Written by the Anti-Racism Committee of South Pasadena
October 6, 2020
Dear City Manager, City Council, and Public Safety Commission of South Pasadena,
The Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) of South Pasadena is a grass-roots organization committed to addressing the deep wounds of systemic racism in our city as well as working towards racial justice in government policy, public safety, education, housing, art, and community services, among others. ARC works in partnership with all community stakeholders in order to help foster accountability, equity, restorative justice, and empathic exchange. We are writing this letter to you to express our deep concern about a pattern of violence directed towards Black Lives Matter protestors in our city and the negligence of the South Pasadena Police Department. This pattern needs to stop.
On Saturday, October 3, 2020 at approximately 1:40 pm, a white male South Pasadena resident, Richard Cheney drove his Ram 1800 truck across opposing traffic and onto the sidewalk on the southwest corner of Fair Oaks and Mission. His truck stopped just one foot away from the metal barrier in front of Starbucks, nearly hitting Black Lives Matter protestors. Fortunately, the protestors and nearby pedestrians were able to quickly and safely move out of the way. Cheney was also heard yelling from his open window, “So, you’re gonna keep putting those signs up?” His dangerous maneuver was intended to intimidate and threaten Black Lives Matter protestors. Police were called. The watch commander who never came to the scene and the supervisor on duty who arrived after witnesses were interviewed, both came to the conclusion that they would not arrest or cite Cheney. The entire time, Richard Cheney refused to wear a mask and was eventually let go. Despite eyewitness accounts and videos documenting what happened, no arrests were made, and no citations were given. The South Pasadena Police Department has issued a news release on October 3, 2020 that “[t]he case will be presented to the District Attorney for filing considerations.”
The Anti-Racism Committee of South Pasadena condemns this violent and dangerous act. We are also frustrated with repeated inaction and lack of accountability of the South Pasadena Police Department to protect and serve our community, particularly our marginalized community members that include our Black and Latinx residents. During a time when protesters rightfully exercise their First Amendment right to free speech and peaceful assembly to support Black lives, we have also witnessed horrible incidents of counter-protestors who retaliate by driving their vehicles through crowds to intentionally harm Black Lives Matter supporters. What happened last Saturday afternoon echoes the intent of these egregious acts, and what is not acceptable is that there were no consequences whatsoever for Richard Cheney.
More importantly, the incident involving Richard Cheney is by no means an isolated incident. Fahren James, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement in South Pasadena, has already been assaulted while protesting at Fair Oaks and Mission. This past July, Joe Richcreek, a career criminal who has been arrested over 30 times and prosecuted 20 times, yelled and spat on her and on the face of another protestor while holding a rock in one hand and a double-sided sharpened drummer’s stick under his arm. Richcreek returned two days later, threatened James, and threw a rock at her. Richreek had to be chased down and stalled by the protestors while they waited for police to arrive. We believe that Fahren James has become a target of systemic racism and a pattern of violence. We are deeply concerned for the safety of Fahren James and Black Lives Matter protestors and support their right to peaceful protest. It is absolutely crucial that community members are not endangered and have their right to free speech protected. We are frustrated that SPPD has not taken considerable action to address serious threats in our community. We demand that SPPD immediately address this situation more thoroughly and work directly with community groups to make departmental changes so that the police department is prepared to deal with any incidents in the future. We demand public report on all these incidents and want serious investigation because people’s lives are in danger. We want the city to investigate and deeply scrutinize what is happening in order to have more protection in place.
On December 21, 2016, South Pasadena adopted Resolution 7491, a resolution of the City Council of the city of South Pasadena, California, affirming the city of South Pasadena’s commitment to diversity and to safeguarding the civil rights, safety and dignity of all of our residents. We want to see our city show a real demonstration to exercise this resolution now.
The following outlines our specific demands:
- SPPD should investigate the October 3 truck attack as a hate crime, pursuant to Policy 319 of the SPPD Policy Manual.
- SPPD should disclose all reports written by SPPD about the incident, including, but not limited to, notes from police officers who arrived at the scene and reports from subsequent investigation of this incident. Investigate the communications and interactions between Chief Ortiz and Richard Cheney. At the site of the October 3 truck attack, Cheney stated that he was calling Chief Ortiz and communicated to the person on the phone, “She’s still putting the signs up. I am right here on the corner right now.” We want to know if there is a relationship between Chief Ortiz and Cheney that allowed Cheney to not be cited and released without arrest.
- SPPD and the City of South Pasadena should properly archive the videos taken from the city cameras on the signals at Fair Oaks and Mission and have these videos accessible through a request for public records.
- SPPD should disclose its prevention and preparation plan for addressing hate crimes, as described in Policy 319 of the SPPD Policy Manual.
- The City Council should directly condemn white supremacist activities that threaten the safety of all residents and should also directly prohibit SPPD and its officers from engaging with white supremacist activities. The City Council should acknowledge the string of incidents that have occurred in just the past five months involving white supremacy: (1) distribution of “It’s OK to be White” flyers around the city in June 2020; (2) finding of nails on the driveways of properties displaying Black Lives Matter signs in July 2020; (3) SPPD officers’ display of Blue Lives Matter propaganda in July 2020; (4) the Joe Richcreek spitting incident against BLM protestors in July 2020; (5) the attack of a protestor in August 2020; and (6) Chief Ortiz’s promotion of an event held by a white supremacist group in September 2020.
From the Anti-Racism Committee of South Pasadena and signatories:
Janet N. McIntyre
Julia Moreno Perri
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