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Jail Time, $1K Fines: Alameda County Mulls New Penalties for Sideshow Spectators

Written by Bay City NewsPublished Jun. 28, 2023 • 8:01pm
Alameda County Administration Building | Google Street View

Sideshow spectators in unincorporated Alameda County could go to jail and be fined if the county board of supervisors approves the second reading of a sideshow ordinance next month.  

The county's move follows Oakland's decision earlier this month to penalize anyone who participates in a sideshow in any way such as organizing, supporting, promoting or attending one. 

Alameda County sideshow spectators can be fined $1,000 or spend up to three months in jail or both under the proposal, which goes back to the board on July 11 for a second and final reading. 

"Lack of enforcement has emboldened people," Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Nate Miley said. "Sideshows have become more violent and dangerous. With this ordinance, we are making it clear that spectators have a role and responsibility—and will be held accountable."

Tuesday's vote by supervisors on the ordinance passed 4-1, with Supervisor Elisa Márquez voting no. 

Before the vote, Miley amended the ordinance to put offenders in jail for up to three months rather than six months if jail time is deemed appropriate. 

"We're not looking to punish people," Miley said. "We're looking to deter people."

But Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods has concerns, including whether the ordinance is even constitutional. He is also concerned about people of color, such as Black and Hispanic people, being swept up by law enforcement just because they are Black and Hispanic. 

"This ordinance has such the potential to do that," he said. 

If the ordinance is approved on July 11, it will be effective 30 days later. 

County officials said the net cost to the county will be zero to hold spectators accountable for watching sideshows, according to a June 6, 2023, letter to the Board of Supervisors from board President Nate Miley and Alameda County Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez.

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