It cost the city nearly $65,000 to keep the peace at last month’s Ann Coulter demonstration outside of Modesto Centre Plaza.
About 100 demonstrators protested outside the downtown convention center April 28 as conservative polemicist Coulter spoke inside at the Republican Party of Stanislaus County’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner fundraiser before about 600 people.
The city released the records on policing the protest Thursday afternoon. They show the Modesto Police Department spent $48,273 in compensation for officers and other employees and the Stockton Police Department — which provided riot police — sent Modesto a bill for $16,678, bringing the total to $64,951. In Stanislaus County, the average household income is $65,947, according to the United States Census.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department provided deputies, but Sheriff Adam Christianson has said he will not charge Modesto and considered this a mutual aid request.
“That’s a lot of money,” said Chris Ricci, a promoter and the founder of Modesto’s Xclamation Festival. “There is no doubt they should send the bill to the Republican Party.
“This was a fundraiser for a political party that brought in a speaker who created a public safety risk. The Republicans had a choice. They could have brought in another speaker who did not pose a public safety risk, but they did not. And now the chief of police has decided it is up to the citizens of Modesto to pay for this. That’s outrageous.”
A Republican Party of Stanislaus County official disagreed.
“That’s in the eye of the beholder of who’s controversial or not controversial,” Republican Party Treasurer David Wright said. “If we are going to let the public dictate who is controversial and who is not controversial and who to bring in and who not to bring in, there goes freedom of speech.”
He said the Republicans did their part by hiring security officers for their event. He said it was up to the Police Department to decide for itself how many police officers it believed were necessary to protect public spaces outside of Centre Plaza. “We spent $7,000 on security,” Republican Party of Stanislaus County Executive Director Janice Keating said.
She said it would not have been appropriate to hire off-duty officers because it would have given the impression that police were taking sides in the debate over Coulter’s appearance.
Police Chief Galen Carroll has said the officers who worked the demonstration were assigned to keep the city safe — not Coulter and the Republicans — at a time when political tensions are running high throughout the nation.
Ricci said it appears Modesto has a double standard when it comes to who has to pay for police officers.
He said he was required to hire off-duty officers at cost of $500 to $1,000 when he brought in rapper Snoop Dogg to the Fat Cat Music House and Lounge last year. And he said Juan Vazquez, the organizer of this year’s March for Science and Immigrants March Modesto, had to hire several off-duty officers.
“It’s not fair,” Vazquez said. “The Republican Party organized an event, brought her in and they got a free pass. I’m still waiting on the bills, but I will have to pay.”
Police Capt. Craig Gundlach said several factors are considered in determining whether a march will need officers, including whether it will take place on streets, number of marchers and march location.
“It appears there is a major double standard,” Ricci said. “The Republicans did not get charged, but Juan Vazquez was charged.”
Carroll said in an email the events are not the same. He said officers are required for any event where “the primary purpose ... is solely selling alcohol,” including the Snoop Dogg concert. He said marches require closing streets and traffic control.
“Chris and I will simply never agree on many of his points,” Carroll wrote. “And he is not the expert on the matter in my opinion. We try to work with any group that is doing an event and will continue to do so.
“Again, the police were brought in to protect the city, city property, city interests as well as county property and interests and protect those that wanted to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest in a peaceful manner. We did not protect Ann Coulter or the Republican event, we protected public property, which we are charged with doing.”
Coulter’s Modesto appearance came after the University of California at Berkeley had canceled her April 27 speech because of safety concerns. The decision came after several violent clashes between far-right and far-left protesters on campus and in downtown Berkeley this year. But there were mostly peaceful protests the day Coulter had been scheduled to speak.
Carroll said his department expected a peaceful protest but had to prepare for the worst.
“We did not get the worst,” Carroll said. “But if we didn’t prepare (and there had been trouble) then the question would have been, ‘How come you guys did not prepare for this?’”
The records show 92 Modesto officers, sergeants, detectives and civilian police employees were assigned to Coulter’s appearance. Not all worked a full day, with some working an hour or two. Some worked ahead of the appearance and some after it. Most of the 92 worked overtime. The records do not include lieutenants and higher ranking officers who are paid the same regardless of how many hours they work.
Carroll has said the Sheriff's Department provided 15 to 20 deputies. The records released Thursday show Stockton provided 30 personnel, but nearly half of them worked about a couple of hours each.
The demonstrators appeared evenly divided between those who supported Coulter and President Donald Trump and those who loathed them. They were well-behaved, but there were roughly a half-dozen times when a handful of protesters shouted and yelled at each other, called one another names and tempers flared. Police have said there were no arrests.
Modesto released the records in response to a Public Records Act request filed by Modesto resident Emerson Drake, though The Bee had also requested the records from the Police Department.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316