Chaos erupts at City Council meeting; police chief not ready to answer questions

Don’t miss the latest news: Sign up for breaking news alerts.

At a raucous meeting Tuesday night, the Sacramento City Council heard from residents who were enraged by the police’s reaction to a protest Monday night.

Police ended a Stephon Clark march in East Sacramento by arresting protesters on a bridge over Highway 50. Police arrested 84 people Monday night, including 78 on the bridge.

After about an hour of public comments, Alexander Clark told Mayor Darrell Steinberg to “shut the f--- up.” Clark told Steinberg that Steinberg didn’t care about Stephon Clark. Clark refused to return to the audience after going over his allotted time.

He then jumped up on the lectern screaming as council members attempted to call forward the next speaker.

Police swarmed Clark as Steinberg called out “leave him alone” while audience members began chants repeating Stephon Clark’s name.

Steinberg ordered a recess of the meeting and councilors left the room. The audience loudly debated how to move forward amongst themselves for about 15 minutes while waiting for the council to return and the meeting to resume.

In one corner of the council meeting, someone had pulled the drapes down.

“What just occurred is you expressed the level of trauma that you’ve been experienced here by the militarized display of our law enforcement,” Rev. Kevin Ross said, urging the crowd to be calm and to resume speaking to the council in an orderly fashion.

Ross and other faith leaders eventually got the crowd to settle down. Council members returned to their spots and resumed hearing comments from the public.

“We can’t have what just happened happen again. In other words we’re OK,” Steinberg told the audience.

Public comments: ‘You need to wipe those citations away.’

8:50 p.m.: After a commenter demanded that Steinberg say Stephon Clark’s name and he didn’t comply, the mayor walked out of the council chambers as many people in the audience walked out in response.

“Bye, Darrell,” one man said as the next speaker took the lectern to address Vice Mayor Eric Guerra.

Steinberg reentered a few minutes later and council members attempted to adjourn the meeting, saying they had run out of speaker slips, but allowed another speaker to talk.

“We listened to the people tonight for almost four hours,” Steinberg said afterward, but allowed one final speaker her three minutes.

By 8:50, the council was packing up to leave as the final speaker shouted into the rapidly emptying chamber.

8:15 p.m.: Betty Williams, president of the Greater Sacramento NAACP, said she saw several detained Sacramento State students trembling with fear and the organization got so many calls for help Monday night that their system crashed.

She called on the council to support AB 392 and asked that officers involved in deadly shootings be investigated more thoroughly.

“When this happens again – and it will – to do the toxicology of police officers,” Williams said, referencing Stephon Clark’s toxicology reports released in Schubert’s investigation.

“My last word to you, mayor and City Council: it ain’t over,” she said.

7:55 p.m.: A woman told the council she was just walking home through East Sacramento on Monday night when she got caught up in the protest. Officers put her in a painful wrist lock, she said.

“My hands were bent until I screamed, until tears flowed out of my eyes and I said you’re hurting me,” she said. “The officers said to shut up. I said, ‘I’ll shut up when you stop hurting me.’”

“I need you to work on getting these charges dismissed,” she said.

The woman was followed by Brandy Wood, who said the police broke her ankle at the protest Monday night.

“My bone is broke!” she said after limping to the dais on crutches. “An officer assaulted me with his bike. It obviously wan’t a bump if my bone got broke.”

7:23 p.m.: After the crowd erupted into chants of “Drop the charges! Fire the officers,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg got into a back and forth with some protesters about who was next allowed to speak.

“Excuse me! You’re not running the meeting. I’m running the meeting here!” Steinberg said before simmering down and letting the speaker the crowd wanted, Ryan McClinton speak, though it wasn’t his official turn.

McClinton urged the council to vote to support pending legislation pertaining to police shootings.

7:03 p.m.: The Rev. Shane Harris of The People’s Alliance said no progress has been made in the year since Stephon Clark was shot and killed.

“Not only locally, nationally, we are ready to mobilize because local prosecutors investigating local police is a conflict of interest and Schubert knows it,” he said. He was among those who were arrested Monday evening.

He read a list of demands, including the firing of Chief Hahn, the firing of the officers who killed Stephon Clark, an increase in oversight powers of the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission and the adoption of AB 392, which would restrict police officers ability to use force.

6:23 p.m.: Mayor Darrell Steinberg reminded the crowd all speakers are only allowed three minutes of testimony. Someone in crowd shouted out: “How many minutes does Stephon get?” It was followed by shouts and applause.

One of the more raucous testimonies so far came from Wanda Cleveland, a longtime activist in Sacramento who was struck by a Sacramento County Sheriff’s patrol vehicle last year at a Stephon Clark protest, suffering minor injuries.

