Sacramento to consider banning protest items as DA’s Stephon Clark decision looms

It’s been 10 months since two Sacramento police officers fatally shot unarmed black man Stephon Clark in the backyard of his grandmother’s Meadowview home. And it’s been three months since the case was turned over to the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office.

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, activists are urging District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert to finish the investigation. They want Schubert to file charges against the officers who fired 20 rounds at the 22-year-old Clark after they apparently mistook his cellphone for a gun.

“We are not getting healing until the DA does her job,” said Sonia Lewis of Black Lives Matter Sacramento, a relative of Clark’s. “We will be drilling in on that it doesn’t take 10 months for the investigation. ... We need all the truth to come out and be exposed why it’s taking so long.”

The District Attorney’s Office has given no indication when the investigation will be over and whether charges will be filed. The District Attorney’s chief deputy, Steve Grippi, told The Bee on Thursday: “We don’t have a definitive timeline for the completion of the review.”

City officials are preparing for a decision.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg has been meeting with community leaders, including several on Friday, partly because he expects the district attorney to soon announce whether the officers will be charged, said Mary Lynne Vellinga, the mayor’s spokeswoman.

“We are not seeking to discourage protest, but we’re being proactive to try to make sure protests are peaceful,” Vellinga wrote in a text message. “This is a continuing dialogue about how we can both pursue justice and keep the peace.”

Several large protests - mostly peaceful - were held in Sacramento in the weeks and months following Clark’s death. In an indication that city officials may be preparing for more large demonstrations, the City Council is set to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would ban a list of items from protests and demonstrations that could be used as weapons.

The measure, recommended by Deputy Chief of Police Dave Peletta, would ban knives, firearms, glass bottles, baseball bats, projectile launchers, pepper spray, bricks, rocks, pieces of asphalt, and other items. The first few weeks of protests following Clark’s shooting cost the city more than $800,000, partly because of protestors using improvised weapons to damage property, the report said.

Other California cities including Los Angeles, Laguna Beach and Beverly Hills have adopted similar ordinances, the report said.

The ordinance would go into effect immediately, the staff report said. City Manager Howard Chan deemed the ordinance an “urgent matter,” so it was not first considered by the council’s Law and Legislation Committee, the report said.

In the meantime, Clark’s name will be front and center at Monday’s Reclaim MLK March, which is being promoted on social media by Black Lives Matter Sacramento. The 9:30 a.m. march will start at the Safeway on Alhambra Avenue in East Sacramento and go to the State Capitol.

The march will also focus on three other black men who were killed by police or died in police custody in 2018 in the Sacramento area, Lewis said. Those men include 19-year-old Darell Richards, whom police officers fatally shot in the backyard of a Curtis Park home; Brandon Smith, who died of methamphetamine intoxication while being transported by a Sacramento police officer to the county jail; and Marshall Miles, who fell into a coma in the jail after struggling with deputies during booking.

The deaths have become a major political issue. The deaths caused activists to take over City Council meetings to express their displeasure and Stephon Clark’s brother, Stevante Clark, has already announced he’s running for Sacramento mayor in 2020.

Stevante Clark told Steinberg to shut up in a City Council meeting in March as protesters disrupted events around the city. Since that outburst, Steinberg has met with Stevante Clark and council meetings have more or less returned to normal as the issue of police treatment of minorities simmers.

“I’m certainly aware and very sensitive to what occurred in our community over the last year,” Steinberg said.

The mayor’s office said Friday in a news release that Steinberg would announce a proposal to boost funding for youth activities at a 2 p.m. Monday event.

Steinberg said people should use the day to continue to have honest conversations about the relationships between police and communities of color but to “resist the all-or-nothing approach.”

“We can want more and demand more out of law enforcement officers without attacking police officers,” Steinberg said. “We can criticize and want change while also having the deepest respect for those that put their lives on the line.”

In June, the city will start receiving revenue from the Measure U sales tax increase. Steinberg has proposed using some of that money on initiatives to help the city’s disadvantaged neighborhoods. He has suggested the city create a number of inclusive projects to create jobs, attract new businesses, expand youth programs and revitalize the riverfront and commercial corridors.

“The whole Measure U campaign, what it’s about, what it represents, is how the opportunity is in front of us to actually act on growing a modern economy that leaves no one behind,” Steinberg said.

The Bee’s Molly Sullivan and Sam Stanton contributed to this report.
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Theresa Clift covers Sacramento City Hall. Before joining The Bee in 2018, she worked as a local government reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Daily Press in Virginia and the Wausau Daily Herald in Wisconsin. She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Central Michigan University.