Sacramento police arrested 84 people Monday night, including journalists, during a protest over the district attorney’s decision not to charge two officers who in March 2018 shot Stephon Clark, a black man holding a cellphone.
Among those arrested for refusal to disperse were local clergy members who had worked with the city for nearly a year to prevent tense protests like those that overtook the city following the shooting. Those protests ended up closing a freeway and blocking access to an NBA game.
Two local journalists also were arrested, and a Sacramento Bee reporter was detained until Mayor Darrell Steinberg intervened on his behalf.
Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert announced Saturday that Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet acted legally and would not face charges for firing 20 rounds at Clark after chasing him into his grandmother’s backyard and mistaking his iPhone for a weapon. State Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra on Tuesday said his office also would not file charges in the case.
Following Schubert’s announcement, about 100 protesters marched Monday through east Sacramento, where Ronald Reagan lived when he was governor and where the film “Ladybird” was shot amid streets filled with historic mansions that house many of Sacramento’s elite. Pushing a sound system in a wheelchair, they chanted Clark’s name.
The area’s population is 83% white, with an average household income of more than $100,000. Meadowview, the area where Clark was shot, has an average household income of about $45,000 and is 22% white, according to U.S. census data from the five-year American Community Survey.
“Our plan was to bring the issue to a neighborhood whose residents have proximity to decision-making power,” protester J. Ama Mantey said in a statement. “This is a neighborhood that would likely never experience such a tragic and violent loss of one of its residents, so we are bringing the discomfort and pain of our trauma to their doorstep.”
Pastor Les Simmons, one of the clergy members arrested, said he was with about 70 other protesters who were attempting to return to their vehicles as the demonstration broke up when police formed a semicircle around them, leaving only one street available to exit the area. As the protesters walked down that street, police formed lines behind them and in front of them, Simmons said, then began making arrests as the crowd stood on the sidewalk.
“There was no way [out],” said Simmons. “There was a line of police on one side, and a line of police with bikes on the other.”
Sacramento police did not immediately return a call for comment.
Sacramento is bracing for more protests Tuesday.
“Our concern is that he does not prosecute the cops today,” said the Rev. Shane Harris, a Los Angeles pastor who was also arrested Monday night. “This is a test.”
Clark, 22, was shot after officers responded to a call about a vandal, and a subsequent investigation found that Clark had broken three vehicle windows and a sliding glass door on his neighbor’s house.
The officers were directed to Clark by a Sheriff’s Department helicopter and chased him into a dark backyard, where they fired after seeing a burst of light in his hand that one officer thought was a muzzle flash, according to the subsequent investigation. Clark was shot at least seven times and died at the scene.
Activists and Clark’s family were particularly angered by Schubert’s decision to release text messages from Clark’s phone that detailed a fight with the mother of his children, Salena Manni, in which he discussed committing suicide and an alleged domestic violence incident.
So far, protests have not drawn the massive turnouts that happened just after the shooting. But activists have said they plan on targeted actions throughout the week that will focus on “disruption and discomfort,” said protester Berry Accius.
On Sunday, Accius and a group of students staged a sit-in at the city’s largest mall, prompting its owners to shut the shopping center down for the day.