Benicia Black Lives Matter calls for transparency in Solano County Sheriff Department and action by the Solano County Board of Supervisors
May 25, 2021
BBLM participated in a peaceful protest today outside the Solano County Sheriff Department in Fairfield CA.
BBLM co-founder Nimat Shakoor-Grantham honored the death of George Floyd and called on the Sheriff and the Solano County Board of Supervisors to address recent revelations about White supremacist extremism in the Solano County Sheriff Department. [See video and background below.]
Comments from a participant: “During the course of Nimat’s comments I think 100+ people strolled about, in and out of the buildings, up and down the sidewalks and across the streets. Comments were strong and persistent, invoking “Board of Supervisors” and “Sheriff’s Office” many times, and “not serving all their constituents” over and over. Effective, I thought. Also, I noticed people standing up on the roof of the County building across the street from where we were. Also I saw a drone immediately in front of us up in the air about 100 feet away, sitting there most of the 45 or so minutes that speakers addressed the gathering.”
Thanks to Benicia videographer Dr. Constance Beutel for this short video. [A longer 11 minute version can be viewed here.]BACKGROUND HERE ON THE BENICIA INDEPENDENT:
Benicia Black Lives Matter will gather tomorrow morning (Tuesday 5/25) in front of the Solano County Sheriff Department, 530 Union Ave, Fairfield, at 11 am to hold a peaceful protest. We are hoping that all can attend who are able. (See background below…)
Several officials, including two members of Congress, are calling for an investigation into possible far-right extremism inside the Solano County Sheriff’s Office.
Open Vallejo, by Scott Morris, March 15, 2021
[BenIndy editor: Also check out Andrés Soto’s 3/12 interview of Scott Morris on KPFA El Show(great music, interview begins at 3:40). – R.S.]
Solano County Sheriff Tom Ferrara indicated he does not plan to investigate potential far-right extremism within his agency, despite growing calls to do so after several deputies spent years promoting the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia whose adherents have planned and executed terrorist attacks across the country.
In a statement, Ferrara dismissed an Open Vallejo investigation published last month that revealed two sergeants and a deputy had displayed support for the Three Percenters. But federal, state and local officials, including two members of Congress and a state assemblymember for Solano County, voiced alarm at the deputies’ conduct and called on authorities to investigate.
“The events that transpired in Washington, DC on January 6th showcased to the world what will happen if hate and intolerance go unchecked and unaddressed in our society,” U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, whose district includes Fairfield and Vacaville, said. “If the allegations in this report are true then steps must be taken to ensure these structural issues are addressed,” he said.
Ferrara declined to respond to detailed written questions that Open Vallejo sent more than a week prior to publication. He said in the statement, released four days after Open Vallejo’s article, that he did not believe the deputies aligned themselves with the extremist group they promoted.
“I want to be clear — the employees targeted in this article all serve this agency and this community with passion and dedication,” Ferrara said. “The employees told me that their intention was to support the 2nd amendment and the U.S. Constitution.”
But according to the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice, the Three Percenter movement goes beyond support for the Second Amendment. Three Percenter ideology includes a willingness to violently resist the federal government, authorities have alleged in court papers. Adherents have been prosecuted for a series of bombing and kidnapping plots across the country. Numerous rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 displayed Three Percenter emblems and at least five people associated with the movement have been charged in connection with the day’s events.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa and Chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, also called for further investigation.
“Any potential ties that law enforcement members or any public officials have to extremist groups should be promptly investigated by the authorities with the proper jurisdiction,” Thompson said, noting that he called for a commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol and the government’s failure to address domestic terrorism.
Assemblymember Tim Grayson, D-Concord, said he is “deeply concerned” about any extremist ties in the community and particularly law enforcement where their presence could further undermine trust.
“Accountability is a must,” Grayson said, “and I support all efforts to hold public servants to the highest standards so that we can rebuild trust, ensuring everyone in our community can feel and be safe.”
Robert McConnell, the newly-elected mayor of Vallejo, said that from what he knows about Three Percenters he believes it is incompatible with being a law enforcement officer and worried that such groups may have broader support in Solano County law enforcement. “That is a classic conflict of interest and requires a stand down from the position occupied to which tax payer dollars flow for true professional performance,” McConnell said. “Anything less is not only unacceptable, unprofessional conduct, but lacks honor.”
Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown noted that she could not comment on specific county employees, but said she found the extremist groups as described in the Open Vallejo article “deeply disturbing.”
“After the insurrection on Jan 6th, it is even more incumbent on us to reject extremist groups and ideology that undermine our democratic government,” she said.
Vallejo city councilmember Tina Arriola said that Three Percenter logos and other extremist imagery have no place in area law enforcement and any potential corruption should be investigated by an impartial and trustworthy third party. “These revelations have, I’m sure, created just cause for public concern that needs to be addressed and rectified,” she said.
