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Sonoma County district attorney meets with protesters in Santa Rosa

“They feel as though they are disenfranchised in our community and they want to be part of a dialogue about change,” said Jill Ravitch, the county district attorney.|

A group of protesters put pressure on Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch on Monday to prosecute recent cases involving drivers who clashed with police reform activists, as well as build stronger ties with the area’s Black residents.

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch attended a portion of a Black Lives Matter rally, where about two dozen people gathered at Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square.

Petaluma resident Sophia Ferar, who planned the rally, said the purpose was to bring attention to a June 20 incident in which a woman in a white Porsche Cayenne drove dangerously close to a group of protesters marching in downtown Santa Rosa.

Ferar and others in that crowd accused the woman of intentionally trying to hit the group. Santa Rosa Police officials said last month they don’t think the woman was trying to hit the protesters, but may have panicked while driving near them. A man on a bike caught up with the driver, who was a nurse going home from work, and punched her in the face before riding away, police said.

The sergeant overseeing investigation of the incident did not reply to a request for more information Monday afternoon about the status of the case, though Ravitch told protesters her office continues to investigate it.

Ferar hoped the peaceful gathering also would serve as a forum for broader conversations about reforms within the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.

“(Ravitch) has the power to make systemic change,” Ferar said. “She is the one that holds the sheriff’s (office) accountable.”

Ravitch said her goal was to listen to the group’s concerns and answer questions.

The district attorney heard a range of stories, from people who say they’ve experienced being pulled over by police for seemingly no reason other than the color of their skin, to inquiries about what her office was doing to address other incidents similar to the June 20 confrontation.

“They feel as though they are disenfranchised in our community and they want to be part of a dialogue about change,” Ravitch said of the activists. “I want to be part of that dialogue.”

Santa Rosa resident Delashay Carmona-Benson, who is part of the leadership of the Black Student Union at Santa Rosa Junior College and the newly formed group Uplifting Black Leaders, said she invited Ravitch to the rally after a virtual meeting with her Monday morning.

The two women agreed to have biweekly discussions about how Ravitch can build a stronger bridge between the county Black community and her office, Carmona-Benson said.

Ravitch also agreed to help connect Carmona-Benson with other judicial and public safety leaders, such as the county’s probation office and local judges.

Carmona-Benson hopes she can eventually convene one or several virtual meetings with representatives from those groups to continue conversations.

“It’s to bring it all to the table,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   

 

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