SACRAMENTO, California (KCRA) — Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is assessing the damage outside his home after a few dozen protestors staged a demonstration Saturday night that got to a level the likes of which he’s never seen in his front yard.
Mary Lynne Vellinga, the mayor’s communications director, explained that Steinberg’s home has seen its share of demonstrations outside, but until Saturday, his home had never seen property damage.
“The idea that people would come terrorize his street, intimidate his family, damage his home is beyond the pale and he was quite upset about it,” Vellinga said.
Along with breaking lights, dinging up siding, busting a yard sculpture and writing inflammatory words in chalk on his front walkway, the demonstrators, according to Vellinga, shouted and chanted threatening phrases toward the mayor and other city leaders over a loudspeaker during the protest.
The Sacramento Police Department told KCRA 3 there have been no arrests in connection to the damage at the mayor’s home, but that it is still investigating the incident to which 80 officers and the department’s helicopter were assigned to monitor.
It’s not immediately clear if any one group has or will claim responsibility for the demonstration or vandalism caused to Stenberg’s home during the course of the protest.
“They were using the homeless issue, certainly, saying, ‘no more homeless deaths,’ ‘recall Steinberg,’ ‘f-word Steinberg,'” Vellinga said. “Whether they were actually homeless advocates…? If they were homeless advocates, they’d be helping the homeless.”
The mayor and other local officials have received harsh criticism in recent weeks over the handling of Sacramento’s unhoused population, not only during the pandemic, but also during bouts of severe winter weather.
Under Sacramento County’s severe weather guidance, temperatures must reach 32 degrees or lower to activate warming centers. The City of Sacramento also followed that guideline when the overnight low was 41 degrees. After the storm, Sacramento’s City Council issued an emergency declaration, committing to opening more shelters for the homeless.
The storm and the lack of shelter from it, homeless advocates said, led to the deaths of six unhoused people — a statistic that has not yet been confirmed by county health officials.
Bob Erlenbusch, the founder of the larger homeless advocacy group Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness, told KCRA 3 he did not blame Steinberg for not opening a warming center. Instead, he faulted the city manager, Howard Chan, and said he would push for the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors to open warming centers for all of winter.
KCRA 3 contacted the Sacramento Homeless Union for its reaction to the protest at Steinberg’s home, in light of its demand last week that Steinberg resign or face a recall effort for what the group said he hasn’t accomplished for the homeless.
In a statement, the group’s president Crystal Sanchez said, in part:
“The Sacramento Homeless Union and the California Homeless Union did not participate as organizations in the recent protests at Mayor Steinberg’s house …”
The group explained that it’s still gathering information about the incident and went on to say in its statement:
“… while we don’t condone acts of ‘vandalism’ by the unheard, neither will we condemn it. Not as long as property rights are protected but human rights are ignored.”
Steinberg, according to his staff, welcomes debate and has, in the past, been moved by demonstrations outside his home. Saturday’s demonstration, they said, went too far.
“This is a whole different thing, and not OK, and it’s not peaceful protest,” Vellinga said. “It’s terrorism is what it is, trying to intimidate others. And to what end, I’m honestly not sure.”
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