Businesswoman supports Stephon Clark rally as a private citizen, but feels the hurt in her business
A passionate sign-waving, chanting crowd of up to 300 protesters marched for more than four hours through the streets of downtown Sacramento Friday night and early Saturday in angry reaction to the release of a private autopsy that found Stephon Clark was fatally shot eight times by police, including six times in the back.
It was the fourth straight night of protests of Clark's death, and like previous protests, the event was largely nonviolent, though boisterous and at times confrontational.
Police reported no arrests were made and said there were no immediate reports of property damage.
Officers cleared intersections ahead of the demonstrators as the group wound its way from City Hall, past the Golden 1 Center arena, and into Old Sacramento. At one point, the group approached an onramp to Interstate 5, but were blocked from entering the freeway by a line of officers in riot gear. Protesters swore at police before moving off.
"The crowd was not violent," police Capt. Norm Leong said afterward. "The protestors expressed their rights and we tried to assure safety for the community. As long as they were nonviolent, we try to facilitate the protest movement."
Two more social justice gatherings are planned for Saturday in downtown.
An annual 10:30 a.m. gathering in Southside Park commemorating farm labor leader Cesar Chavez Day will be modified this year to incorporate the Clark shooting. Former Sacramento King Matt Barnes is among organizers of another gathering at noon in Chavez Plaza.
Police say they will have a strong presence at the noon event, but expect that event to be nonviolent as well.
The Friday night march, organized by the Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter, was spurred by the release earlier that day of a private autopsy conducted by attorneys representing Clark's family. That autopsy showed that Clark had been hit by eight bullets, six of them in his back.
A formal Sacramento County Coroner's autopsy has also been conducted, but results of that review are not yet complete and have not been disclosed. County officials declined to comment on the private autopsy conclusions.
Clark, 22, was shot and killed by two police officers March 18 in his grandmother's backyard in the Meadowview neighborhood of south Sacramento. Police had chased him there after receiving reports of a man breaking car windows. Officers said they thought the cellphone in Clark's hand was a gun, based on body cam footage released three days after the shooting.
The shooting, and others like it, have sparked national outrage and intense discussion about how police confront, and sometimes kill, young black men.
In a Facebook post earlier in the day, the Sacramento Black Lives Matter group called on people to meet at 8 p.m. at City Hall "and go from there."
"We need to HIT THESE STREETS," the post said.
The protest group began marching away from City Hall plaza just before 9:30 p.m. They chanted Clark's name loudly in unison, and, at other times, shouted "F--- Sac PD!" or chanted "The whole damn system is guilty as hell!"
A number of demonstrators were parents with children in strollers. The crowd varied in age and race. Some wore flip flops. Others wore boots and had black masks covering their faces.
Unlike prior protests this week during the evening commute, Friday's protest occurred on a holiday weekend later at night. Protesters encountered few vehicles.
At 10 p.m. the marchers stopped in front of a Bennigan's restaurant on K Street, where a few patrons were eating and drinking. Some of the protesters went into the restaurant, which had its doors open on a warm spring night. One couple jumped on tables and chairs. Bartenders and waitstaff stepped back. An employee at Bennigan's told The Bee she would have liked to join the protests if she weren't working.
The demonstration continued west on K Street toward the basketball arena, where earlier protests had blocked thousands of Kings bans from entering during two previous game nights.
The Kings are scheduled to play the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night. Team officials and the city plan extra precautions in the arena plaza Saturday, similar to plans that enabled fans to get into the arena Thursday night when protesters were in the streets near by.
Just before 11 p.m. the group reached the I Street on-ramp of Interstate 5 and argued among themselves. Some of the more belligerent protesters wanted to confront the dozens of California Highway Patrol officers blocking the ramp. Others kept the protest from becoming physical, although it was confrontational.
Last week, demonstrators reached the north- and south-bound lanes of I-5, blocking evening rush hour traffic in both directions. The CHP has prevented it from happening again.
Eventually the group turned away and marched through the tunnel under I-5 to Old Sacramento, where some bars and restaurants were open. Protesters were denied entry to a karaoke club. One man climbed onto a roof.
Some demonstrators chased a young woman along Old Sacramento's wooden sidewalks. She appeared to be a bar patron who'd had a misunderstanding with protestors who had demanded that she show support by saying Clark's name. Afterward she was shaken and angry.
On the way back to City Hall, around midnight, demonstrators rushed the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel, where security personnel barely locked the doors in time to prevent them entering, while shooing guests up a lobby stairwell. Some protesters made it into an interior corridor, but where pushed back by security, one of them swinging what appears to be a baton at the demonstrators.
A scuffle briefly broke out at one point between Black Lives Matters demonstrators and others in the crowd who were wearing masks. The masked participants had started to tear apart security fencing at Golden 1 Center. But the local demonstrators told them to stop.
Some protesters tried to prevent media from photographing the conflict, at times grabbing cameras or holding up signs to block lenses.
The relative nonviolence of the series of marches has come as a relief to city officials who have urged calm protest, and have repeatedly said they intend to move quickly to review and change police training and practices.
Only four arrests have been made over two weeks of social unrest, according to police.
Earlier Friday, after the family's private autopsy results were released, Black Lives Matter leader Tanya Faison, told The Bee, "I can’t predict how the community is going to react" to the news that Clark was shot in the back.
That autopsy, conducted by prominent pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu and overseen by attorneys for the Clark family, determined that Clark was facing the house, not police, when shot. It dubbed the event "Shot 7 Times in His Back! In the Streets."
An initial bullet hit him in the side, spinning him around with his back to the officers, Omalu said. Six bullets entered his back, and a final bullet hit him in the leg.
While Omalu said the initial round entered Clark's side, the pathologist suggested one could "reasonably conclude" that the initial bullet was a seventh one in his back. That has led some, including Black Lives Matter, to say he was struck seven times in the back.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg issued his own call to the public Friday after the autopsy press conference.
"From the moment we saw the video we knew the details of this horrific shooting were graphic and disturbing," he said in an afternoon statement. "We have an obligation to everyone involved, including the family of Stephon Clark, to wait for the full findings and results from the official autopsy and investigation."
"As the mayor of our city, I assure the community and the public that we will aggressively seek answers to all of the questions the community is rightfully asking. As important, we will aggressively seek appropriate change to the protocols and training that led to this unacceptable outcome."
"From the bottom of my heart, I urge our entire community to work together through nonviolent civil action as we pursue justice and demand reform."