Sisolak speaks out on ‘historic and systemic injustice’ and ‘double standard’

Says police response will be analyzed, just not yet

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, in mask, appearing with Gov. Steve Sisolak in Las Vegas Friday. (Photo: Dana Gentry)

Governor Steve Sisolak says he’s committed to listening and to ending what he called a double standard in Nevada when it comes to race. 

“In the last week I’ve been doing a lot of listening and a lot of learning from members of the Black community in our state,” he said to reporters at the Grant Sawyer building in Las Vegas.“As a white man, a privileged white man, I cannot claim to understand what it’s like to live in fear of police encounters.” 

“Addressing historic and systemic injustice will take a commitment from everyone in our state,” he said. 

But Sisolak declined to discuss the arrests of hundreds of peaceful protesters who were held for hours, some overnight, at the Clark County Detention Center, despite orders in place that allowed their immediate release. 

“I’ve had numerous discussions with (Las Vegas Metro) Sheriff (Joe) Lombardo and law enforcement and they are continuing discussions,” the governor said. “Right now I’m focusing on the discussions with the communities that are most impacted by this and we will get to how everybody was handled during this protest and there will be reflection on that and analysis of the entire situation.”  

Attorney General Aaron Ford appeared to conflate the man who shot Las Vegas Metro Officer Shay Mikalonis with protesters.

“The right to protest does not extend to the right to a right to commit acts of violence,” Ford said.  “Despite my personal protest and my support of the rights of others to protest I will not condone acts of violence against police officers and property. That’s why I again reiterate my condemnation of the shooting of Metro Police officer Shay Mikalonis.”

Police have said they do not believe the suspect, Edgar Samaniego, 20, was related to the protest.    

Sisolak was joined by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and Assemblywoman Danielle Monroe-Moreno, who was a corrections officer for 28 years.

“I don’t want you not to see my color,” Monroe-Moreno said.  “I just want you to see past that.” 

Sisolak promised policy change at the state level and Frierson promised a review of Nevada laws with an eye toward eliminating racist provisions.   

A reporter asked Ford how allowing protests to proceed while limiting the size of church gatherings because of COVID-19 amounts to equal application of the law.  

“You did not ask me this question when it was white men in militia attire gathering outside our governor’s home, as to why I was making this distinction,” Ford said. “The right to protest under these circumstances has been afforded to white folks who wanted to reopen Nevada and now to black individuals who are protesting the fact that black lives matter.” 

“I was in the governor’s mansion when that happened,” Sisolak added. “And those militia members, whatever you want to call them, carrying AR 15s and AK 47s, if these young black men who have been out here protesting did that, what do you think would have happened? They can’t even carry a backpack.” 

“I shudder at the thought of what could have happened to any of those individuals,” the governor said. “There’s a double standard and the double standard is going to stop in the State of Nevada.” 

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.