About 200 sign-carrying, chanting activists demonstrated Sunday afternoon in front of Sacramento County Main Jail, calling for “justice” in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by police in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9.
The peaceful demonstration at 651 I St. in downtown Sacramento was one of several held nationwide to raise awareness of the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, by Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white. Demonstrators called the rally the “California Campaign to End Police Terror.”
About 50 people stepped onto a mostly blocked-off portion of I Street at 1 p.m. They carried handwritten signs, including “Stop Police Brutality,” “Film the Police” and “Police Accountability Now.” They chanted messages of protest, most often the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” chant popularized by demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo., over the past week.
Police had blocked off all but one lane of I Street between Sixth and Seventh streets, which backed up traffic for several blocks. Numerous motorists honked their car horns as they drove by the demonstrators. Four bicycle-mounted Sacramento police officers quietly watched the demonstration just beyond the crowd.
By midafternoon, the number of demonstrators had swelled to around 200, with the activists covering a wide age range.
“I just felt like I had to be here to say something,” said 19-year-old Sacramentan Teri Collins. Sixty-three-year-old Sacramentan Julie Smith said, “Fairness and justice are things that all ages understand.”
Sacramento organizer Christina Arechiga, whose cousin, Ernest Duenez Jr., was shot and killed by a Manteca police officer in 2011, said she planned the demonstration as an act of solidarity with the people of Ferguson. In April, a Sacramento federal judge approved a $2.2 million settlement for the Duenez family against the city of Manteca.
She said demonstrators were demanding the arrest of Wilson, drug testing of all law enforcement, body cameras on all officers and dashcams on all police vehicles.
Arechiga said she hoped the rally would prompt Sacramento elected officials and police to understand that citizens do care about police fairly protecting citizens and using “minimum” force in situations that call for it. She also urged the public to contact public officials to weigh in with their concerns over police actions they see as excessive.
“My perfect wish is that I would hope elected officials in Sacramento, and the police departments, understand that a new day is here,” Arechiga said. “Today, we stand in national solidarity with all those who want justice for them (the Brown family) and the people of Ferguson.”
Another public event in response to the Brown shooting is scheduled for this evening in Sacramento.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Sacramento Branch said it will hold a prayer vigil from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Christian Fellowship Ministry Church at 3410 Rio Linda Blvd.
Organizers of that gathering said they are “asking the community to come out and join us in the call for justice.”
In a statement, NAACP branch president Stephen Webb bemoaned the “senseless killing of unarmed African Americans” and said he supports the FBI civil rights division monitoring the development of the Brown case and an independent investigation.
Call The Bee’s Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.