“Good evening, you’ve declared war on your citizens again,” she said, before saying she didn’t attend Monday’s protest because she would have been so angry she would have fought the officers. “Do you know what they did to me?” she screamed from the dais. “Each and every one of you are guilty for allowing your cops to beat us up!”

6:14 p.m.: A group of about 50 people had gathered outside City Hall, with officials moving them in as others left. Steinberg said he would get everybody inside who wanted to speak.

Keith Jouganatos said protesters were beaten, harassed and abused, and zip-tied “like cattle.”

“What occurred last night was one of the darkest nights this city has ever had to endure,” he said.

He asked Chief Hahn to hold officers accountable for their actions and said the community no longer had trust in the police department.

6:03 p.m.: Attorney Amar Shergill urged the council to rescind the citations received by the 84 protesters Monday night who were accused of failing to disperse.

“You need to wipe those citations away,” Shergill said, before criticizing District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert for releasing information about Clark’s tumultuous relationship with his girlfriend and their text messages.

“Why was she telling all the personal details about that poor man who was shot and killed by our law enforcement? Why wasn’t she talking about the state of mind of those officers?”

Several commenters claimed police used violence against marchers. One woman said she saw detainees whose wrists were bleeding from zip ties fastened too tight. Multiple people said they had seen a man with his arm in a sling due to a dislocated joint.

“I was legitimately afraid,” said Sadalia King of being among the protesters arrested Monday night in wealthy East Sacramento. “It was a weird space to be in knowing we were in a neighborhood we weren’t supposed to be in. ... But we were determined to make sure that folks knew that your community that’s just on the other side of these train tracks exists and we have a legitimate fear that needs to be heard across Sacramento.”

5:50 p.m.: Jane Mantee, a local activist, urged the City Council to push for the police officers who shot and killed Clark to be fired.

“If it was your child, your friend your people, your kin that were shot like that in their granny’s back yard, the very least you’d want is the folks who did it to no longer have a badge or a gun to do it again,” said Mantee.

Clergy response: ‘Last night was the shame of the nation.’

5:45 p.m.: As public comments began at an emotional Sacramento City Council meeting, three local clergy members told councilors they were “severely failed” by police officers who arrested 84 people during a Stephon Clark protest Monday.

Speaking first, the Rev. Kevin Ross of Unity of Sacramento said “We were severely failed last night. ... Last night was the shame of the nation.”

Rev. Dr. Mary Westfall described how officers forced protesters to move down 51st Street in East Sacramento, away from a Trader Joe’s on Folsom Boulevard. Rev. Pamela Anderson, a Sacramento minister, described being shoved by an officer with a bike. Once the protesters were isolated on a bridge over Highway 50, police arrested 78 people, including two journalists.

“I would like to know whose idea that kind of tactical strategy was,” Westfall said.

“It could have gone very bad very quickly,” Anderson said. “We are better than this.”

Police chief delays response to arrests

5:30 p.m. Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said he would wait “a couple weeks” before providing his analysis of a mass protest Monday night that resulted in the arrests of more than 80 people in East Sacramento.

Speaking at the beginning of an emotional City Council meeting, Hahn said “there is no doubt that this protest ended differently than the vast majority of protests that we have.” But he did not apologize or explain why his officers decided to arrest 84 people – including pastors and journalists.

“We will definitely be getting to the facts,” Hahn said.

He said the department would examine body camera footage from officers on the scene.

“I’d be happy to come back in a couple weeks and give an update on what the facts are,” he said.

“As you all know, we did have a few media folks arrested and that is definitely unusual for our city,” he added.

Protesters started chanting “No Justice! No peace!” two speakers later.

In a follow-up interview with The Sacramento Bee, Hahn said the department “had an incident commander in charge” overseeing the department’s response to the protest. Asked who it was, he responded, “That’s a good question.”

“I don’t know who was in charge at that moment,” he said. “I wasn’t there.”

The chief said he “completely understands people’s concern of the way that went down (with 84 arrests); it’s not necessarily the norm for Sacramento.”

Police escalated their response to the protest after receiving reports of cars getting “keyed” in the Fab 40’s. Hahn said “there were some cars keyed, but I couldn’t tell you how many or where they were at.

Will arrests backfire on police?

5:14 p.m.: The venue had shifted to the Freeport police station but Tanya Faison, like many demonstrators, couldn’t shake the memories of Monday night’s march in East Sacramento, which ended with 84 arrests.

Faison, the founder of Black Lives Matter Sacramento, said the heavy police turnout was in direct correlation to the location, one of the most upscale sections of the city.

“”We’ve never had that type of police presence when we’ve protested, but we’ve never been in the Fabulous 40s, either,” Faison said. “I think it was in response to us being in a neighborhood that’s a really rich white neighborhood.”

