FAIR OAKS, Calif. (KTXL) – Dozens of protesters gathered outside Governor Gavin Newsom’s Fair Oaks home Monday morning.
The protesters – some of them chained to the home’s front gate – are criticizing the governor for what they say is a mishandling of COVID-19 in prison and immigration detention systems.
The group says keeping convicted people and detainees locked up is a risk to their lives.
“Governor Newsom, you need to listen to the immigrants who are pleading for help, who are languishing in jail,” said attorney Luis Reyes Salvaza.
More than 1,800 inmates statewide currently have tested positive for the virus, while officials say more than 5,600 have recovered. San Quentin has more than 500 active cases, more than the next two hardest-hit prisons combined.
Forty-seven inmate deaths have been reported with 7,687 confirmed cases of the illness according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“Governor Newsom, we demand you use mass clemency and release individuals from state prisons,” said Reyes Salvaza.
Newsom and prison officials said that addressing the issue is a top priority and they are in the process of releasing people from overcrowded facilities.
The protest was at times loud, but peaceful. Some used paint and chalk to scrawl messages on the street and sidewalk.
Around 8:30 a.m., officers who had been giving the protestors a wide berth began ordering people to leave.
Most protesters complied, moving behind the law enforcement blockade. Ten who stayed were chained to each other while four others chained themselves to the governor’s gate.
“They were asked individually if they wanted to leave after the dispersal order was given and they refused to do so,” said a police official.
California Highway Patrol officers used heavy-duty tools to remove the protestors after they refused to leave.
Reyes Salvaza was among the 14 people chained who were later arrested for multiple charges around 10:20 a.m. He said he was the last one cut free.
Police officials said 14 people were arrested for charges that include unlawful assembly, failure to disperse after a warning, and trespassing and failure to leave.
Reyes Salvaza said he himself is undocumented but protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Though the protester’s demands are specific, he said their bottom line is simple.
“If he really cares about Black lives, if he really cares about brown and Black people that are being disproportionately affected by this pandemic, then they need to act now,” said Reyes Salvaza.
The California Liberation Collective released a statement Monday afternoon following the protest and arrests:
Today, we mourn each and every life lost due to Governor Newsom’s failure to take action, and we offer our love and support to every family and community grieving these preventable deaths. We affirm that the health of each of us, depends on the health of all of us.
Today, we are holding a mirror up to the hypocrisy of a Governor who banned the death penalty yet has presided over dozens of preventable deaths in state prisons; who issues hollow statements about racial justice while leaving Black and Brown people to die in squalid cells; who criticizes Trump when convenient, but who turns incarcerated Californians who are eligible for release over to ICE instead of their loved ones, and thus helps spread ICE COVID-19 not just across the U.S., but across the world.
We are also here to honor the resiliency of people incarcerated in prisons, jails, and detention, who are survivors of violence, abuse, and trauma, who are our loved ones and family members, and who are organizing every day for freedom, justice, and for a better world for all of us. And today, we stand with detained immigrants currently on strike at Mesa Verde and Yuba. In solidarity with them, we demand that the Governor change course today. Governor Newsom, take action NOW to save lives!California Liberation Collective
This is a developing story.
*This story has been edited to show the total number of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths at California prisons.