East Sacramento Protesters File Tort Claim Against Law Enforcement Following Dozens of Arrests

SACRAMENTO -- When Keon Johnson joined hundreds of demonstrators on a march through East Sacramento to protest the decision to not charge the two officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark, he didn't think his night would end in handcuffs.

"You think you’re on your way out and you realize you’re corralled in and you still thinkin' you’re going home. And you have that moment of, 'Oh, [explative], I'm going to jail tonight,'" he said.

Johnson was one of 84 people arrested on the 51st Street bridge on March 4. The group included protesters, clergy and two journalists.

"I was sitting like this for four hours in the freezing cold with barely any clothes on," demonstrator Salem Bitwoded said.

Police say they didn't clear out when told to. Protestors told FOX40 officers in SWAT gear commanded them to leave but didn't leave them anywhere to go.

"They started circling around us in a form where we can’t get out," Bitwoded said.

The group tried to cross the 51st Street bridge, which protesters say seemed like the only way out.

"This was literally this exit route we were dispersing, not getting ready to," Johnson said. "We were in the process of dispersing."

District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert chose not to press charges against any of those arrested, which demonstrators see as a sign she did not believe the arrests were valid.

"Now they say we’re not going to prosecute. Right, well we’re going to prosecute them," said attorney Mark Merin of the National Lawyer's Guild.

On Monday, the anniversary of Clark's death, Merin -- flanked by clergy, one of the arrested journalists and other activists -- announced a federal tort claim, a precursor to a lawsuit.

Those arrested accuse law enforcement of several crimes, including false imprisonment, assault and battery, and negligence.

"We're going to find out how these decisions get made and, most importantly, we’re going get compensation for everyone who experienced that outrage," Merin said.

Demonstrators say the threat of being arrested again won't stop them from protesting.

FOX40 reached out to the office of the Sacramento City Manager, who responded with the following statement:

"The City has not received any claims or other communications outlining the scope of any potential litigation that may be filed and so cannot provide comment at this time. However, the City of Sacramento remains committed to protecting both public safety and First Amendment rights."

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