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Sacramento mayor rips sheriff's handling of Stephon Clark protest where deputy hit activist

Sacramento's mayor and county sheriff have been vocal opponents in the past on immigration issues. Now, it seems, they disagree on how to handle a street protest.

Responding to questions from Capital Public Radio this week, Mayor Darrell Steinberg took an oblique swipe at how Sheriff Scott Jones' department dealt with a protest Saturday night in south Sacramento over the recent police shooting of Stephon Clark.

“I wasn't pleased with what I saw Saturday night. At all,” Steinberg said in a Monday interview with the radio station. He did not mention Jones specifically, but praised his own law enforcement chief, Dan Hahn.

“We have a great police chief in this city who understands the pulse of the community and who represents the men and women of the Police Department, but he's also of the community,” Steinberg said. “And that's in contrast to what we saw Saturday night.”

Steinberg declined to elaborate Tuesday but sent The Sacramento Bee an abbreviated version of the comments he made to Capital Public Radio, adding that he admires the way the Sacramento Police Department has handled street protests in the wake of the Clark shooting.

The Saturday protests, which took place in the sheriff's south Sacramento jurisdiction, ended peacefully with no arrests. But a sheriff's deputy in an SUV hit and injured a protester as the deputy attempted to pull away from a group of demonstrators who were milling around the vehicle, some of them apparently hitting and kicking the vehicle.

At several points, a sheriff's helicopter flew overhead announcing to protesters that they were involved in an illegal assembly and ordered them to disperse or face arrest. Protesters were walking in the street, and at one point, some of them sat down in an intersection, blocking traffic.

It was the first major Clark-related demonstration the Sheriff's Department has dealt with. The Sacramento Police Department has had seven so far downtown, and more are expected.

In each case, Sacramento police officers kept their distance and in some instances hurried ahead of the street protesters to divert traffic. Despite that, protesters frequently mingled with cars in the street, prompting a few brief scuffles and at least one broken car window, as well as a broken bus window.

Twice, protesters were able to form a wall in front of the doors to Golden 1 Center arena, forcing a lockdown that kept thousands of fans from attending games.

City police so far have arrested only one person related to the demonstrations – a protester who was banging on the City Hall council chambers window last Tuesday during a council hearing on the Clark shooting.

Jones did not immediately respond to a Bee request for reaction to the mayor's comments. On Monday, though, Jones at a press conference said his agency handled the protests well, noting that there were no arrests and no injuries other than when the SUV hit protester Wanda Cleveland. She was treated at a local hospital for bruises.

Jones said he believes his deputy did not see Cleveland. The sheriff made a point of blaming "professional protesters" and outside agitators who he said infiltrated the protest to inflame the event.

Steinberg, in contrast, sent Cleveland a public tweet Sunday, describing her as "family": "Wishing you a peaceful and full recovery today, Wanda. Your entire @TheCityofSac family is thinking about you and look forward to seeing you again soon."

It's not the first time Sacramento's mayor, a liberal Democrat, and Jones, a Republican, have clashed publicly.

Last year, Jones, a supporter of President Donald Trump, hosted the interim head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan, at a local community forum to lay out the facts about what the Trump administration planned to do on illegal immigration.

Steinberg criticized Jones' public forum with Homan, calling it "cynical" and "mean." Three weeks later, Steinberg and the City Council strengthened the city's status as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants and later told the Trump administration they know where to find him after Homan said earlier this year the federal government may have to arrest heads of sanctuary cities.

For his part, Jones met with Trump two weeks ago in Washington, D.C., telling the president California faces spectacular failures every day in dealing with dangerous illegal immigrants. He mentioned twice-deported Luis Bracamontes, who was sentenced to death last week in Sacramento for the 2014 slayings of one of Jones' deputies, Danny Oliver, and of the killing that same day of Placer County sheriff’s Detective Michael Davis Jr.

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