birsan said. "The detention centers are contrary to what we have struggled to create."
Birsan added that he would meet with the area's state representatives later in the afternoon to further discuss the report.
Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, issued a statement applauding the news that a detention facility would not be constructed in the city.
"As we advised the Administration, the Concord Naval Weapons Station is an unsafe and inhabitable environment, and to propose housing almost 50,000 people there was both dangerous and immoral," DeSaulnier wrote.
It is unclear how seriously the Trump administration was considering the Concord site for a detention facility.
Time magazine first reported on the proposal to establish temporary immigrant detention facilities on military bases, including the former base in Concord.
"In order to inform potential senior leader discussion around this topic, Navy planners proactively pulled together a list of options that could be considered," said chief Navy spokesman Capt. Gregory Hicks, in an email. "The memo is strictly pre-decisional and meant for informed deliberation by senior leaders."
Dozens of speakers at Wednesday's meeting urged the City Council to remain vigilant against future proposals to establish detention camps in the city.
"Even though they’re saying they’re trying to cancel this, I still think we need to keep a watchful eye," said Victoria Fierce, with the group East Bay for Everyone.
Council members also expressed frustration at the possibility that the decade-long process of transferring the weapons station from the Navy to the city would be suddenly derailed.
Concord officials said the first transfers of property are scheduled to take place over the next few months.
"Quite honestly, I hope that we can be welcoming families to the Concord Naval Weapons Station," said Councilman Tim McGallian of future development plans. "Anything other than that would be absolutely ridiculous."
Many attendees of the meeting trickled out of City Hall after the sheriff's report was read. Others, like Concord resident Frank Runninghorse, stuck around outside of the chambers, holding protest placards.
"We don't want gulags anywhere, but we damn sure don't want it in Concord," Runninghorse said.