Siskiyou Officials Face Anti-Asian Discrimination Lawsuit

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Siskiyou County and its sheriff on behalf of four Asian-Americans who say they have been targeted for harassment and intimidation because of their race. The class-action complaint, filed August 3, alleges “a sweeping campaign to harass and intimidate Hmong and other Asian Americans” with the intent of driving them out of town.

The county has struggled for years to rein in an explosion of cannabis grows in areas like Mount Shasta Vista, many of which are owned by members of the Hmong community. Although growing is permitted for personal use, commercial cultivation is banned in Siskiyou.

County officials “view Asian Americans as a monolithic group of which every single person is part of a violent drug cartel and blame the County’s widespread cannabis cultivation on Asian Americans in explicitly racialized terms, notwithstanding that cannabis has been grown in the County for decades,” according to the document.

The complaint cites former Sheriff Jon Lopey comparing the fight against illegal cannabis to war in a foreign country. It also cites remarks made by Siskiyou County Supervisor Ray Haupt in a July 2020 email to a colleague in which he compared the situation to Sharia Law.

The situation involving Hmong farms has devolved into “complete lawlessness,” Haupt wrote. “I am fearful that we are losing a portion of our county and being turned into a no go zone, similar to what we see in foreign countries like Europe where Sharia Law has replaced local governance.”

The plaintiffs point to that “Sharia Law” comment as further evidence of county officials’ racial animus and motivations

The ACLU also says county logs demonstrate “widespread racial profiling in traffic stops,” in the county, as well as concerted effort “to dispossess Asian Americans of their land.” Under the current sheriff, Jeremiah LaRue, over 28% of deputy traffic stops are against people of Asian descent, according to the complaint. Asian Americans make up just 2.4% of the county’s adult population.