'Stand up fight back:' Stephon Clark protesters speak out at candlelight vigil
A vigil for Stephon Clark, the 22-year-old unarmed black man shot dead by Sacramento police Sunday, turned into an ugly standoff between officers and protesters just as it was about to end late Friday night.
Protesters were returning to their vehicles at Florin Road and 29th Street after marching 4 miles through south Sacramento and blocking several intersections.
Suddenly patrol cars sped to the scene, sirens blaring, lights flashing. Protesters had jumped and pounded on parked police vehicles.
Police in helmets faced off against angry protesters screaming into the officers' faces for a half-hour. Then the police began to retreat, with officers walking backward and patrol cars going slowly in reverse, forming a line.
Protesters chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!”
Some pursued the officers but others in the crowd urged them to give the police space.
By 11:30 p.m. the situation began to diffuse. Protesters cheered what they felt was a victory.
The vigil for Clark began at Florin Road and 29th Street before 8 p.m. and turned into another protest march.
After a pause to let some members of the crowd speak, the marchers moved down 24th Street for a mile in the direction of Meadowview Road. They passed near the house in the 7500 block of 29th Street where Clark was killed while holding a cellphone in his grandparents’ backyard.
The two police officers who fired 20 rounds at Clark apparently believed he had a gun. They’d been looking for a person whom a neighbor had reported breaking into cars.
During the vigil, Diane Gomez exhorted young people to exercise their constitutional rights and urged police to be better trained.
Gomez said she knows some older members of the Clark family. Asked if she was a community activist, she said, “This may be my birth as a community activist.
“We are a beautiful people in Sacramento,” she said. “Don’t tear up our city.”
Neighbors joined the march as it continued along Meadowview Road. A pair of teens met up with friends, greeting each other with hand shakes and hugs.
Madia Jaa said she didn't know Clark’s family but came to the vigil in sympathy with them. She belongs to a Black Women United group.
“I’m the mother of three boys,” Jaa said. “When they leave the house at night, I want to know that they are safe.”
By 10 p.m. the vigil-goers had arrived at the Meadowview light-rail station, where family members and friends had gathered days before to mourn Clark’s death.
Of the dozens of people at the vigil, some had come from a daylong protest in downtown and midtown Sacramento that blocked city streets and saw moments of violence and tension flare between protesters, police and passers-by.
For a time, police blocked protesters from walking onto a Capital City Freeway entrance ramp near J Street.
Protesters had walked onto Interstate 5 in downtown Sacramento the previous day, snarling rush hour traffic before blocking entry to thousands of Sacramento Kings fans at Golden 1 Center.
Friday’s all-day protest appeared to end at the state Capitol about 8 p.m.
One man was arrested on suspicion of vandalism during Friday’s protests, according to the Police Department.
Officers arrested Darius Dobbins, 23, after witnesses said he smashed the driver’s side window of a Yolo Bus on 10th Street at Capitol Mall on Friday evening. Dobbins was booked into the Sacramento County Jail and released early Saturday.
Friday night’s vigil at Florin Road and 29th Street took place about 6 miles southeast of the Capitol.
Joy Johnson, president of the Sacramento Area Congregations Together, attended.
“Police used unnecessary force,” she said of Clark. “He was just trying to get home.”
She commended the Sacramento Police Department for quickly releasing helicopter and body camera footage of the shooting, but said the graphic and widely seen videos had compounded feelings of anger and sorrow.
“We as a community ... are in a constant state of grief,” Johnson said.
The Bee's Barbara Harvey contributed to this report.