Tonight at a special city council meeting in Sacramento, residents expressed their anger about police brutality and longstanding economic and social conditions nine days after the death of 22-year old Stephon Clark. Clark was shot to death by Sacramento police on March 18 in his grandparents’ backyard while holding a cell phone.
The Sacramento Bee reported that around 5 p.m., as the meeting started, mayor Darrell Steinberg asked for a moment of silence. Stevante Clark, Stephon Clark’s brother, burst in while councilman Larry Carr was speaking and led a chant of his brother’s name. He then took control of the podium and faced the audience.
“The gangbanging has to stop. The poverty is uncontrollable. I need y’all to hear me,” Clark said. Steinberg repeatedly tried to get Clark to stop talking, after which someone in the audience told Steinberg to shut up. “Thank you,” Clark responded. “Someone tell him to shut the fuck up, please.”
Steinberg then called a fifteen minute recess. Later, the mayor struggled to keep control of the chamber and repeatedly cut off speakers, citing time constraints. There was also a heavy police presence at the meeting:
Despite that, Sacramento residents made clear their frustration with the city’s handling of police brutality and poverty.
“I’m here as a mother of three black children. They are on spring break this week and I’ve been trying my best to hold myself together,” said Anita Ross, who runs a Sacramento-based organization called Women For Equality. “I refuse to sit idly by while our city and our nation tries to give my son any other message than that he is worthy, that he is exquisite, and that he gets to live.”
“The action that we demand is that city that we love stop killing us. Stop ignoring that we have a problem with race, equity, and inclusion throughout our city government,” Malaki Seku-Amen of the California Urban Partnership said. “Many of us can appreciate the value of an independent investigation, but let’s be clear, we have always been the first ones to call for peace. We deserve to live free in these streets...this city is killing us, and we demand that equity becomes a priority and we demand justice for Stephon Clark.”
Debra Cummings, a resident, told the council that her brother was murdered in 1996, and that the council hasn’t done enough to help families who have lost loved ones to gun violence. “We have a lot of Stephon Clarks, but we don’t have city councillors who make sure mothers and siblings get decent counseling,” Cummings said. “I had to watch my mom die in my home because my brother was shot.”
In a repeat of last Thursday, protesters shut down the entrance to the Sacramento Kings-Dallas Mavericks game. NBC Sports reporter James Ham said that an estimated 4,000 fans were able to gain access to the arena before the lockdown.
“No one was being heard at the City Council meeting,” protester Tyrone Brown told the Sacramento Bee. “They decided to come down here and go for a bigger platform.”
“You need to hear the voice of the people out there who know their oppressors best,” Conrad Crump, a former staffer at the California State Assembly, said of the protests during the city council meeting. Added another man: “These protests have been mostly peaceful. The only violence that was committed was by the two police officers who shot Stephon Clark.”
“As a young black man, I’m not afraid to stand up and speak out about what’s going in our society,” said 13-year old Elijah Wallace.
“We have a reason to be upset, because this happens almost every day that an African-American is getting killed in the streets, or just walking home being harassed by a policeman,” Wallace told the city council. “I think we should come together and make sure this violence stops.”
The officers who shot and killed Clark have been placed on paid administrative leave. Earlier on Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said his office would oversee the investigation. “Our independent oversight of the investigation and our separate review of the department will be based on the facts and the law,” Becerra told reporters.