She added that the fact that those arrested included clergy, media members and legal observers will lead to considerable problems for the department. “It’s going to come down pretty hard on the Police Department,” Faison said.

She pinned much of the blame on police Capt. Norm Leong, whom she said “gave the orders to Sac PD to act the way they did.”

Leong, reached by The Bee, said he is “part of the command staff that has been dealing with the protests over the past year” but hasn’t been acting alone.

‘Black lives must matter’

4:59 p.m.: Breanna Martin, one of the protesters at Freeport, said she won’t stop demonstrating until the two police officers who killed Clark are fired and prosecuted.

“We will occupy this space, we will be heard, because black lives must matter now,” she said.

Recalling her arrest

4:05 p.m.: The Rev. Pamela Anderson, of the Presbytery of Sacramento, arrived at the police station and recalled how she was among 84 people arrested last night at the end of the march through East Sacramento.

Anderson said she and other clergy were at the march “to create space” between protesters and riot police as the situation grew increasingly tense.

She said she was surprised when police started arresting her and others, and the scene was surreal.

“It was like something out of a movie — there was a helicopter overhead, our shadows were all over the ground.

“We were just trying to get everybody to remain calm.”

Starting in the lot

4 p.m.: The protest was initially confined to the parking lot of the station, although Black Lives Matter organizer Sonia Lewis said Monday that protesters planned to enter the building. A police spokesman said demonstrators would be allowed inside as long as they didn’t cause damage or endanger safety.

Protesters came prepared with food, drinks and a pop-up shelter on a drizzly afternoon. The pop-up was erected right in front of the building entrance, and placards protesting the Clark shooting were being held up by a couple dozen protesters.

As is customary, observers were on hand from the National Lawyers Guild. Guild observers were in attendance Monday night when 84 protesters were arrested at the conclusion of the lengthy march through the Fab 40s neighborhood in East Sacramento.

Protests anticipated at City Council meeting

5:15 p.m.

Sacramento police chief Daniel Hahn, speaking at the meeting regarding Monday night’s arrests, said “I’m not gonna give a lot of specifics tonight because quite frankly I don’t have a lot of specifics,” eliciting boos from the crowd and prompting Steinberg to call for order again.

Hahn said that as the capital of California, Sacramento sees many protests, but this most recent one was atypical in its number of arrests and the arrest of media personnel.

“I’d be happy to come back in a couple weeks and give you the update of the facts that we’ve revealed, but I’d be a little remiss if I tried to guess at what the facts are now,” Hahn said.

Flojaune Cofer, speaking during public comment, said that she was struck by police with batons.

“They behaved in a way I could only describe as monstrous,” she said.

5 p.m. City Hall had prepared for potential protests with two metal detectors moved just inside the lobby doors, a step up from its usual one positioned at the chamber entryway.

Just before the meeting got underway, the chambers were about 80 percent full.

Calling for order at the beginning of the meeting, Steinberg said “The last thing I want to do tonight is ask someone to leave.”

After reciting the pledge of allegiance, some members of the audience shouted “justice for all.” Steinberg asked people to not shout out, assuring them that everyone would have a chance to be heard.

3:45 p.m. Sacramento Superior Court officials announced the Sacramento downtown courthouse and jail were scheduled to close at 4 p.m. ahead of anticipated protests.

The six-story downtown courthouse sits less than a half-block from Sacramento City Hall, the site of Tuesday’s City Council meeting and the scene of fiery protests in the days after Clark’s death in March.

The Sacramento County Main Jail was also a target for demonstrators who took to downtown Sacramento streets during days of protest last spring.

Recap leading up to Tuesday

Protests were expected at Sacramento City Council’s scheduled meeting Tuesday following Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s decision to not press charges against the Sacramento police officers who killed Stephon Clark in March.

Arden Fair mall was shut down Sunday following Schubert’s Saturday announcement when a handful of protesters staged a sit-in.

Monday evening, protesters marched from Trader Joe’s in East Sacramento through the wealthy Fab 40s neighborhood, ending when police ordered marchers to disperse and arrested 84 people, including clergy and journalists.

In a statement following the arrests, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he was “disappointed the protest ended the way it did,” and the following morning asked the Office of Public Safety Accountability to investigate the actions made by law enforcement.

Tuesday afternoon, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced his investigation into the death of the unarmed 22-year-old black man in his grandparents’ Meadowview backyard also found no cause to charge the two involved officers.

Follow more of our reporting on Shooting of Stephon Clark

See all 10 stories
Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Dale Kasler covers climate change, the environment, economics and the convoluted world of California water. He also covers major enterprise stories for McClatchy’s Western newspapers. He joined The Bee in 1996 from the Des Moines Register and graduated from Northwestern University.