Anticipating the types of protests that barred many Kings fans from two games last season, security measures were stepped up around Golden 1 Center on Monday morning.
Inside, as the Kings hosted the New York Knicks, it was business as usual, as no large-scale protesting was evident outside the arena in the hours leading to the game.
Monday night’s demonstrations — which came two days after it was announced police officers would not be charged in the shooting death of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man holding a cellphone when he was fatally shot in his grandparents’ backyard — instead took place in the wealthy East Sacramento neighborhood.
The Kings on Monday morning issued a statement, saying, “The plaza will close in the early afternoon and will only re-open to ticketed guests to ensure safe entry into the arena for the game tonight. Ticket checks will be in place on the perimeter of the plaza and an increased security presence will be on-site to assist ticketed guests.”
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Fences were put up around the plaza around the arena several hours before Monday’s game to prevent the actions that kept thousands of paying customers away last year, first against the Atlanta Hawks on March 22 and again when the Kings hosted the Dallas Mavericks five days later. Clark, 22, was killed March 18, 2018.
The arena, which lists sellouts at 17,583 in attendance, didn’t appear to be at capacity at tipoff Monday night, but the crowd was by far bigger than the estimated crowds of 2,000 and 4,000 for last season’s games when the protests were held.
As the team celebrated Latino Heritage Night with “Los Kings” warmup shirts, there was no visible evidence of apparel related to Clark, unlike last season, when the Kings and Boston Celtics wore shirts in tribute before a game March 25, 2018; or this past weekend, when Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, a former King, wrote “#StephonClark” on his shoes hours after Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced there would be no charges filed against the officers who fatally shot Clark.