'This City Is Killing Us': Amid Protests, Sacramento Council Cuts Public Testimonies Short
By Dale Kasler, Tony Bizjak, Nashelly Chavez and Hudson Sangree
Hundreds of protesters headed toward Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento and blocked its entrance Tuesday night for the second time in a week, preventing Kings fans from attending an NBA game as the protesters called for action in the police shooting of Stephon Clark.
A few blocks away, a Sacramento City Council meeting intended to address the shooting and others like it quickly devolved into chaos, with council members leaving the dais, police officers entering the City Hall chambers and some protesters and pastors calling for the overflow crowd to show restraint.
Members of the public testified for several hours, lamenting what they called endemic racism among police and a lack of meaningful action by public officials in Sacramento for decades.
"This city is killing us. And we demand economic equity and justice," shouted Malaki Seku-Amen, founder of the California Urban Partnership.
But Mayor Darrell Steinberg adjourned the meeting about 8:25 p.m., hours early, saying he was concerned about safety. An altercation between police and protesters on the sidewalk just outside the council chambers and banging on the chambers' windows had disturbed the gathering.
Later police said a man had been arrested for allegedly assaulting an officer.
At Golden 1, the Kings were scheduled to tip off against the Dallas Mavericks at 7 p.m. The game started on time with more fans in their seats than during the first protest Thursday. The Kings estimated 4,000 were in attendance in an arena that holds 17,600.
Thousands more were stranded outside.
"You ain't seeing no game tonight. Join us or go home!" protesters shouted at them.
Clark died March 18 after two officers, believing he was a burglary suspect and armed, fired at him 20 times in his grandparents' backyard after a helicopter pilot saw him jumping over a fence. Turning over Clark's handcuffed corpse, police found not a gun but a cellphone.
Graphic videos of the shooting, released by police, prompted a week of social unrest that continued Tuesday, as several thousand ticket holders stared at a few hundred protesters blocking the arena's front doors.
Here and there, words were exchanged, and at least one scuffle broke out. A handful of fans joined the protesters blocking the doors.
A dozen police officers showed up on bicycles, and a dozen more arrived in riot gear.
Some in the plaza cheered and others booed, saying "F--- the police." One Kings fan, Chuck Bachelor, of Sacramento, said, "I'm interested in going to the game. How do I do that?"
When a similar lock-out occurred Thursday, Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive spoke publicly after the game about Clark's death and the unrest that ensued. He vowed the team would help "prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again."
Kings players wore shirts commemorating Clark at Sunday's game.
That wasn't enough to prevent more trouble Tuesday.
One protester, Tyrone Brown, helped break up a minor fight between fans and protesters. He said protesters were frustrated that they couldn't get into the City Council meeting Tuesday because it was so full and moved to Golden 1 Center instead.
"No one was being heard at the City Council meeting," Brown said. "They decided to come down here and go for a bigger platform."
The City Council meeting opened at around 5 p.m. with Steinberg calling for a moment of silence for Clark.
Then, as Councilman Larry Carr was speaking, Clark's brother, Stevante Clark, burst into the chambers chanting his brother's name.
He ran right up to Mayor Darrell Steinberg at the council dais, turned and began addressing the crowd directly. When Steinberg tried to speak to him, Clark shouted, "Shut the f--- up."
The mayor called a 15-minute recess.
As the council members filed out, a phalanx of police officers lined the dais. Clark charged the dais again but was hustled out by friends.
At other moments of the meeting, Stevante Clark, who wore a shirt with his brother's image, jumped onto the dais and stood on furniture to speak.
Protesters streamed onto the open floor between the audience and council members. People outside chanted "Stephon Clark!" and pounded on the chamber's windows. Some in the lobby taunted officers in helmets who blocked the entrance to the chambers.
An activist named Rashid Sidqe appealed for calm, saying, "We are better than this." Pastor Les Simmons asked the crowd to join hands in prayer.
The meeting resumed, but emotions remained raw, as a series of more-or-less orderly speakers took the podium to have their say.
"What you saw today was the truth," said Tanya Faison of Black Lives Matter, demanding that the two officers who shot Clark be fired. "You're killing us. ... It feels like genocide."
After 6 p.m. the crowd outside City Hall roared "Stephon Clark!" repeatedly as many decided to make for Golden 1 Center.
Tuesday's large-scale protests echoed those from Thursday and Friday of last week. Friday's unorganized protest and a late-night vigil for Stephon Clark in south Sacramento led to a series of incidents between protesters, police and passers-by, including protesters jumping on police cars and the arrest of a man for allegedly breaking a bus window.
Also on Tuesday, members of Black Lives Matter Sacramento met in front of Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert's office to demand prosecutors file charges against the two officers who fired at Clark.
Dozens picketed in front of her office doors starting around 3 p.m.
Berry Accius, with the nonprofit Voice of the Youth, told the crowd: "Don't be fooled. Don't be blind. If this lady was for the people, she would be right here with us."
Andre Young, Stephon Clark's cousin, attended the event. There is "going to be a riot in Sacramento" if the officers aren't convicted, Young said.
(c)2018 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)