‘Our sovereignty is being infringed’: Alameda contemplates litigation against sheriff’s curfew

Alameda City Council during a teleconference on Tuesday night.

Alameda officials took steps to defy Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern’s five-day countywide curfew on Tuesday night when they decided against extending the city’s two-day curfew past Wednesday morning. The council went further by directing its city attorney to study the legality of the countywide curfew Ahern order on Monday afternoon.

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But it was the extraordinary sentiment of the majority of the council to seek legal advice on the potential to explore litigation against Ahern’s countywide order that could have ramifications down the road.

“I think this is a constitutional question,” Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie said. “Our sovereignty is being infringed on. I could be wrong, but it’s a discussion we should have.”

“I have concerns with blanket orders, also,” Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said.

Oddie made the motion for a special closed session meeting to discuss sheriff’s order and potential options for litigation.

Alameda Councilmember Tony Daysog urged against alienating Ahern, especially in the event Alameda needs to ask for mutual aid support to manage any potential violence on the island.

“Now is not the time to go after the Sheriff’s Department,” Daysog said. “I think there are better times to deal with those policy issues. Right now we’re in a whirlwind of sorts and we’re trying to hang on.”

Ahern lectern
Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern at a town hall in 2016.

Despite Ashcraft’s concerns about Ahern’s countywide curfew declaration, she appeared to struggle with how to cast her vote, pausing for more than five seconds before finally voting “aye.” The motion passed, 4-1, with Daysog voting no.

The earliest the council could met in closed session is Wednesday, Alameda City Attorney Yibin Shen said. But the timing of the discussion could be moot if Ahern’s curfew order, which concludes on Friday at 5 a.m., is not extended.

Berkeley also instituted a two-day curfew that ended on Wednesday morning. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin lodged similar concerns about the legality of Ahern’s curfew order.

In addition, the council unanimously ratified the city manager’s two-day curfew and state of emergency declaration issued on Monday. Alameda’s curfew ended at 5 a.m. on Wednesday. A subsequent amendment to the order gives the city manager authority to institute no more than two additional curfew days during the city’s state of emergency, which ends on June 16.

Furthermore, at times when Alameda is not under a self-imposed curfew, but a countywide curfew exists, the council gave direction to the chief of police to prioritize laws over those related to enforcement of a curfew.