Local residents and community groups have also called for an investigation. In a letter published in the Vallejo Times-Herald, Benicia Black Lives Matter called the Open Vallejo report “terrifying” and the sheriff’s response “underwhelming.”
“We demand the leaders of Solano County and City of Benicia not only visibly and vocally condemn right-wing extremism,” the letter stated, “but also pledge to conduct a full investigation both at the county and city levels to ensure that policies and procedures — including those focused on recruitment and disciplinary actions — are in place to actively expel these extremists from the ranks of law enforcement and to prevent their recruitment in the first place.”
The deputies who displayed Three Percenter emblems include Sgt. Daniel “Cully” Pratt, previously the department’s public information officer; Sgt. Roy Stockton, whom Ferrara endorsed for the Vacaville City Council; and Deputy Dale Matsuoka, the department’s homeless outreach coordinator.
Pratt and Stockton sold crafts with Three Percenter symbols and their posts suggested a willingness to violently defy the federal government, including a gun rack that Pratt made for Stockton’s AR-15 rifle that included a Three Percenter emblem and the words, “WILL NOT COMPLY.”
Stockton took office on the Vacaville City Council in January. During public comment at the first meeting since the article was published, speakers referenced the report and questioned Stockton’s fitness to lead. Supervisors Mitch Mashburn and Joe Vasquez, who endorsed Stockton for the council, did not respond to questions about whether they stood by their endorsements. Mashburn is a former Solano County sheriff’s lieutenant and Vacaville councilmember.
Pratt did not respond to questions from Open Vallejo either before or after publication, but provided a statement to other media outlets which echoed Ferrara’s characterization that he only meant to show support for the Second Amendment by sharing symbols associated with the Three Percenters.
Pratt said that in 2016, when he posted a photo of the gun rack he made for Stockton with the hashtag “#3percenter,” he believed the Three Percenter movement was “strictly in support of the 2nd Amendment and Pro-American — not in any way extremist anti-government views.” Earlier that year, Three Percenter groups participated in an armed standoff with federal authorities in Oregon that left one man dead.
“I am disheartened that a photo taken in 2016 is now being used to link my family name to a radical attack on the US Capitol in 2021 and disparage work that I have done in the community trying to bring folks together,” Pratt’s statement read. Pratt first posted photos of the gun rack in 2016 and periodically reposted it for years, most recently in December 2018.
Ferrara did not respond to follow up questions from Open Vallejo about whether he plans to investigate potential extremist support within his agency or whether he is confident that his office can effectively investigate domestic terrorism involving the Three Percenters or other violent far-right groups.
Some proposed legislation could force Ferrara to take action.
In February, state Assemblymember Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, introduced a bill, AB 655 that would require law enforcement agencies to investigate whether officers have participated in specified “hate group activities,” including the display of symbols associated with hate groups on social media. If they had, it could disqualify them for employment.
Roseryn Bhudsabourg, a spokesperson for Kalra, said that such investigations are “critically needed” and “extremism, racism, and bias have no place among our law enforcement agencies and only contributes to the erosion of public confidence in the legitimacy and fairness of our justice system.” She said that it appears the actions of the Three Percenters meet the definition of a hate group in the bill.
The state Department of Justice said in a statement that law enforcement officers found to be involved in violent extremism should be removed. “There’s no place for violent extremism of any kind in law enforcement,” the department said. “It erodes public trust and we look forward to working with our partners at the federal, state, and local level to address these recently-heightened concerns through all appropriate means, including potentially through officer decertification for serious misconduct in the future.”
The gravity of the threat posed by extremist groups was again highlighted in January, when Napa County sheriff’s deputies, working with the FBI, arrested an American Canyon man who allegedly possessed pipe bombs and dozens of firearms, including a belt-fed machine gun. Authorities allege that Ian Rogers, who owns a specialty auto repair in Napa, may have had intended to target state politicians and technology companies.
He also had a Three Percenter emblem on his car, investigators allege. In an affidavit, FBI Special Agent Stephanie Minor wrote of the emblem, “I know from my training and experience and my discussions with other agents experienced in domestic terrorism investigations that this sticker is commonly used by so-called ‘Three Percenters,’ people who ascribe to extreme anti-government, pro-gun beliefs.”
Ferrara, while appearing to stand by his deputies, insisted in last month’s prepared statement that extremist beliefs have no place in law enforcement.
“And if there is ever a time when a member of our office is displaying support to overthrow the government,” he wrote, “it will be dealt with swiftly.”
Solano County Board of Supervisors: …Erin Hannigan: firstname.lastname@example.org …Monica Brown: email@example.com …Jim Spering: firstname.lastname@example.org …John Vazquez: email@example.com …Mitch Mashburn: firstname.lastname@example.org Solano County Sheriff: …Thomas A. Ferrara …530 Union Avenue, Suite 100 …Fairfield, CA 94533
Cc: City of Benicia Mayor & Council: …Steve Young: email@example.com …Tom Campbell: firstname.lastname@example.org …Lionel Largaespada: email@example.com …Trevor Macenski: firstname.lastname@example.org …Christina Strawbridge: email@example.com City of Benicia City Manager: …Eric Upson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Supervisors, Councilmembers and Governmental Leaders of the County of Solano and the City of Benicia:
We, the members of Benicia Black Lives Matter (BBLM), are writing you in response to a terrifying report from Open Vallejo detailing the existence and tacit support of right wing extremism within the leadership of the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the underwhelming response from the Sheriff himself.
