I’ve been on the phone over the last 48 hours with the DA and local news: we’re calling privately and publicly on the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office to release a statement answering whether any law enforcement official requested private counter-protesting civilians to show up at the Black Lives Matter protest on Tuesday night.
This is important because the actions of the self-styled militia, staged a block away from our protest and numbering nearly 100 in my estimation, put the lives and first amendment rights of everyone gathered at risk. I personally witnessed no less than five times when this group used their trucks as weapons to intimidate pedestrian protesters, brushing against them at high speeds after doing laps around the block in tactical gear. It’s one thing to protect businesses, it’s another thing to publicly menace against our first amendment rights.
Secondly, and most importantly, we ask the Sheriff’s office to release a public statement requesting this group stay home at future protests, given their actions on Tuesday. The Redding Police Department put out a statement asking Black Lives Matter protesters to stay home before our event, while recognizing they couldn’t violate our rights to do so, so we know the Sheriff’s Office has the ability to request counter-protesters to stay away. Even if it turns out no law enforcement official invited them initially, several individuals were under the impression they were coordinating with Police and Sheriff’s deputies. To them we ask you speak clearly. Our safety and our rights depend on it.
Reverend Allen O’Brien is the pastor of Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC, in Redding, California, and co-founder of the Irenicast podcast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and interconnectedness.