Furious brother of slain Sacramento man Stephon Clark storms the City Council meeting
It was the most sensational disruption of a Sacramento City Council meeting in anyone's memory.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who had a firsthand account, called it a raw display of emotion. He also vowed it will not happen again while he is sitting on the center dais.
It happened just minutes into what Steinberg said he had hoped would be a passionate but controlled public discussion about the police shooting of a 22-year-old Sacramento man, Stephon Clark, 10 days ago in Meadowview.
Stevante Clark, brother of the young man, burst into the packed chambers, shouting. Running down the aisle, he bypassed the lectern where the public typically stands to speak. Instead he leaped onto the council dais, next to and above Steinberg.
He then leaped onto the lectern, shouting to the audience, and telling Steinberg several times to shut up as Steinberg shouted Clark's name, trying to get his attention. Steinberg then temporarily adjourned the meeting. Council members headed out a side door and stoic police officers briefly filed onto the dais. Clark confronted the officers, but was guided out of the chambers by friends.
Steinberg, who spent six years on the City Council and 14 years in the state Legislature before being elected mayor in 2016, said he was not scared at the moment he described as "the most raw expression of emotion."
"I leaned in. I tried to talk to him. That was not possible. I'm strong, and he lost his brother. That's it … It is my job as mayor to bear some of that pain, and the pain so many in that room and in our community are feeling.
"That sort of demonstration in the council chamber cannot happen again. It won't happen again. But in that moment, that was a brother grieving for the loss of his brother."
The fatal shooting happened on a Sunday night when officers, who received a 911 call about a man breaking car windows, cornered Clark in his grandmother's backyard. They at shot at him 20 times, believing he had a gun. Clark, though, was only holding a cellphone. The city has been roiled in protests ever since, and the Sacramento Kings had to block fans from entering two games at the Golden 1 Center.
City officials had expected hundreds of people to come to the meeting to talk and knew that some would protest and attempt to disrupt. Steinberg said the security for the meeting was good, and officials took care to allow speakers in the overflow crowd outside to enter the chambers only when it was each person's time to speak.
Clark was able to rush in, however, because city officials had allowed the Clark family to sit separately in a side room next to the chamber, Steinberg said. "He took that moment to come through."
The meeting continued afterward, as community member after community member demanded change in the Police Department and called on the council to take a strong stand.
Pastor A. K. Thrower of Spirit and Truth Ministries was among the many emotional and skeptical speakers.
“I don’t have any faith in the police. I don’t have any faith in you guys," Thrower said. "There is a power that is higher than you and you will be held accountable."
Steinberg called out, "Pastor! Pastor!" attempting to get Thrower to finish in his allotted two minutes.
“Racism in the police force is endemic!” Thrower concluded to applause.
Steinberg said he had expected to continue the hearing for six hours, but decided to shut it down after a little more than three hours after another disruption, this one from outside when a protester in the adjacent plaza began pounding on the chamber window.
"That was disruptive but not the reason for canceling the meeting," Steinberg said. The mayor said an officer tried to get the man to stop, and got into an altercation, leading police to arrest the man. As that was happening, people in the council chamber ran to the window to watch.
"We recessed again, and talked about it and I felt it was in interests of safety" to stop the hearing, Steinberg said.
Steinberg initially talked about continuing the hearing Wednesday, but decided to cancel in deference to a Clark family wake planned for the afternoon. He said the council will take public comment at its next meeting, on Tuesday, and that he will set up a special discussion at the April 10 meeting on how the city will review police training and police protocols.
Steinberg said he is pleased the state attorney general has agreed to step in to oversee the investigation of the shooting.
But he said the city needs to move quickly as well to review its pursuit policies and use of weapons, and cannot wait until the shooting investigation is complete. He said the city also needs to move forward with initiatives that improve lives, economies and education in less privileged areas of the city.
"We owe it to everybody to move fast, but be thorough and dig deep," he said. "It is not just around police protocols and training. That is first order. It really is about a conscious set of policies and investments that will tie this (city) renaissance to our neighborhoods and kids in our neighborhoods."