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Racist Sheriffs and Me

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Activists sit on the steps of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday in protest of a sergeant’s retweet of a right-wing video. (Courtesy Nato Green)


On Wednesday, an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy pointed a rifle at my face because I don’t approve of their social media. It’s like those burly, heavily-armed men are delicate snowflakes.

Let me back up.

Late last Monday night, a sleepy Sgt. Ray Kelly was protecting the realm by noodling on Twitter, and retweeted Richard Spencer to the Alameda County Sheriff’s 10,000 followers. That would be white supremacist Richard Spencer, aka the Nazi who got punched in the face, aka thrift-store cosplayer of Gellert Grindelwald from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Reporters keep referring to him as “white nationalist” Richard Spencer. New public discourse/journalistic style guide: “alt-right” and “white nationalist” are quaint and misleading terms for people into race war. It’s like when my late grandfather described his experience at Buchenwald as “messy” — an understatement. At least he could blame PTSD. Let’s try more accurate terms like “white supremacist” and “mediocre Nazis.”

Sgt. Kelly said the retweet was an accident. He claimed to be monitoring Nazi groups who will return to Berkeley next week. The only way it would be OK to tweet Richard Spencer is in a quoted tweet with the comment, “I hate this guy and all his friends.”

A call went out from immigrant rights’ organizers to protest the sheriff’s office and hundreds showed up with hours’ notice. A few of us attempted to occupy the lobby. The deputies were not in the mood. Before we reached the door, a deputy pushed one of my comrades out and pointed a rifle at us.

About a dozen of us sat on the steps blocking the sheriff’s office, holding signs and chanting. It was fun, because yelling “Ahern” and “A-hole” sound the same. I had a sore throat, so I ended up lip-synching a bunch of the chants. We sat close enough together to link arms, and I grew preoccupied with the ethics of manspreading while trying to block an entrance.

Why such a hubbub over a possibly accidental tweet? Maybe Sergeant Kelly was studying bigots, maybe he liked Spencer’s pocket square. Who’s to say? Regardless, the errant tweet was consistent with a pattern of racism by the sheriff’s office. For instance, the ACSO also opposes Senate Bill 54, introduced by Senate President Kevin De Leon, to make California a sanctuary state.

Although immigration enforcement is a federal function, the feds do not have the cismanpower to do all the deporting that President Papa Don and his League of Extraordinary Gentilemen want to do. They must rely on other government agencies, especially local law enforcement, doing extra favors they’re not legally required to do. Sanctuary policies simply instruct local agencies not to do extra favors that lead to deportations, such as protecting the American people from the terrifying menace of an oncology nurse in Oakland.

You’d think that a sheriff would be excited about legislation that would stop them doing extra work for free, but no, they want to help ruin the lives of people who haven’t been convicted of a crime.

The Sheriff’s Association wants to persuade Gov. Jerry Brown to gut the bill. In further indication of Ahern’s dodgy racial views, Ahern wrote a public letter in support of Jeff Sessions, the Klan’s lawn gnome. Ahern turned over 120 people to ICE this year already. He said he could identify the undocumented just by looking at clothes and luggage.

The pattern here is urgent now because SB54 is headed for a critical vote in the Assembly, and because Nazis are returning to incite riots in Berkeley. Berkeley will need to rely on other jurisdictions like the ACSO sending backup officers, who will hopefully be more committed to protecting the people of Berkeley than the Nazis.

Sheriff Ahern has about a week to end racism in his office or people will suffer, but the rifle in my face the other day suggests they’re not super enthused about it.

Nato Green is a San Francisco-based comedian and writer. See his live movie-mocking show Riffer’s Delight with Natasha Muse at the Alamo Drafthosue on August 31, where they make fun of Indecent Proposal. Or, @natogreen.

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