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Riverside councilmember says sheriff Chad Bianco should apologize for social media post

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Bianco Portrait - Riverside County Sheriff's Department
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Cervantes Portrait - City of Riverside
Portraits of Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco and Riverside city councilmember Clarissa Cervantes

Sheriff Chad Bianco accused a Riverside councilmember last Saturday of supporting the defacement of a county courthouse. That councilmember is now requesting that the sheriff retract those comments.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco made a social media post on July 30 after a group of pro-choice protesters painted their hands green and covered the Riverside Historic Courthouse with handprints.

In the sheriff's media post, he condemned the protesters and wrote, "shame on the Riverside city councilwomen for supporting the defacing of our courthouse. You are lucky we couldn’t arrest you." Bianco would later update his post to say that he was referring to councilmember Clarissa Cervantes.

Councilmember Clarissa Cervantes rejects those allegations. "I had nothing to do, and I was not involved or aware that there was going to be a protest in (Downtown Riverside) that day," Cervantes said.

Cervantes says she had been downtown visiting an art show and was walking by the county courthouse when she saw officers speaking with individuals at the steps of the building. "So I recognized one of the officers and greeted him, we had a positive interaction to which I asked what was happening, he answered, and he pointed to the vandalism on the building with the green handprints," Cervantes said. "I thanked him and went on my way with my friends who were waiting for me down at the steps."

Riverside Police Department public information officer Ryan Railsback says the department has body camera footage of that interaction. "She asked some questions about what was going on... their conversation lasted just a few short minutes, he answered the questions, and it appears that she left," Railsback said.

Oliver Dunston helped organize the protest at the Riverside Historic Courthouse and is a co-organizer for Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights L.A. Dunston says Cervantes was not involved in the protest. "I think she was only there for maybe a couple of minutes, just to speak to the police about what was going on," Duston said.

Now, councilmember Cervantes is calling on Sheriff Bianco to apologize and retract his statement. "He's been made aware that I was not connected to or involved with the protesters and their actions," Cervantes said. "Despite knowing this, the sheriff has not retracted this lie, nor has he offered an apology."

As of Thursday morning, the sheriff's posts remain on his Facebook and Instagram social media pages. A spokesperson for the Riverside County Sheriff said Bianco would not be providing any comments on the matter and that the department was continuing its investigation on the protest.

Jonathan Linden is a reporter at 91.9 KVCR in San Bernardino, California. He joined KVCR in July 2021 and had previously interned for the station in the Spring of 2019. Outside of KVCR, Jonathan also interned for KALW in San Francisco, KFI in Burbank, and Radio HCJB in Quito, Ecuador.