Peaceful Protest In Honor of Stephon Clark Ends With Arrests


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SACRAMENTO – Eighty plus demonstrators were arrested Monday during a peaceful protest in East Sacramento over the district attorney’s decision not to file charges against police officers in the March 18, 2018 shooting death of Stephon Clark.

Organized by a group called The Table Sacramento, demonstrators of all ages took to the streets through the affluent Fab 40s neighborhood. Officials had anticipated a protest at the Golden 1 Center and barricaded the surrounding downtown plaza, only allowing access to those with tickets to see the Sacramento Kings play. Organizers say they wanted to shake things up and show people of the affluent area that they have power and get treatment and opportunities that residents are afforded in predominantly Black areas such as Meadowview, where Clark was killed, Oak Park and Del Paso Heights.

“Apparently moving in that direction triggered the law enforcement of this community to come out in full force and in riot gear to ensure that we would not be successful with our protest,” shared Rev. Kevin Ross, one of those who was arrested.

Rev. Ross, who leads Unity Church, further down Folsom Boulevard, says members of the clergy often attend demonstrations to help provide a safe space for participants and to be a “moral witness” between law enforcement and demonstrators. Monday night’s demonstration drew the presence of the California Highway Patrol, the Sacramento Police Department and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

“They were all there in riot gear and advancing, telling us to move, move, marching in military formation…pressing us to leave the area,” a shaken Rev. Ross recalled.

Demonstrators, he said, complied with orders to disperse and were leaving, when an exit to Highway 50 was blocked.

“They met us at the pass,” Rev. Ross said.

“On both sides we were trapped in by law enforcement. We couldn’t leave,” he continued.

Officers, he recounts, had their guns drawn. Clergy urged people to put their hands up to show that they were complying with law enforcement.

“It was unbelievable,” Rev. Ross said. “You would have thought we were criminals. We didn’t harm anyone, it was just a peaceful demonstration.”

Rev. Ross and others had their hands tied behind them with plastic zip ties. They were eventually placed in “patty wagon type vans” and taken to a processing area at Cal Expo where they detained for three hours or more.

Demonstrators say requests for bathroom use were denied. Rev. Ross said he was photographed and fingerprinted. His zip ties were not removed until he and the others were released in the wee hours of the next morning.

“No one was read their Miranda Rights last night, I want to be clear. No one was told what we were being arrested for. They made an announcement en masse over the bull horn that they would arrest for unlawful assembly,” Rev. Ross said.

The local pastor feels betrayed after dialoguing for months with city leaders and law enforcement officials in an effort to come up with ways to keep matters peaceful should the community be outraged at the district attorney’s decision.

“There was pre-discussion about being different, post Stephon Clark,” Rev. Ross said.

“We were prepared that there would be protests. We all knew. Clergy, law enforcement and City leadership all knew that if the district attorney rendered not to charge the officers, that there were going to be demonstrations. Everybody know that, but notice how peaceful these demonstrations were. Notice how non-eventful they were, because that’s how we function, that’s how we are leading this movement for change. However, law enforcement decided last night that they’re breaking ranks with the covenant and the agreement and discussion that we’ve been having for weeks and weeks.”

Rev. Ross took his disappointment to city leaders on Tuesday, speaking out about what happened at this week’s City Council meeting.

“What in the hell was that about last night?” an upset Rev. Ross asked with Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn both in attendance.

Forty plus speakers addressed the mayor and city council members during the pubic comments portion of the meeting. Many spoke passionately of their experiences at Monday’s march and implored leaders to drop charges against the 84 people who were arrested and to and fire the two police officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark.

Among them were local epidemiologist Dr. Flojaune Cofer. Dr. Cofer shared how she was struck by an officer’s bicycle and hit “by a baton multiple times.” Law enforcement, she said, seemed to have a “gang mentality.” She called their behavior “unconscionable.”

“It felt like the 1960s all over again, she said. “That shouldn’t happen anywhere.”

“Quite frankly, the protest would have been entirely peaceful had they decided to not show up at all. Their mere presence is the reason 80 plus people were arrested last night,” Dr. Cofer shared.

A local mother Brandy Wood addressed the council on crutches with a broken ankle. Community organizer Ryan McClinton addressed the council with his dislocated arm in a sling.

“I go hard for the community,” McClinton said. “For the first time I felt attacked by my City.

“Two hundred and fifty officers fully armed up, coming down on students, clergy, community members and peacekeepers. I got this, peacekeeping,” he said lifting his arm.

Like Rev. Ross, community organizer Conrad Crump says it was where the protest took place that was the issue. He also pointed to the sheer number of officers dispatched to the march.

“But yet when I call the police from Oak Park, I can’t get an officer to show up,” Crump said.

“When I call the police in Meadowview, the people who are used to seeing riot gear every Tuesday and Thursday, we call it Task Force Tuesdays, we’re used to that, but the people in East Sacramento weren’t familiar with that. They’ve never been exposed to that.”

Local college student Brianna Osborne said the city “failed” her and the other demonstrators, calling participating officers terrorists.
“We did nothing last night but stand in our basic rights in peace and were met with complete terror.”

Ms. Osborne urged the mayor and other leaders to have empathy for the involved demonstrators.

“Forget about your titles, but remember that we’re humans and if you wouldn’t want your children out there being terrorized like that, why should we have to live like that,” she said.

On Monday, prior to the City Council meeting, Mayor Steinberg addressed the incident on Twitter, writing, “I’m very disappointed that the protest ended the way it did. I have many questions about what caused the order to disperse and the subsequent arrests.”

By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVERT Senior Staff Writer

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