As officials in Missouri faced a backlash of angry protests and fires in the streets over the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict in the Michael Brown shooting, law enforcement and community leaders the length of California called for calm and said they were carefully monitoring reaction from various groups.
As protests took place nationwide, demonstrations in Sacramento and elsewhere in the state were passionate but largely peaceful.
A group of about a dozen gathered near a Sears store on Florin Road, eventually growing in size to about 100. The demonstrators walked into the street and blocked traffic as they held protest signs aloft and shouted “No justice, no peace” while drivers honked. As the night went on, they marched to the on-ramp for northbound Highway 99 and blocked access there as Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies directed them back to a sidewalk.
More Sacramento reaction came at a forum Monday night at St. Paul Baptist Church in Oak Park, where Mayor Kevin Johnson joined with more than 200 law enforcement, community and religious leaders to watch the decision announcement on a huge viewing screen.
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“I’m here with a heavy heart, and I’m really disappointed,” the mayor said. “This is just a sad day for America, in my opinion, when you think about injustice and all the things that have happened over the history of time.
“This one just doesn’t feel right.”
The Sacramento crowd met the grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson with complete silence, and some said afterward they were not surprised.
“I believe we can improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community,” said 16-year-old Dwayne Powe Jr., a John F. Kennedy High School student who addressed the crowd. “Me and my peers realize it’s not just one-sided.”
Elijah Johnson, a 17-year-old classmate, said he was “upset with what happened in Ferguson.”
“But here in Sacramento, we won’t get like that. We can make a change,” Johnson the youth said.
Danielle Williams, a 29-year-old community organizer, called the grand jury decision “a disappointment.”
“I spent a week in Ferguson two weeks after Michael Brown was killed, and I’ve never seen such blatant racism,” Williams said. “Out here, it’s politically incorrect to be racist.
“The system did its process, but that system is problematic. I feel for the family, the community and the youth out there heading the movement. It could have gone down in a different way.”
At the demonstration near Florin Road and Highway 499, protesting Sacramento resident Bryan Lincoln, 29, wore a Superman shirt as he shouted at sheriff’s deputies: “Throw down your arms! Come join us!”
Lincoln said the situation in Ferguson had revealed problems of racism and police disrespect. “I see it every day: prejudice, injustice, discrimination,” he said.
Officials in Sacramento said they stood ready to handle any problems and added that they believe the region’s leaders have made effective strides to avoid such problems.
“We, like many other law enforcement agencies, are monitoring the situation in Ferguson,” Sacramento County sheriff’s spokeswoman Lisa Bowman said in an email statement. “Of course, the community dynamics here are quite different, and while we anticipate and invite responsible discourse and activism such as we saw after the initial incident, we do not anticipate any significant problems.
“That being said, we have policies, training, and personnel in place that can accommodate ANY crisis that may arise.”
Brad Alexander, a spokesman for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said before the 6:15 p.m. announcement that state officials planned to monitor reactions closely.
In Oakland, a large crowd that grew through the evening marched loudly through the streets and spilled onto Interstate 580. In Los Angeles, local pastors and a deputy police chief called a news conference at the Praises of Zion Baptist Church to issue a public call for peace. But protesters briefly blocked a portion of Interstate 10 before being run off by California Highway Patrol officers.
“Obviously, we are working closely with our regional administrators in the Bay Area and in Southern California,” Alexander said. “Those are obviously the two areas that are of the most concern for us if there were any activities or protests.”
Call The Bee’s Sam Stanton, (916) 321-1091.