At least 84 people were arrested Monday night in Sacramento, California, during a protest that was organized in response to the district attorney’s decision not to pursue charges against the officers who killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man.
Three reporters, including a longtime reporter at the Sacramento Bee, and several clergy members, were among those detained. A photographer at the Bee said on a live stream that police knew that his colleague Dale Kasey was a member of the news media but detained him anyway.
Rev. Shane Harris, a minister from San Diego, was arrested for the first time in his life at the protest. “It was pretty traumatizing,” Harris told reporters after he was released. “But at the same time, it’s what black and brown men go through across the country every day. I honor Stephon Clark with it.”
Scores of protesters assembled in a Trader Joe’s parking lot at around 6:30 p.m. and started marching through East Sacramento, an affluent, mostly white neighborhood, chanting “Whose streets? Our streets.” Protest organizers said they chose East Sacramento because it’s “one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the City of Sacramento and home to many influential leaders in city and state government.”
A few hours later, police ordered the crowd to disperse. Until then, the demonstration had been mostly peaceful, though reporters on the ground described a handful of flare-ups, including one incident where an individual in a red MAGA hat, identified in reports as Dan Iverson, confronted protesters. Iverson told reporters that he decided to come to the protest wearing the hat because he wanted to see what would happen.
Sgt. Vance Chandler from the Sacramento police department said that they received reports from residents that protesters were keying cars during the march, and began monitoring the group around 7.30 p.m.
Chandler told reporters that officers gave 10 orders to disperse due to unlawful assembly. Protest organizers encouraged people to leave in response to the dispersal orders. The remaining protesters continued to march, but were ultimately contained by police, who arrested at least 84 people in total.
In what appeared to be a veiled criticism of Sacramento police’s actions, Mayor Darrell Steinberg wrote on Twitter that he was “very disappointed the protest ended the way it did.”
“I have many questions about what precipitated the order to disperse and the subsequent arrests,” Steinberg wrote. “No matter the reason an order to disperse was given, no member of the press should be detained for doing their job.” Steinberg, a Democrat, added that he would refrain from commenting further until he got more information.
Sacramento’s District Attorney Anne-Marie Schubert announced on Saturday that her office wouldn’t pursue charges against the two officers who shot 22-year-old Clark seven times in the back while he was standing in his grandmother’s backyard almost a year ago.
The officers originally claimed that they thought Clark was holding a gun, and later said they thought he was holding a toolbar. All he had was an iPhone. Schubert said that the shooting was justified under California’s law governing use of deadly force.
Activists are now ramping up pressure on California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has been conducting an independent investigation into Clark’s death, to supersede Schubert’s decision and file charges against the officers involved.
Cover image: Black Lives Matter protesters march through the streets as they demonstrate the decision by Sacramento District Attorney to not charge the Sacramento police officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark last year on March 04, 2019 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)