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Alameda County Sheriff’s Department retweets white supremacist “Unite the Right” press conference, community members urge action

“If county officials are appalled at the Sheriff’s Department retweet of white supremacy, they need to take action and put an end to its equally racist and appalling practices and programs, such as Urban Shield, immigrant detention and collaboration with ICE, and jail expansion.”

Oakland – Yesterday at around 10:40pm, the official twitter account of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department retweeted a video of a press conference organized by Richard Spencer, the icon of the white supremacist “alt-right” movement. The tweet dubbed the press conference with a “Unite the Right” hashtag – the same slogan that white supremacist groups used to mobilize people to Charlottesville, VA this past weekend, which resulted in the tragic murder of an anti-racist demonstrator by a white supremacist.

Community organizations that have long organized against the Sheriff’s department harmful policies and practices argue that the endorsement of white supremacy on twitter is representative of the department’s ongoing attacks against immigrants and people of color. Community members fighting police militarization with the Stop Urban Shield Coalition, anti-imprisonment organizers with Decarcerate Alameda, and immigrant rights advocates with Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights (ACUDIR) all condemn not just the message of the retweet, but the ongoing racism and violence of Sheriff’s Department against impacted communities.

“As appalling as it is that a public entity in the Bay Area would retweet a well-known white supremacist, we are not surprised. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, under the reign of Sheriff Gregory Ahern, has consistently pursued policies that align themselves with extreme hate, racism, and xenophobia,” said Woods Ervin of Critical Resistance and the Stop Urban Shield Coalition. “If county officials are appalled at the Sheriff’s Department retweet of white supremacy, they need to take action and put an end to its equally racist and appalling practices and programs, such as Urban Shield, immigrant detention and collaboration with ICE, and jail expansion.

The Sheriff’s Department annually hosts Urban Shield, the largest militarized SWAT training and weapons expo in the world. Federally funded by the Department of Homeland Security, Urban Shield has been under sharp criticism due to its promotion of police militarization, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, and highly repressive practices and techonologies. Bay Area communities have also been outraged at the Sheriff’s Department’s plans to expand the county jail system, as well as its continued collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where it detains immigrants, ultimately leading to deportation.

“The community is outraged by Sheriff Ahern, who has continuously sided with hate and implements it through his policies and practices,” said Sandy from California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, an organization with ACUDIR. “Sheriff Ahern has admitted to racially profiling and criminalizing communities of color.”

“White supremacy is not only alive and well on the Sheriffs Department’s twitter page, but also in their racially unjust policies and daily practices. The Sheriff’s white supremacist actions ring loud and clear in their plan to spend $70 million on a new mental health unit at Santa Rita Jail, an expansion project that will continue to target people of color, destroy lives, and add to the department’s long history of racism,” said Tash Nguyen of Decarcerate Alameda. “We refuse to accept the everyday, state-sanctioned racist violence of incarceration as legitimate.”

This is not the first time the County Sheriff has been under scrutiny for his support of the extreme right. In December of last year, Sheriff Ahern also co-signed a letter of support for Jeff Sessions, the current U.S. Attorney General who has been widely condemned because of his xenophobia, racism, and denial of climate change.

“The Sheriff can claim that the retweet was a mistake, yet he continues to steamroll our communities with violent and racist practices. We demand County officials to take action not only against his words or tweets, but on his actions that are having real, everyday impacts on communities of color throughout the Bay Area,” said Ervin.

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