Chants of “The people — united — will never be defeated!” and “What we do want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” echoed around the Baker Park bandshell around 6 p.m. Monday night.
Those chants were from about 50 to 60 people, several of whom were from the local Latino community, and other people of color. They were organized by the RISE Coalition of Western Maryland, and were calling to defund the sheriff’s office and end 287(g), a program used by Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R) for most of his tenure as the county’s chief law enforcement officer.
Sebastian Brown is a Frederick resident, member of RISE and campaign strategist of the ACLU of Maryland. He and others were preparing to deliver hundreds of petitions to County Executive Jan Gardner (D) and County Council, calling for them to defund the sheriff’s office and abolish 287(g).
“We think the main tool for accountability the County Council has over the sheriff is funding,” Brown said. “Places they can start is, make 287(g) a line item, and then they can remove that line item. Even if it’s not a significant amount of money, they can at least take the step to show they’re in opposition to it.”
He was referencing the audit of the 287(g) program, which is set to be approved by the county’s independent audit board, and finalized by CliftonLarsonAllen — the accounting firm completing the audit — this week. That audit will determine how much county money is used for the program.
Brown and others believe outside of how much the program costs the county, the 287(g) program leads to racial profiling. That includes Frederick resident Sasha Czeh.
Czeh said she was pulled over by a state trooper back around 2013, and the trooper called her a Latino slur under his breath, and threatened to take her to jail and deport her, she said.
But then, once he saw her driver’s license, the trooper used a more respectful tone, she added.
“I’m a white lady from Connecticut,” Czeh said. “So I can only imagine what the treatment would have been [if I was Latino] — instead of going back to ‘ma’am’ when he saw my license.”
Czeh added her friend, a DREAMer with a young daughter, had a neighbor shooting cats in her neighborhood. Because of her immigration status, her friend, who lived in the Middletown area, did not feel comfortable calling police.
Several RISE members and other supporters started their march just before 6:30 p.m. Monday, from the Baker Park bandshell to Winchester Hall, looking to deliver the aforementioned petitions to County Executive Jan Gardner (D) and the County Council.
Once they reached Winchester Hall, however, they were met by supporters of Jenkins and local law enforcement, a group that had started rallying at Market and Patrick streets earlier that evening. They waved thin blue line flags and signs supporting the sheriff’s office, while the protest organized by RISE waved signs calling to “defund the sheriff’s office” and end the 287(g) program.
Both groups — separated by a line of multiple Frederick police officers — spent time trading chants and yelling at each other, but the rallies remained peaceful. That process repeated itself when the two groups met moments later at the intersection of Market and Church streets.
Juan Perez was one of the members of the RISE rally. He said he’s had multiple friends harassed by sheriff’s deputies and believes racial profiling is an issue, and that people of color often have a difficult time trusting police.
“We just live here, we invest our money here, [and] we want to work here and be safe, without being in fear of 287(g),” Perez said.