A boisterous crowd of 75 people marched from Southside Park to the state Capitol on Saturday morning, chanting “Hands up don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe” to draw attention to the deaths of young black men at the hands of police.
The “Just Justice” protest, organized by the Sacramento chapter of the NAACP, brought out people from all walks of life – activists, pastors and students.
A separate demonstration, organized by the California Campaign to End Police Terror, found another 75 protesters marching through midtown and downtown streets Saturday night, causing traffic disruptions.
The Sacramento demonstrations coincided with rallies across the nation, including an emotional event in Washington, D.C., that drew thousands and was led by family members of the slain black men.
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“Our voices haven’t been heard,” said Stephen T. Webb, president of the NAACP Sacramento chapter. “We need results. We need change.”
The local NAACP in recent months has organized several public forums to discuss the events in Ferguson, Mo., where an 18-year-old unarmed black man, Michael Brown, was shot to death by a white police officer, Darren Wilson.
The shooting came weeks after Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, died in New York when a white police officer subdued him with a chokehold.
In both cases, grand juries declined to indict the officers involved, stirring charges of police brutality and exacerbating race relations.
Armaad Davis, 16, of Sacramento, participated in Saturday’s rally because he was “personally offended” by the recent events.
“I am concerned that I will be targeted and stopped,” said Davis, a black high school student. “Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet.”
The gathering got off to a slow start at 10 a.m. in Southside Park and was delayed because of the Santa parade taking place around the state Capitol.
By 11 a.m., organizers were given permission to march to the Capitol, where they greeted families and young children in Santa costumes leaving the parade. The peaceful crowd was escorted by an entourage of six police officers on bicycle.
At one point, demonstrators tried to drown out the blaring Christmas music with their bullhorns. Some parade watchers snapped photos of protesters, while others grabbed their toddlers and headed for the car.
“What’s going on?” one young girl asked her mother.
A separate rally was held Saturday evening, with protesters gathering at 20th and J streets. With the monthly Second Saturday art walk underway, demonstrators used multi-colored chalk to write slogans in the streets and on a sidewalk near the MARRS building. Neighboring businesses continued operating as usual.
The protesters then took to the streets, with a police presence in tow, and caused traffic disruptions as marchers moved along L Street toward the state Capitol. Some patrons outside the Kennedy Gallery at 19th and L streets clapped in support as the protesters marched in front of them. The demonstrators later stopped at the Sacramento Community Center Theater, where a performance of “The Nutcracker” was underway, and held a “die-in” near the front entrance.
Webb noted that Sacramento has made significant progress in race relations, pointing to Mayor Kevin Johnson and several other leaders in the region who are African American.
But City Councilman Rick Jennings warned the morning protest crowd about complacency.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Jennings said.
Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.