Warning: The video below contains violence and graphic language.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Weekend clashes between opposing protesters near the state Capitol are pulling hundreds of officers away from other crime-fighting, terrorizing downtown and causing a “ripple effect” of damage in a city already struggling with the pandemic and a rash of homicides, the police chief said Monday.
“This is not protesting. These acts are not demonstrating their constitutionally protected rights. This is unwarranted, unjustified criminal behavior,” Police Chief Daniel Hahn said in a video.
The chief’s video followed another face-off Saturday afternoon during which bottles and fireworks were tossed by counter-demonstrators at a group waving American flags and banners supporting Donald Trump.
Such confrontations have been occurring every weekend since the Nov. 3 election. CapRadio reported that the pro-Trump contingent has included members of the Proud Boys — a right-wing organization that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — and the counter-demonstrators were part of the local antifa movement, an umbrella term for leftist militants.
The chief’s video included police body camera footage that showed some of the black-clad demonstrators holding homemade shields and pushing against a metal barricade separating the two groups.
Police have said they used non-lethal weapons such as pepper balls to protect the barricade.
Police said at least 10 cars were vandalized by marchers.
More than 150 officers were deployed, and three received minor injuries from thrown objects or lasers being flashed in their eyes, police said.
Hahn said hundreds of officers, including “homicide detectives, gang detectives, community outreach officers and police dispatchers,” have been pulled away from their main assignments to monitor the protests.
A police statement said there have been at least 40 homicides in the city this year, a 30% increase over the same period last year, and aggravated assaults are up nearly 20%.
“Detectives who would normally follow-up on these cases have been tasked with protest duties every week,” the statement said.
Hahn condemned the violent confrontations, saying they “terrorize the downtown community” and must end.
“They create a ripple effect of negative impacts on our community that is already suffering too much,” he said.