California Protester 'Forced' to Drink Cold Water to Bring Down Fever so She Could Be Jailed

A group of protesters arrested while demonstrating outside California Gov. Gavin Newsom's home on Monday have accused police and jail staff of putting them and others at risk of contracting coronavirus by enforcing unsafe and unhygienic practices.

On Monday, 14 protesters were arrested after a group of demonstrators chained themselves to the gate of Newsom's Fair Oaks property, demanding the governor force the release of immigration detainees in the state over fears they could contract COVID-19.

However, in a Friday report shared in advance with Newsweek, demonstrators say they themselves, as well as others booked in at the Sacramento County Jail, were put at risk of contracting coronavirus after being forced to endure unsanitary and unsafe conditions.

In one case, a protester who had begun to "show a high fever" was alleged to have been forced to drink cold water by workers at the Sacramento County Jail until her temperature went low enough for jailers to be able to book her.

The protester had recently tested negative for COVID-19. However, a fever is one of the primary signs of coronavirus and protesters say their jailers' efforts to artificially lower her temperature could have put others at risk of contracting the virus.

Meanwhile, demonstrators allege that when they were initially booked into the jail, they were repeatedly forced to put their unwashed fingers in their mouths to demonstrate that they were not hiding any "contraband."

"When we asked for hand sanitizer to perform this task safely, officers repeatedly refused, despite the fact that a medical staff member had a bottle of hand sanitizer just one room over," demonstrators said in their report.

Meanwhile, they said: "When one of us requested hand sanitizer during a medical screening, a nurse sprayed watered-down disinfectant and said, 'This is county jail, this is as good as it's going to get.'"

The demonstrators said a number of group members were denied food and water "for the entire 16 hours that we were in custody."

They also said that they were "denied basic medical attention."

In one case, they said, "another one of us became so severely ill that they were vomiting for hours, dizzy, losing their vision, experiencing cold sweats, and suffering from a migraine."

The group said they believed the symptoms could have been a result of "dehydration and lack of food."

"When they tried to get medical attention, they were told that there was 'just not enough medical staff' to respond," the report states.

Meanwhile, the toilet in their "small solitary cell" was left "clogged and overflowing with vomit," according to the report. When the issue was raised, demonstrators said a guard told them to "reach inside and unclog it."

Protesters further said that they were forced to remain in cramped cells that did not appear to have been cleaned.

"Once booked, we were placed in filthy 10-by-6 foot cells," they said. "Trash from previous occupants was still spread throughout the cells, making it clear the cells had not been cleaned or sanitized."

"Many of us shared these small spaces with another person, but were only provided one small 6-foot mattress to share," they said.

"We repeatedly pressed the 'emergency call button' to ask for extra bedding to allow social distancing and for blankets to keep us warm in the cold cells, but were never granted them," they alleged.

Meanwhile, they said, CHP officers and guards at the jail did not all wear face masks, including guards who were sent with a nurse in the evening to distribute medication to those with specific medical needs.

In a statement sent to Newsweek a CHP spokesperson said the California Highway Patrol has directed its officers and non-uniformed employees to adhere to California Department of Public Health guidelines on wearing face coverings while on duty and interacting with the public.

They also noted that CHP officers in news coverage of the protest outside Newsom's home could be seen wearing face coverings.

While the demonstrators were concerned about the conditions that they themselves were forced to endure, they also said it was concerning their experiences might be representative of the treatment and conditions endured by countless inmates and detainees across the country during the pandemic.

"We now have gotten a first-hand look at some of the conditions these brave folks find themselves in amidst this pandemic, and we are as committed as ever to their liberation," they said.

Repeating the demands they had issued on Monday, the demonstrators called on Newsom to use his power, including mass clemency and emergency release, to free those in state prisons and to stop transfers from state and local custody to ICE and between California prisons.

They also called on Newsom to stop the expansion of immigration detention in California and to "hold the detention industry accountable for their mishandling of the pandemic."

Newsweek has contacted the Sacramento County Jail and Newsom's office for comment.

This article has been updated with a response from the California Highway Patrol.

Newsom protest
Protesters chained themselves to the gate outside California Gov. Gavin Newsom's 'suburban mansion' on Monday, July 27, 2020. Brooke Anderson