SACRAMENTO — Four days after 22-year-old Stephon Clark was shot and killed by police officers in his grandparents’ backyard, protesters gathered inside and outside Sacramento City Hall.
Officers believed Clark had been breaking into cars in the neighborhood and shot him because they say they thought he had a gun. He was only holding a cellphone.
“The death of one more man of color is one too many,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said earlier Thursday before the protest began.
The action against what protestors say was the unjust killing of Clark at the hands of city police took over downtown, blocking intersections during the peak of the evening commute.
“I want her to see we always stand up for what’s right no matter what. Even if you’re tired and uncomfortable, sometimes you just have to stand up for what’s right,” said protestor Kyle MacFerran with his daughter on his shoulders.
On Wednesday, Sacramento police released 35 minutes of surveillance video from body cameras worn by officer and helicopter footage of the moments leading up to and including the shooting and thereafter.
“The tragedy warrants not only our sorrow but a deep examination of what occurred and what policies and procedures must be examined and changed to minimize the chance that this does not happen again,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg cautioned not to render judgment solely based on the videos, but to allow the investigation to take its course, studying every aspect of this deadly encounter.
Clark’s brother, Stevante Clark, told FOX40 that he, their other brother and their grandparents have not and will not watch the video released by the police department.
“I haven’t see the video. I don’t want to see the video. That’s not my concern,” Stevante Clark said. “My concern is my brother, his kids being able to not have to worry about killed, being in a position in their life where they don’t have to worry about being shot and killed in the streets or in their backyard.”
Protesters block Interstate 5
The effort led by Black Lives Matter Sacramento eventually shut down both directions of Interstate 5 near the Amtrak Sacramento Station, with emotional demands for justice by Clark’s relatives and overflowing frustration aimed at police.
A large crowd of demonstrators walked onto Interstate 5 at J Street and blocked both sides of the roadway, forcing traffic to stop. Drivers were seen getting out of their stopped cars along the interstate.
In one instance a CHP officer grabbed a lone man and dragged him from the southbound I-5 onto the shoulder of the roadway. Demonstrators told FOX40 the man was not associated with their protest and was later arrested.
Many protesters surrounded patrol cars, shouting angrily at the officers inside, while others climbed on top of cars.
Golden 1 Center surrounded, Kings fans turned away
Around 300 people ended up at the Golden 1 Center, according to the City of Sacramento.
Protestors yelled at and around Kings fans trying to enjoy a pre-game dinner eventually stopping ticket holders from entering the arena. Many jumped over a patio barrier at Sauced BBQ and Spirits on 7th Street, shouting to patrons. One protester climbed up onto an overhang above the restaurant and began chanting with the crowd below.
“What does this do? Shut down the game? He created his own problem, didn’t he?” said Gary Chandler from Fair Oaks.
The protest reached a boiling point in front of the main entrance to the Golden 1 Center.
While hundreds watched as protesters blocked the doors leading inside the arena, some fans wondered if this was the right way for the protesters to get their point across.
“I’m a little indifferent. I understand what they’re protesting, but at the same time I paid money to go into this venue,” said one fan.
“There’s people that respect what they’re doing, but they have less respect for it when they’re doing it against someone’s will. Like, this is against our will,” said another fan.
As it got closer to the start of the game between the Sacramento Kings and the Atlanta Hawks, things got turned up a notch.
“We’re shutting it down for this black man that lost his life. It’s zero tolerance, it’s unacceptable, and we won’t have it,” a protester told FOX40.
“Cops killing kids. What if your son got killed last night and he’s not coming home?” another protester asked.
A heavy police presence surrounded the Golden 1 Center. A video posted to Twitter shows an officer standing in front of a set of doors getting hit in the head by a thrown object.
There was at least one act of violence in the plaza Thursday night when a man was hit in the face and knocked unconscious before being helped to his feet and escorted out.
“The violence kind of muddles the message. I don’t think it has a place here,” a Kings fan said.
Eventually, fans were told to go home. The game delayed only about 15 minutes but played to only about 2,500 fans.
The Kings organization put out the following statement:
“Due to law enforcement being unable to ensure tickets fans could safely enter the arena, the arena remains closed and we ask fans outside to travel home. We will issue further information soon regarding a refund.”
“If I have to miss a Kings game, so be it,” a fan told FOX40. “I’m not that mad. I am more mad at what the police did.”
Following the game, the Sacramento Kings owner took to the court, surrounded by players, to deliver the following statement to fans:
“On Sunday we had a horrific, horrific tragedy in our community. On behalf of the players, executives, ownership and the entire Kings family — first of all, we wanted to express our deepest sympathies to the family. What happened was absolutely horrific, and we are so very sorry, so very sorry for your loss.
I also wanted to say that we at the Kings recognize people’s ability to protest peacefully and we respect that. We here at the Kings recognize we have a big platform — it’s a privilege but it’s also a responsibility — a responsibility we take very seriously. And we stand here before you — old, young, black, white, brown — and we are all united in our commitment.
We recognize that it’s not just business as usual, and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place starting with our own community, and we’re going to work really hard to prevent this kind of a tragedy from happening again. Thank you all for your patience and have a good night.”
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) March 23, 2018
Sacramento Police Capt. Norm Leong reported around 7:33 p.m. that the protest was over. There were no arrests, according to Leong.
The protest has ended, no arrests made, there were disruptions to the game attendees, traffic on surface streets and the freeway.
— Captain Norm Leong (@NormLeong) March 23, 2018