Heated emotions

Mayor’s wife took the brunt of anger directed at her husband’s policies

Photo by Steph Rodriguez

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the July 5, 2018, issue.

Around 1,500 to 2,000 people at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building on Capitol Mall June 30, rallying in solidarity with demonstrations scheduled throughout the country. The event had a good turnout, but didn’t go well for Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

As the gathering turned into an all-out march through downtown, police and sheriff’s deputies created a wall of vehicles, officers and bicycles to block marchers from accessing various freeway entrances.

The rally was in response to the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance enforcement policy on illegal immigration, which garnered outrage after it was reported that thousands of immigrant children were separated from their parents at the southern border. Trump officials said last month that border agents separated around 2,342 children from their parents between May 5 and June 9. The zero-tolerance policy was implemented in April.

Marchers gathered in the hot sun or what little shade they could—and then conflict started sizzling. Julie Steinberg, a cantor with the Congregation B’nai Israel synagogue and wife of the mayor, was booed offstage by activists in the crowd. A number of them yelled, “Darrell Steinberg doesn’t care about black people!” Dennessa Atiles, who invited Mrs. Steinberg to the rally, said the incident was unfortunate.

“We did not invite any elected officials—purposely—because we wanted this event to be about the work that the community is doing,” said Atiles, director of the Resistance: Sacramento/Elk Grove. “But I think there are contentions in people who are disappointed with some of the actions of the mayor … and they booed her off stage.”

Audience members were more open to hearing from speakers who shared personal stories and support for reuniting families separated at the border.

After a national outcry, Trump signed an executive order June 20 that maintains the zero-tolerance policy but reportedly will avoid separating families. As of Saturday, the administration has not released a plan to reunite the more than 2,000 children already torn from their parents.

“These are not criminals. These are asylum seekers,” said Clarissa LaGuardia, a co-leader of Organizing for Action Sacramento. “They’re fleeing violence. They’re running for their lives. Here they are trying to preserve their lives, and here we welcome them with, ‘Let me take away your child.’”