Protesters Chain Themselves to Gate of Newsom's Home Demanding Mass Inmate Releases

Demonstrators calling for mass inmate releases, locked themselves to the front gate of Gov. Gavin Newsom's residence in Fair Oaks, California on Monday, July 27, 2020.  (Courtesy of Brooke Anderson/@movementphotographer)

Demonstrators chained themselves to a fence outside Gov. Gavin Newsom's home on Monday, calling for mass inmate releases and an end to immigration transfers, as outbreaks of the coronavirus continue to ravage a number of prisons and detention facilities throughout the state.

After about two hours, California Highway Patrol officers cut the chains used by protesters to lock themselves to the front gate of the governor's residence in suburban Sacramento. It was not immediately clear how many arrests were made.

Television footage showed 14 demonstrators sitting cross-legged and chained to each other and the front gate, wearing masks and plastic face shields to keep from spreading the virus.

Organized by the California Liberation Collective, the protest included several community organizers who are in the country illegally, as well as immigration attorneys whose clients are at risk of becoming infected.

Sponsored

The 14 demonstrators were backed by dozens of other protesters calling for more prison releases because of recent major outbreaks, including the most severe instance at San Quentin State Prison, where more than 2,100 inmates have been infected with the virus in the last two months and 19 have died.

More than 1,800 inmates statewide have active COVID-19 infections, according to prison officials, while over 5,600 have contracted but recovered from it. Across the state, 47 inmates have died so far of suspected virus complications.

related coverage

At San Quentin, there are now upward of 500 active cases, more than the next two hardest-hit prisons combined.

Demonstrators want Newsom to grant mass clemency and order more early releases to reduce the prison population, the collective said in a statement. The governor previously ordered steps projected to lead to the early release of about 10,000 inmates, or nearly 10% of the inmate population.

The collective called that “too little, too late." The 14 chained protesters were backed by a banner hanging from the Newsom's gate saying “Free Them All.”

The group accused Newsom of “hypocrisy” for placing a moratorium on executions but presiding “over dozens of preventable deaths in state prisons" and issuing “hollow statements about racial justice while leaving Black and Brown people to die in squalid cells.”

Newsom's office did not respond to a request for comment.

The collective also called on Newsom, a Democrat, to halt transfers of inmates from state and local custody to federal immigration officials, and to stop the expansion of immigration detention — even though California already has laws blocking immigration facilities and limiting law enforcement agencies' cooperation with immigration officials.

It said he “criticizes Trump when convenient, but ... turns incarcerated Californians who are eligible for release over to ICE instead of their loved ones.”

 

Also on Monday, more than 100 UCSF doctors were among the 750 people who signed a statement delivered to Newsom calling for more prison releases. The move was organized by UCSF's chapter of White Coats For Black Lives, which said the signers also include nurses and other medical and mental health providers, students and community members.

They and the collective both called for reducing San Quentin's inmate population by half to slow the spread of the virus.

On Sunday, condemned San Quentin inmate Johnny Avila Jr., 62, was the latest inmate at the facility — and 10th on its death row — to die of suspected complications from the coronavirus.

Avila was among three men convicted in 1994 of two counts of first-degree murder for the 1991 slayings of two young women. The other two men were sentenced to life prison terms.