SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Christopher Sinclair has been running his Good Bottle Shop off L Street across from the State Capitol for about a year, and it’s already been a challenge.
“Then we had construction right in front of our door, then before the construction was done, then COVID and the apocalypse happened,” Christopher Sinclair told FOX40.
Sinclair said since the November election, the climate on the weekend has gotten worse.
“Every Saturday, they’re out here causing problems, fighting, driving around, making a lot of traffic, and nobody wants to come downtown,” he said.
Sinclair said both sides — including the far-right Proud Boys and far-left antifa — are doing all they can to physically fight one another in the streets, which is scaring off his customers.
“It’s not a good look and we know that people will actively avoid us on the weekends and they’ve told us as much,” he said.
Next door, Heather Wong, who owns All Spicery, agreed the weekends are tough.
“And a lot of people are trying to get downtown, trying to pick up their holiday orders, and some of them are just going straight home because they can’t get downtown, they can’t find parking,” Wong said. “So, it’s been a very loud and kind of chaotic scene every Saturday.”
Not only have these protests and counter-protests been hurting the small businesses surrounding the capitol, but the Sacramento Police Department said they’re straining resources for them and burning taxpayer dollars.
“Basically required us to have our officers, which we typically have about 150-plus officers that now have to work down there, to basically stand in the middle of them,” said Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn.
Hahn said the melee in the streets goes far beyond protected First Amendment speech.
“When you come in a helmet and you come in a mask, you come with backpacks filled with things, you come with sticks and cans and throw it at each other, those are crimes,” he continued. “Those are not protected as free speech.”
This past weekend, three of his officers were injured trying to keep the two groups apart. Many vehicles were also vandalized.
But Hahn said so far, there have been no arrests, partly because those who were fighting didn’t want to press charges.
“Had several victims that had been assaulted but did not want anyone arrested,” Hahn explained. “Matter of fact, one wouldn’t even tell us who they were.”
Hahn said he believed the message from both sides is completely lost in the violence.
“If all you want to do is assault each other, there’s paintball places and other locations that you can go and assault away. You don’t need to do that in our downtown,” he said.
Wong and Sinclair agree.
“You’re hurting my small business and not just mine, you’re hurting all the ones down here as well,” Sinclair said.
“If we could all just kind of co-exist peacefully, I’m all for it. I definitely support everyone’s right to free speech but if it’s impeding our business, then we start having some problems,” Wong added.