Tom Butt
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  Big Weekend for Sideshows in Richmond
February 7, 2022

At least two major sideshows, one at Solano and San Pablo and the other at Central Avenue and I-580 (, reignited the debate about sideshows in Richmond, one of many topics that continues to divide the City Council. On one hand are the “progressive” Richmond Progressive Alliance councilmembers (McLaughlin, Jimenez, Martinez and Willis) plus Johnson who look kindly on sideshows, or at least shrink from punishing those who participate. Those that even admit to negative impacts of sideshows  favor “education” as  a remedy, constructing roundabouts in every large intersection, or the use of Botts” Dots throughout the city. Anything except accountability, arrests and punishment. In previous extended debates on this subject, these five have sided with sideshow participants, expounding on the cultural value of burning rubber and spinning vehicles that block traffic and scare law abiding neighbors and other drivers involuntarily caught in the melees.

On the other side are Nat Bates and I who recognize the destructive and dangerous nature of sideshows and favor strict enforcement of existing laws banning them.

The Richmond Progressive Alliance, in their anti-police crusade, is so obsessed with not arresting anyone, they will tolerate almost any type of lawlessness, including sideshows.

Following are media clips from previous discussions:

  • Several other council members including Jimenez, Martinez, Willis and Demnlus Johnson said the city must be innovative with solutions and not only focus on punishment. Martinez said the sideshows stem from a car culture with people “who are proud of the machines they make.” He suggested creating a city location for the sideshows to occur legally and with spectators. “If they don’t have an outlet, then we’re basically just saying do it wherever you can,” Martinez said. (City Council Meeting Erupts in Argument | Richmond Pulse)
  • Bates, who brought forward the motions, said the entire council has been overwhelmed by phone and email complaints from residents since the start of the year. He called for the “strongest and stiffest penalty as legally possible.”

“It’s a no-brainer we need to get it under control and need to make our community safer,” Bates said. (City Council Meeting Erupts in Argument | Richmond Pulse)

One of the pro-sideshow arguments, supported by the RPA, that keeps popping up is the cultural vale of sideshows. In a Next Door post about the Central Avenue sideshow, one person remarked:

Bay culture is too deep to ever be scrubbed of its hyphyness or dangerousness. Honestly, what you are eating and feeding your family is far worse and doing more damage than a sideshow. In the hood we are curing diabetes, reversing cancer, and getting people off dialysis by natural means WITHOUT Kaiser and friends. We don’t need more politics or police they only protect the privileged.