HomeAsian AmericansSacramento allegedly targeted Asians in energy enforcement programs
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Sacramento allegedly targeted Asians in energy enforcement programs

The city of Sacramento is facing a lawsuit that alleges it discriminated against Asian property owners in disclosing information about electricity usage.

According to Capital Public Radio, a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation claims that the city of Sacramento, Sacramento police and SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) discriminated against Asian property owners in their energy enforcement program. The lawsuit alleges that SMUD data about energy usage was used to target Asian property owners for penalties.

In the first two years of the energy enforcement program, 86 percent of the property owners issued penalties had discernably Asian names, Capital Public Radio reports. The lawsuit alleges the city and police may have been targeting Asians because they believed they were growing marijuana.

In 2017, Zuhu Wang, a retired bus driver who bought a house in South Sacramento that he eventually rented out. His tenants began growing marijuana and, he was fined over $137,000.

During an appeal hearing in May 2019, then-Deputy City Attorney Melissa Bickel’s made comments about Asians being known to grow weed when she cross-exmained Wang’s property manager, who is also Asian American.

“Now, because you are in the community,” Bickel said, according to Capital Public Radio, “and I don’t want to be disrespectful, but Asian as well, you know that there is a problem with Asian people and grow houses.”

The property manager pushed back.

“There’s many people — different race — they do that, too,” he said, according to Capital Public Radio. “Only Asian? No.”

Bickel apologized and withdrew the question.

The potential discrimination is not exclusive to Sacramento county. According to The Los Angeles Times, Asian Americans have filed a lawsuit against Siskiyou County and its sheriff, claiming they were unfairly targeted in traffic stops and water access enforcements because they believed they were growing marijuana.

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