Protesters loudly disrupted a crime victims’ rally at the state Capitol on Monday by shouting over Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s brief remarks, calling out Stephon Clark’s name and demanding criminal charges for the two Sacramento police officers who killed him last month.
Schubert had had a friendly audience on the west steps of the Capitol, a rarity in recent days after facing weeks of intense pressure to bring charges in the March 18 fatal shooting of the 22-year-old Clark.
The annual event to mark National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and sponsored by advocacy group Crime Victims United of California at times had the air of a political rally, mixing emotional testimony from crime survivors with calls for a proposed ballot measure that would reclassify nearly two-dozen crimes, including felonies now considered nonviolent, as violent offenses.
Jennifer Adkins of El Dorado County told the crowd she fears for her safety after learning the man now in prison after physically abusing her for years is scheduled to be released next year.
“I’m scared for my life, but I’m not going down without a fight,” Adkins said.
Crime Victims United President Nina Salarno called the proposed “Keep California Safe” initiative “the single most important initiative on the 2018 ballot” to combat what she said was a “revolving door of early releases that are creating victims day after day in our communities.”
Schubert, a staunch opponent of recent measures that reclassified certain crimes as nonviolent, was honored Monday by the group as one of its district attorneys of the year.
But booing and chants from demonstrators greeted Schubert as she took the podium. In apparent references to the heat she has taken since Clark’s death and her re-election bid, Schubert told the crowd of about 200 that “politics doesn’t drive things.”
“The law and the facts are always going to drive the answers to whatever that is,” Schubert said to loud heckling and chants.
“I will always stand with victims. I will always do what’s right and I will always follow the facts and the law,” she said as supporters applauded and cheered to try to drown out demonstrators’ jeers as California Highway Patrol officers closed in on the group.
No arrests were made, but tensions ran high, including a heated exchange between one victim’s family member and protesters.
“We’ve been trying to speak to her for the last two weeks. This is our chance to communicate with her,” said Tanya Faison, founder of Black Lives Matter Sacramento, at the rally.
In the weeks since the deadly Clark shooting, Schubert’s downtown Sacramento office has become one focal point of protests; Clark’s name has become a national rallying cry for police reforms; and his death has turned into a hot-button campaign issue in Schubert’s run for re-election. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said his office would provide independent oversight of the district attorney’s investigation into the fatal shooting.
The timing of $13,000 in campaign cash donated to Schubert by a pair of law enforcement unions just days after Clark’s death also has drawn scrutiny. Schubert’s camp and the unions say the donations’ timing was coincidence, but activists have called it collusion.
The first signs of protesters Monday came about 11:15 a.m., when a bearded man in a T-shirt and shorts silently carried the large poster bearing Clark’s likeness behind the dignitaries on the Capitol’s west steps, including district attorneys, lawmakers and law enforcement leaders. Meantime, a parade of marchers walked from L Street and onto the Capitol’s north steps.
Faison then led a group of about 20 people holding an oversized Clark poster as Schubert took the podium.
Debbie Martin of Castroville formed a prayer circle with other family and friends near the protesters. They were among two bus loads that came to Sacramento from Monterey County to participate in the morning rally. Martin’s father was killed when she was 9 years old. Now 57, she was upset by the demonstrations.
“I didn’t like that we came all this way. Yes, everybody’s hurting, everybody’s angry, but there is a place and time. What better thing to do than to gather everyone together? There is power in prayer,” Martin said as the demonstrators’ din came to a quiet close.
“Look now," she said. "It’s calm.”