Frustrated residents packed into Sacramento’s City Hall Tuesday to condemn the police response to a Monday night protest and decry the California attorney general’s decision to not bring charges against the officers who shot Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, last year.
The AG’s move continued a week of disappointment for Clark’s supporters after Sacramento County on Saturday also declined to bring charges.
An overflow crowd launched into chants of Clark’s name and, occasionally, shouted down council members as they vented their anger. The protest came nearly a year after two police officers shot and killed Clark in his grandmother’s backyard.
The meeting stopped for about 20 minutes at one point and council members left the chambers after a speaker climbed onto a table.
Several speakers at the meeting said that police officers were overzealous in arresting 84 people Monday as they protested the district attorney’s decision not to press charges against the officers in Clark’s death. Some faith leaders said they were there to support a peaceful, nonviolent protest, but that law enforcement didn’t allow demonstrators to disperse, trapping them with nowhere to go.
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn addressed the council Tuesday about the actions of his officers Monday night, saying that body camera footage will paint a clearer picture, CNN affiliate KOVR reported.
“I’d be happy to come back in a couple of weeks and give you the update on the facts that are revealed, but I would be a little remiss if I tried to say what the facts are right now,” Hahn said.
“Drop the charges,” the crowd chanted, referring to those who were arrested the night before.
Emotions ran raw throughout the meeting, showing the increased tension between community members of color and the police.
“We’re always going to jail,” one woman yelled in one video captured at the meeting. “We’re always getting shot. We’re always getting beat.”
The anger toward police was palpable, especially following the decisions by both the California Attorney General and the county’s district attorney not to bring charges against the two Sacramento officers who killed Clark.
“Fire the officers!” they yelled.
At one point, a man climbed on top of a table and shouted profanities. Officers had to come forward to intervene as people began to get heated. The crowd chanted, “Shut it down” and “Stephon Clark.” The man was escorted out, while people shouted at each other.
The death of Stephon Clark
On March 18, 2018, Clark was shot by two Sacramento officers who were responding to a report that a man had broken car windows and was hiding in a backyard. Police said they fired at Clark because they believed he was pointing a gun at them, but only a cellphone was found at the scene.
Clark, was shot seven times, including three times in the back, according to an autopsy released by the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office. An independent autopsy found that Clark was shot eight times, with six of those wounds in his back, according to a forensic pathologist retained by Clark’s family.
His death triggered days of protest last year with demonstrators sprawling out into the streets, city council and outside the basketball arena. Protesters demanded police accountability, part of the broader Black Lives Matter movement.
The events unfolding this week were similar to what had transpired nearly a year ago.
Protesters expressed outrage over the lack of charges – another strain in the relationship between the police and the community. Some gathered outside police headquarters, while some people went to the city council meeting Tuesday. Many chanted “No justice, no peace”
The US Attorney’s Office and FBI said that they will examine whether the shooting violated Clark’s federal civil rights.
A call for healing
About 10 miles away from City Hall, the mood was different at the South Sacramento Christian Center. The Sacramento Kings partnered with activists to host a justice and healing forum, CNN affiliate KCRA reported.
Retired Sacramento Kings player and commentator Doug Christie told the audience that the pain can fuel some of kind of change.
“It hurts a lot of times, but pain is one of the catalysts for good things,” he said. “And as unfortunate as that is, that’s why I say: ‘Can we make something positive come out of Stephon Clark’s situation, where maybe there’s some kids right now that have no idea that they’re going to be blessed in elementary school and we’re going to watch them go through college.’”
“We’re really trying to make sure that this is not just a moment, that this tragedy really moves into a movement,” event organizer Kindra Montgomery-Block said.
CNN’s Sarah Moon, Eric Levenson and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.