Black Lives Matter protest forces jail lockdown
A Black Lives Matter protest outside the Sacramento County Main Jail forced sheriff's deputies to lock down the downtown facility Monday afternoon for more than two hours.
About 50 demonstrators, some carrying signs that read "Police don't have to kill us to apprehend us," stood at the jail's entrance chanting the names of Stephon Clark and Brandon Smith.
Clark was shot dead in Meadowview by two Sacramento police officers in March while he held a cellphone and was unarmed, an incident that drew international attention.
Smith died June 6 in police custody as officers transported him from a Volunteers of America Detoxification Center to the Sacramento jail. A Sacramento County Coroner's Office autopsy released last week determined that he died from a methamphetamine overdose. Family members have criticized officers for not doing more to ensure he received medical attention.
"Let us fight together because we are all one hashtag away," Berry Accius shouted to the crowd, a reference to the names including the 22-year-old Clark's who have become national symbols of police killings of African Americans, as wary deputies formed a loose line just behind the entrance's glass doors.
No incidents were reported.
Monday was the sixth day of civil disobedience by the Sacramento Black Lives Matter group.
Despite the lockdown, criminal proceedings at the jail's Patino Hall of Justice pressed on. Attorneys, court personnel and defendants in and out of custody already in the jail's four courtrooms were allowed to complete the afternoon's calendar.
The jail was closed to new proceedings and to inmate visits, said Sacramento Superior Court spokeswoman Kim Pederson. The demonstrations ended about 4 p.m., and jail officials soon after reopened the facility.
"We want justice and justice means we need to start seeing repercussions when (police) kill people," said Black Lives Matter-Sacramento leader Tanya Faison. "We have to keep putting pressure on them. If they're sick of (the protests), they need to make the changes they need to make."
Clark's death had launched months of demonstrations outside Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert's offices and in Sacramento city streets and became a key issue in a heated campaign for Schubert's seat. The incumbent Schubert ultimately cruised to a second term as community anger and calls for criminal justice reform did not translate into enough votes for challenger Noah Phillips.
Controversy has flamed anew with Smith's death in custody, triggering a new round of protests that will continue Tuesday at City Hall and return to Sacramento County Main Jail Wednesday for a vigil marking Smith's death.