Jail death protesters burst into SLO County supervisors meeting
A group of protesters carrying a man on a stretcher burst into the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday morning and shut it down, demanding justice for former County Jail inmate Andrew Holland.
About 15 people entered the room then silently stood in a line in front of the dias where supervisors sat, holding signs calling for justice and the resignation of county Sheriff Ian Parkinson. In front of them was a mostly nude man lying on a stretcher. Printed on a cloth that covered him were the words "I AM ANDREW HOLLAND."
Board Chairman John Peschong called for a 10-minute break, and the room remained quiet as the protesters maintained their positions. Peschong later asked the protesters to step down so supervisors could begin their meeting.
The protesters refused to leave.
Peschong announced about 9:20 a.m. that the meeting would adjourn until 1:30 p.m. None of the supervisors on the dais addressed the protesters.
The protesters then left supervisors' chambers chanting "How do you spell guilty? I-A-N," and walked down the street to the county courthouse.
Holland died on Jan. 22, 2017, in County Jail custody shortly after he spent about 46 hours strapped to a plastic restraint chair in a jail holding cell.
Protesters first gathered in front of the courthouse Saturday morning in response to recently released video footage showing Holland's hours in the chair.
"Three of the Board of Supervisors have not commented on the situation since the video footage has been released, the video footage that proved that a lot of the statements that have been released were false," said Tarrah Graves, co-chair of SLO County Progressives.
"We essentially have a case here where torture has occurred in our jail," added Nick Andre, also a co-chair of SLO County Progressives.
Andre said this issue extends beyond Holland’s treatment in County Jail. Eleven other people have died in the jail since 2012.
"We decided to show our voice in power by going in there, taking up space and shutting down the meeting. That's what it takes on this issue, people are dying," said Cal Poly student Mick Bruckner.
The board meeting got underway in the afternoon. A few speakers directly addressed supervisors about Holland's death during a time reserved for public comment. None of the supervisors responded and instead continued with the planned agenda.
Parkinson released a statement Saturday afternoon, saying the mental health system failed Holland.
"The Mental Health Department refused to accept him, claiming that they were at 'capacity,'" Parkinson's statement said.
The statement said the Sheriff's Office "had no alternative" other than to place Holland in restraints.
A $5 million settlement awarded to the Holland family in July "came from the medical malpractice insurance of County Mental Health; it was not based on any wrong-doing of the Sheriff's Office," the statement also said.
On Sunday, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow released a statement on Holland's death, saying it is the long-standing county legal policy for every jail death to be investigated by sheriff-coroner detectives, not his office, and that he can't comment on the details of the case amid the ongoing FBI investigation.
Over the weekend, protesters called for Dow to initiate an investigation, holding signs stating "Dan Dow Investigate Now!"
Tribune staff writer Nick Wilson contributed to this story.