Activists participate in ‘read-in’ at Central Library in protest of SAPD officer pilot program

The intimidation is caused by the presence of the San Antonio police officers inside the library, Jade Pachecho said

SAN ANTONIO – In the Central Library, the most powerful tools in the building are words.

Activists sat silently inside on Saturday reading books, hoping the messages pinned to their backs were being heard loud and clear.

“The library is special to us,” said Jade Pacheco, a community builder with ACT 4 SA. “This is a sacred space of learning and knowledge and not intimidation.”

The intimidation, Pachecho said, is caused by the presence of San Antonio police officers inside the library.

“We’ve spoken to multiple community members who actually avoided landing on the streets because they were able to access the resources here at the library,” Pachecho said. “Now, many of them has expressed that they would not feel safe to do so if there were, cops placed here,” said Pachecho.

The library has security guards, but assistant director Kathy Donellan told the library’s board of trustees in October 2023 that it hasn’t been enough to stop an uptick of violence inside the Central Library.

“In 2023, there were 18 assaults where someone came in, but their hands, hit or otherwise assaulted either another patron or a staff member,” she said.

It’s why Donellan proposed a pilot program to have San Antonio police officers patrol the grounds part-time.

“This would be for a portion of time and a number of days across our schedule where we’ve seen a number of upticks and problematic activity across the week,” Donellan explained.

Donellan said it was a decision the library staff put a lot of thought into.

“We want to be careful about the perception and sometimes people can feel ‘oh I’m in an unsafe place because I see a police officer;’ but on the whole, we felt like this could be a deterrent, a new deterrent to this type of activity,” said Donellan.

The program would have a price tag of around $70,000 annually, according to Donellan.

Pacheco argues the emotional price tag would be even greater for communities of color, members of the LGBTQI+ community, and the unhoused.

“There’s support for ending this program because a lot of these communities have experienced trauma at the hands of cops,” Pacheco said.

With the power of words, Pacheco said the group will continue to push against the library’s planned police presence.

“We’re going to keep fighting against this program and fight for alternatives that would address community needs better,” said Pachecho.

KSAT reached out to the library for comment twice on Saturday afternoon but has yet to hear back.

About the Authors

Daniela Ibarra joined the KSAT News team in July 2023. This isn’t her first time in the KSAT newsroom– the San Antonio native spent the summer of 2017 as an intern. Daniela is a proud Mean Green alum, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas.

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