Advertisement

Protesters gather at state Capitol to condemn police shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man

Protesters gather at state Capitol to condemn police shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man
Black Lives Matter protesters raise their fists as they block the entrance to the Golden 1 Center during a demonstration Thursday night in Sacramento against the Police Department after two officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Dozens of activists gathered Friday at the state Capitol in Sacramento to protest the fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man.

About 100 protesters marched to the west steps of the Capitol building shortly after 1 p.m., holding signs and photos of Clark and chanting, “No justice, no peace, no racist police!”

Advertisement

Later, some protesters blocked streets in downtown and clashed with police.

The rally followed a day of protests that saw the brief closure of Interstate 5 and the blocking of access to a Kings basketball game at Golden 1 Center arena.

On Friday, the protesters held their fists up in a moment of silence. They denounced the killing of young black people at the hands of police and the mainstream media for what they said was unfair news coverage of shooting victims who are minorities. Some in the crowd had gone to school with Clark and remembered him as good father and loyal friend.

Former classmates Chrishayla Treadwell, 23, and Dominique Rodriguez, 22, took the day off from their jobs as healthcare workers to join the demonstration. They wore black shirts with Clark’s photo and bold, red block lettering that read, “Long Live Zoe.”

“We had to be here,” Rodriguez said. “He was like family. It would be wrong if we weren’t.”

Treadwell said she had been shocked and heartbroken to hear the news of Clark’s killing.

“He was always smiling,” she said. “We never saw him mad.”

Elijah Johnson, 24, said he was disturbed to learn Clark had been killed in his own backyard, 15 minutes away from Johnson’s home.

“When you hear, you think, ‘Man, that could have been me. That could have been my brother. That could have been my sister,’ ” he said. “You hurt.”

A petition circulating on the Color of Change website Friday demanded that Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert bring charges against the officers who shot Clark.

“We know that District Attorney Schubert has a pattern of declining to prosecute killer cops who murder Black people,” the petition said. “She cannot let another killer cop get away with murder, and that we want justice for Zoe,” a reference to Clark’s nickname.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted, “The death of Stephon Clark is tragic and painfully familiar. There must be a thorough and transparent investigation into what happened and swift accountability. Now is the time for all of us to take action.”

About 100 demonstrators showed up for a vigil Friday night at a busy intersection not far from the neighborhood where Clark was shot.

“We have to stand up for our children,” said Diane Gomez, a city resident who brought a hand-written placard that read, “Where was his constitutional right to due process?”

Advertisement

After an hour of chanting and sign waving, the vigil moved down the street to close a major thoroughfare. Police began rerouting traffic around the civil disobedience.

The shooting occurred Sunday after a 911 caller reported to police that a man had “busted both my truck windows out, and he’s in people’s backyards right now.” The caller said the man was wearing a black hoodie, according to recordings released by the police department.

The officers arrived in the neighborhood about 9:15 p.m., the department said. About 9:25 p.m., a sheriff’s helicopter spotted a man in a backyard and told police that the man had picked up a “toolbar” and broken a window to a home. As the man climbed a fence and entered another yard, the pilot directed officers to his location.

Police say Clark scaled a tall fence and peered into a vehicle before running into his backyard in the 7500 block of 29th Street, where officers pursued and shot him.

The officers, who said they thought the 22-year-old was pointing a gun at them, fired a total of 20 rounds during the encounter. But no gun was found. The only item authorities found near Clark was a cellphone, the Sacramento Police Department said.

“Show me your hands! Gun, gun, gun!” an officer shouts in one video before he and his partner fire repeatedly at a dark figure. When the gunfire ends, a haze of gray smoke swirls in the beam of their flashlights. “Shots fired!” the officer shouts. “He’s down.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg on Friday expressed concern about demonstrators restoring to vandalism or violence.

“That’s not right! Strength is in peaceful resistance,” Steinberg said. “There has to be a better way.”

He said Clark’s death, though still under investigation, “was wrong” and points for the need not only for more administrative change, but a reckoning with racism itself.

“Our kids and men don’t feel safe,” Steinberg said, adding he welcomed the spotlight the city is now under. “There is no danger if we do the right thing,” he said, “if we push aggressively to change what must be changed.”

On Thursday, anger over the shooting drew hundreds of protesters to City Hall, where members of Black Lives Matter and other activists condemned the incident as yet another case of officers shooting an unarmed black person.

Protesters blocked streets and for a while, closed down Interstate 5. The demonstrators also blocked access to the Golden 1 Center, preventing some fans from attending a Sacramento Kings game at the arena. The protests prompted officials to stop admission to the game, which went on, but with relatively few in the stands.

No arrests were made during the demonstrations, authorities said.

The police department’s rapid release of audio and video follows a 2016 vote by the Sacramento City Council ordering police to release all video from an officer-involved shooting, in-custody death or complaint to the Office of Public Safety Accountability within 30 days — except in cases where release of the video would hamper or taint an ongoing investigation.

The decision to compel release of the videos followed a series of controversial incidents, including one in July 2016 in which two Sacramento Police Department officers tried to strike a mentally ill homeless man with their cruiser.

Police have not identified the officers involved in Sunday’s shooting, nor have they publicly named the dead man. But in the shooting’s aftermath, relatives and community members have identified him and have criticized the department, saying it was Clark who had the most to fear from officers, not the other way around.

Among those who have condemned the shooting are Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.

Advertisement

Activists said Sacramento police began talking to black community leaders after the 2016 incident involving the mentally ill man. But they say police have done little to address what is perceived as a deep gulf between the officers assigned to minority neighborhoods and those who live there.

“The reality is there is an underlying culture in the police department, a fear of serving in some communities,” said activist Derrell Roberts, whose Sacramento nonprofit operates after-school and teen programs. “We have to be unafraid to address this cultural bias.”

Roberts said Sacramento’s police department, now serving under a new chief, has yet to ramp up training programs to defuse the fear that would cause two officers to open fire on a suspect already pinned down and under the watch of a police helicopter hovering above. He said the department could be more aggressive in rooting out the cause of that fear.

“Why fear someone 20 feet away, cornered? The question is why, and we have to get folks honest about that issue,” he said. “We’ve got to stop looking at black men as the enemy.”

Community marches and protests provide a chance for Sacramento’s black community “to mourn,” and he said city leaders are wise to accommodate such public demonstrations.

“Many of us look at this as, this could have been my son,” and police shootings won’t subside, he said, “until white people see the same thing. … My mayor has to see it. Our district attorney has to see it.”

The Sacramento Police Department said Wednesday that it “recognizes the significance of this incident and the impact it has on our community.”

“We are committed to providing timely information and communicating openly with our community,” the department wrote on its Facebook page.

8:55 p.m.: This article was updated with more information on the vigil.

8:15 p.m.: This article was updated with details from the vigil.

2:25 p.m.: This article was updated with new comments from demonstrators.

1:55 p.m.: This article was updated with information about a protest rally Friday afternoon at the state capitol.

1 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Sacramento activist Derrell Roberts.

This article was originally published at 10:40 a.m.

Advertisement
Advertisement