Sideshow spectators in Alameda County to face less jail time as controversy continues

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to reduce the jail time for spectators within 200 feet of a sideshow from 6 months to 3 months.

Board president Nate Miley said the original ordinance, which passed on July 11, inadvertently failed to include an amendment the board had voted on to lower the potential jail terms. 

"Because of this omission, a new second reading on the ordinance, as amended, is acquired," Miley said. 

The updated ordinance passed by a 3-1 vote, with supervisors David Haubert, Lena Tam and Nate Miley voting yes. 

Supervisor Elisa Márquez voted no and Supervisor Keith Carson was excused from the vote.

Marquez, who also voted against the original law on July 17, has said drivers must be the target, not spectators.   

"Increasing patrol and blocking areas where sideshows are going to take place has been a mitigated effort," she said during the July 17 vote. "I would prefer to see more work done than enforcing this ordinance." 

Some attorneys have questioned the legality of charging people with crimes who are on public property and may or may not be viewing a sideshow. 

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. 

Aside from a possible 3-month jail term, violators of the law can be charged with a misdemeanor and be fined up to $1,000.

Under the law, circumstances to prove a violation include evidence of prior acts of being present or attending a sideshow event in the last three years. 

The ordinance takes effect on Aug. 9.