Earth angels?

For more information on the Sacramento chapter of the Guardian Angels, visit

Hundreds of hoodie-clad demonstrators rallied at the Capitol on March 29, to speak out against the murder of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Sanford, Florida, teen who was shot and killed in February by a neighborhood-watch captain.

As with similar gatherings in the area, Sacramento Guardian Angel leader, Patrick Kent, gathered with his members and headed out to patrol the site. They wanted to make sure there were no fights, Kent explained, and that the police treated the crowd respectfully.

But, Kent says, during the event, it was his team that came under fire as attendees confronted the Guardian Angels.

“They wanted to know what my purpose was,” Kent says. “Some of them accused the Guardian Angels [of being] a racist group.”

One demonstrator, Kent says, even threatened the group, yelling: “We need to kill you white people.”

The Guardian Angels left at that point, but Kent says his group is really “a diverse and accepting organization that is, in fact, meant to combat tensions that threaten unity in our city.

“Unfortunately, after two hours, it became very uncomfortable for us,” he says.

Still, Kent says he understands the simmering tensions.

“I understand why people are upset,” he says of the events surrounding Martin’s death. “No one knows what really happened. Our organization supports neighborhood watch, yet [we] are against injustice.”

Anti-crime activist Curtis Silwa founded the Guardian Angels in New York in 1979, and the Sacramento chapter of the volunteer citizen crime-patrol organization has been a community fixture since the late ’80s. These days, a small group of volunteers can be often be seen around town, clad in white T-shirts, cargo pants and their signature red berets.

At a recent Occupy-related student protest held at the Capitol in March, for example, Kent and other volunteers lined up side by side to create a barrier that separated riot-geared police from protesters.

But even as the Guardian Angels increase their visibility in Sacramento in response to an ever-shrinking law-enforcement presence, the group remains something of an enigma.

Kent explains their purpose as such: “We are the middle men. We are the mediators.”

They include a group of volunteers that use verbal communication to keep the peace. Their volunteers include of a bodyguard for the band Blue Oyster Cult, former bounty hunters and mothers.

In addition, Kent and his group meet weekly to think of ways to help; a huge project for the spring and summer months is the patrolling of the bike trails along the river. The organization is seeking bike and safety-gear donations so its members can patrol the trails. Aside from protecting bikers and joggers, Kent says they will contribute to the beautification of the area by picking up trash and remnants of homeless camps.

Whatever their mission—and regardless of other’s reactions to their presence—Kent says the group focuses on keeping the peace. Guardian angels don’t carry weapons, and their primary defense is education.

“If we have to use any physical force, we have lost.”