The report explains that Daniel “Cully” Pratt is in a leadership role within the Sheriff’s department carrying the designation of Sergeant. As part of his side business, Sergeant Pratt is also an ardent supporter of the 3%’er movement, making and sharing “wood carvings” with right wing iconography, one of which “resembles a California flag, but instead of a bear, it features hooks for (Solano County Sheriff Sergeant) Stockton’s AR-15 rifle above the words, ‘WILL NOT COMPLY.’ Thirteen shotgun shells, arranged like the stars of the Betsy Ross flag, form a circle around the Roman numeral III.”
From the Brennan Center Report titled Hidden in Plain Sight: Racism, White Supremacy, and Far-Right Militancy in Law Enforcement:
In 2017, the FBI reported that white supremacists posed a “persistent threat of lethal violence” that has produced more fatalities than any other category of domestic terrorists since 2000. Alarmingly, internal FBI policy documents have also warned agents assigned to domestic terrorism cases that the white supremacist and anti-government militia groups they.
… I want to be clear – the employees targeted in this article all serve this agency and this community with passion and dedication. I am not aware of one instance where any of these employees acted in a manner that was portrayed in this article. When we initially got inquiries about this story, I had personal conversations with the employees in question because it is important to me that the women and men who work for Solano County Sheriff’s Office are people of character and uphold the high standards I have set for this Office. The employees told me that their intention was to support the 2nd amendment and the U.S. Constitution. As we have seen with many other symbols, the “Three Percenter” logo has recently been linked to the rioters who broke into the U.S. Capitol. None of these employees were present for, nor do they support extremist organizations. Our office denounces any extremist organization. And if there is ever a time when a member of our office is displaying support to overthrow the government it will be dealt with swiftly. …
Sergeant Pratt has also denied his membership in anti-government organizations saying that, “The picture taken in October 2016, linked to said article depicts symbols, at the time was believed to be strictly in support of the 2nd Amendment and Pro-American – not in any way extremist anti-government views.”
This seems inconceivable, as a quick Google search would reveal to the Sergeant that:
A wing of the militia movement that arose as part of a resurgence of the militia movement in 2009. The term “Three Percenter” refers to the erroneous belief that only 3% of colonists fought against the British during the Revolutionary War—but achieved liberty for everybody. Three Percenters view themselves as modern day versions of those revolutionaries, fighting against a tyrannical U.S. government rather than the British. With anyone able to declare themselves a Three Percenter, the concept allowed many people to join who were not suited, physically or by inclination, to engage in paramilitary activities. The Three Percenter logo—the Roman numeral III—has become very popular among anti-government extremists.
As members of BBLM and residents of Benicia and Solano County, we are writing to you to demand that you as leaders of Solano County and City of Benicia not only visibly and vocally condemn right wing extremism, but also pledge to conduct a full investigation both at the County level and at the City level to ensure that policies and procedures – including those focused on recruitment anddisciplinary actions – are in place to actively expel these extremists from the ranks of law enforcement and to prevent their recruitment in the first place.
We further demand Solano County follow both the City of Benicia and Sonoma County in establishing an Office of Equity to solidify the county’s commitment to equity and the eradication of racist ideallogy.
This report is as ironic as it is offensive given that Black Lives Matter chapters have been labeled as terrorists. Months ago,, in August 2020, we successfully advocated before our City Council to take measures to take the work of equity seriously. We were mostly greeted with support but we also faced some opposition. One council member took umbrage with language in the resolution that highlighted the culpability of the entire Minnesota Police Department in the death of George Floyd, despite elected officials in Minnesota making a similar declaration. Other opposition came via a joint statement from the Benicia Police Officers Association, Benicia Dispatcher’s Association and the Benicia Police Management Association. The relevant part is as follows:
“…we ask that before making a commitment to Black Lives Matter, an organization that at its core is an anti-police organization that promotes the defunding of police departments, you consider a commitment to your community and your employees.”
While this commentary from the police associations was not indicative of the tremendous community support we received, it was reminiscent of a vocal minority of individuals who would prefer to question our lived experiences than to confront the past and current systemic racism that so deeply infects our nation.
We would hope that in these perilous times, where it is beyond dispute that the threat of right wing anti-government violence is far more likely to come from white men confusing their misguided actions and ideology for patriotism, that our government leaders and the associations within them would boldly decry, reject and eliminate these factions from their ranks.
If the Sheriff’s response is any indication, there is much work to be done. We demand and expect better. We await a reply and more importantly – bold and sustained action to be taken.