NLG Legal Observers Defend Rights of Counter Protestors

Cres Vellucci

SACRAMENTO – The recently-revitalized Sacramento National Lawyers Guild provided legal observer support at a counter protest at the State Capitol here Feb. 23, which included an incident where a California Highway Patrol horse trampled a demonstrator, and sent him to the hospital emergency room.

Three Sacramento/Davis NLG legal observers worked the counter protest of about 100 people who were demonstrating in opposition to a “white power” rally on the West Steps of the Capitol for about three hours.

At the end of the action, after the “white power” activists – about 30 of them – had left the grounds, counter protestors began walking along the city sidewalk toward a city park. Within seconds, a number of CHP mounted police rode up on the sidewalk, ordering the demonstrators to “get off the sidewalk.”

The order was inexplicable because the CHP had already ordered counter demonstrators off Capitol grounds (to their right), and to go into the busy street (to their left) was illegal – city police had warned the activists to not do that.

One of the counter demonstrators at the front of the group, who was on the sidewalk, was then stepped on by a horse, requiring emergency treatment by the CHP.

Watch video.

When the CHP attempted to “treat” the injured demonstrator away from the crowd, an NLG legal observer insisted on observing – eventually succeeding – because of a fear that the CHP would try to illicit statements from the victim which could compromise his criminal and civil rights.

The NLG provided transportation to the nearly hospital emergency room for the victim, and stayed until he was seen by medical personnel.

The NLG presence in the state capital city of Sacramento is important because of the number of rallies and other events that take place on Capitol grounds. The action Feb. 23 saw an upturn in CHP presence, according to one NLG LO, who noted that the CHP held non-lethal projectile rifles/shotguns at the ready despite the peaceful crowd.

A newly-formed legislative committee of the NLG in Sacramento is expected to begin participation in the bill-making process, reviewing and commenting on legislation affecting civil rights, civil liberties and progressive issues.