Stephon Clark's brother: 'Do not block the arena ... do not antagonize police'
Activists protesting the police shooting of Stephon Clark blocked downtown Sacramento streets again Thursday, taunting stoic police and angry drivers, but they ended their latest march without going near Golden 1 Center, where the Kings were playing the Indiana Pacers amid heightened security.
In addition, the Kings announced a plan early Thursday to partner with activist organizations such as Black Lives Matter to provide educational support for Clark's two young children and others.
The latest protest began around 3 p.m. outside the office of Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. Protesters have been demanding that Schubert prosecute the officers who shot and killed Clark on March 18 in his grandparents' backyard in Meadowview. The demonstration ended about 3 1/2 hours later outside Schubert's office after winding through downtown streets, blocking some intersections and halting light-rail trains.
Blocks away, a different gathering unfolded as thousands of Kings fans flowed into Golden 1 Center after being shut out twice in previous home games due to protests. Fans expressed optimism Thursday, thanks to temporary fences erected earlier in the day that were intended to give police and security more control over who entered the arena plaza.
Protesters initially said Thursday they were not planning to march, but eventually headed down G Street around 3:45 p.m. toward the nearby federal courthouse, where they believed the Rev. Al Sharpton would appear.
"Whose streets? Our streets!" they chanted as they walked through an empty G Street.
A diverse group of protesters reached the federal courthouse at 5th and I streets around 4:10 p.m. Police redirected commute traffic around the block to keep cars away. By 4:45 p.m., there was no sign of Sharpton, but Clark's brother, Stevante Clark, addressed the crowd.
Stevante Clark asked protesters to stay on the sidewalk and clear the streets. Nevertheless, around 5:30 p.m., the demonstration grew more combative as dozens of protesters got in the faces of bicycle cops at the entryway of a parking garage.
One protester sat on the hood of a driver's car. The crowd repeatedly chanted at the bicycle cops and shook fists at them. The confrontation ended when the officers backed away.
The protest forced Regional Transit to halt downtown trains and open a bus bridge between 16th Street and Arden/Del Paso stations.
As he suggested earlier at Stephon Clark's funeral, Stevante Clark told protesters to support Mayor Darrell Steinberg – a 180-degree change from Tuesday night's City Council meeting, when he got in the mayor's face and directed an expletive at him.
Stephon Clark was shot to death March 18 after police chased him to his grandparents' backyard in Meadowview and opened fire. The two officers were responding to a neighbor's report of someone breaking car windows. Video from the officers' body cameras indicated they believed Clark had a gun, although authorities later said they found only a cellphone and that police had fired 20 shots.
The release of the videos three days after the shooting prompted immediate outrage that has spread nationwide.
Before marching Thursday, protesters carried a funeral wreath to the front door of the DA's office. They repeated chants that have grown familiar in recent days: "Say his name! Stephon Clark!" and "It was a cellphone. Not a gun!"
Sacramento Superior Court closed early again at 3 p.m. Thursday in anticipation of the protest.
Jamilla Moore of Elk Grove marched with the crowd to the federal courthouse.
"As an older black woman, it has been painful and discouraging – the many police shootings," Moore said. "But on the other hand, I've been encouraged at how people are, as the kids say, woke. I feel pretty good about our future now."
In the past eight days, protesters closed Interstate 5 in both directions, blocked entry to two Sacramento Kings games for thousands of fans, disrupted a City Council session and snarled downtown traffic during rush hour several times.
The California Highway Patrol has since blocked efforts by protesters to get onto I-5 or the Capital City Freeway to disrupt traffic. They again set up Thursday afternoon at the I Street on ramp to I-5 north, only allowing cars to enter and preparing to stop protesters.
Police and city officials have largely taken a hands off policy toward the protests so far, with law enforcement allowing them to block traffic on various streets, stand in front of oncoming light-rail trains and parade noisily through city streets.
The decision to allow the protests to proceed without interruption came despite intense, face-to-face confrontations during which some protesters screamed "F--- the police!" directly at officers.
As of Thursday, only two arrests had been made, one for someone who allegedly broke out a bus window, the other charging a man with assaulting an officer and being drunk in public.
But authorities clearly have become frustrated by some of the disruptions, and announced plans to ensure that fans were able to make it into Golden 1 Center Thursday for the 7 p.m. game against the Pacers.
By mid-morning Thursday, the arena was surrounded by 6-foot-high cyclone fencing and steel barriers as officials tried to ensure they were able to allow ticket holders in while keeping protesters at bay.
Some fans were glad the Kings added new security measures in an attempt to ensure they entered the arena Thursday night.
Bob and Jeannie Clouse, Fair Oaks season-ticket holders for 32 years, waited to get in through the barricades. Bob said they were shut out Tuesday and last Thursday.
"The first game I understood a little bit," Bob Clause said. "The second game? I was really surprised those people locked us out.”
Ame Mathies, a season-ticket holder who lives in the Roseville area, said she wasn't so sure fans who arrived late would get into Thursday's game. She came early last Thursday and Tuesday and was able to get into both games.
Of the riot police, she said, "They ain’t playing. They’re tired of this mess.”