“Modern Day Lynching”: Sacramento In Wake of Stephon Clark Ruling

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What follows is a blow by blow account of what has been happening on the ground in Sacramento coupled with analysis of the State response and recent actions carried out by demonstrators. For background information on the police killing of Stephon Clark, check out this report from Colorlines.

Timeline:

  • March 18th, 2018: Stephon Clark, a 22 year old African-American man, was shot and killed by Sacramento Police. According to Colorlines: ” It was quickly revealed that he was holding a cell phone, and on Thursday (March 29), a report from pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu revealed that six of the eight bullets that hit Clark entered the back of his body, showing that the report that he was threatening the unnamed officers was false.” Demonstrations, blockades of sporting events, and freeway shutdowns are organized over the next few days.
  • March 2nd, 2019: Sacramento DA rules that police who shot and killed Stephon Clark will not face charges after leading a press conference justifying the killing and attacking Clark’s character. Marches quickly break out. Blue Lives Matter flags are burned outside of the police station. Local protest and faith leaders describe the decision as a “modern day lynching.” Calls go out over social media for continued demonstrations.
  • March 3, 2019: Successful shutdown demonstration organized at the Arden Mall. These actions following a trajectory from the year before, where people shut down several Sacramento Kings games. Small group of students organizes sleep-in protest at same mall. The Sacramento Bee reported: “Arden Fair mall closed without ever opening after 10 demonstrators who’d camped overnight in the mall’s central atrium planned a 1960s-style “teach-in” to talk to shoppers about racial justice. The mall originally planned to open but reversed course after executives consulted with Sacramento police and concluded that the protest might grow too big.”
  • March 4th, 2019: Shut-down of Arden Mall continues into second day. Mass marches take to the streets. 84 people are arrested later that night, including faith leaders and one journalist who is later released. Appears mass arrest happened as people were nearing major freeway. Confrontation with Trump supporter.
  • March 5rd, 2019: Sit-in organized at UC Davis library. Arrestees from the night before are released. Heated yelling matches at City Council meeting. According to KCRA 3: “California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Tuesday he will not file criminal charges against the two Sacramento police officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark.”

This past evening the police mass-arrested over 80 people at a protest demanding accountability for the murder of Stephon Clark. All except one person (we believe) were cited and released. The families, friends and comrades of the arrested were waiting with water, food, cigarettes, vapes and rides outside Cal Expo, a local fairground where the cops had apparently set up some “processing center.” The protest was diverse in many respects including age, race and neighborhood of residence. The citation was “failure to disperse’” but all of the arrestees were very intentionally cornered by police. The pretext seized upon was apparently some cars getting keyed. The police declared unlawful assembly “in the name of the people of California,” (LOL) and announced they may use “chemical agents” and “lethal or non-lethal force.”

The demonstration had been passionate but measured. It took place in East Sacramento, specifically a section known as the “fab 40s” because it is a posh neighborhood that organizers had chosen to demonstrate in.

We were bringing the problems of South Sac to the doorsteps of some of the city’s “upper crust.” At its peak the demo was around 200-300 people (just a guess, and not too shabby for a demo that was only called for the previous night), which dwindled to around 100 that got cornered. Some hopped fences to make it out of the cornered-off area and they were then instrumental in organizing support for the arrestees. The cornering and mass arresting happened around 9pm the release took place around 2am.

The existing situation of demos in Sacramento is that police follow the demo, block off streets and only begin serious repression if the demo is deemed un-peaceful or “out of control.”

There are people who mask up to go to these demonstrations and have established trust by not taking things farther than the core people calling the demos want it to go as far as rowdiness or what some might (mistakenly) call “militancy.” Around 20 or so people made an effort to mask up at this demo. More on this later.

Local reporters, their cameramen, Legal Observers and Clergy were arrested alongside anarchists, socialists and angry, unaffiliated youth. This all happened on the Tuesday following the Sunday announcement that District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert will not charge the officers who put eight bullets in Stephon Clark almost one year ago. It was the second demonstration after one the day of the announcement. More are planned already. Sacramento Black Lives Matter organizers have been holding cookouts outside DA Schubert’s downtown office three afternoons per week for most of that time, demanding that Schubert charge the officers for Stephon’s murder. Schubert’s record as an orchestrator of institutional white supremacy is clear, and charging the two officers would have been a clear departure from that record.

Moving Forward

There is likely to be a lot more public energy happening around this in the near future.       Institutional Left forces will likely channel this energy towards passing legislation to hold police more accountable and perhaps recalling the District Attorney and Sheriff, both of whom were just re-elected handily. In my honest opinion, trying to get laws passed to demilitarize the police and/or hold them more accountable is doable in this climate and not such a bad idea but it depends on the details of any bill in question. A recall effort however, is highly likely to be a massive boongooggle that might waste a ton of community labor and resources and achieve nothing at all. After many such conversations, this is the point I try to highlight when trying to deter people from putting their efforts into electoral politics. Many forms of organizing or mutual aid are bound to have an immediate positive impact, but this cannot be said for electoral campaigns.

Tomorrow people are expected to flood city council chambers with the rather abstract idea of “shutting it down.” In Sacramento, the battle over public comment at city council meetings has been fiercely contested, mostly by advocates for the homeless, (some of whom are homeless themselves) for years. Public comments are also aired on local public access TV and radio, and this is often cited as a reason why showing up to give public comment (which means giving up around 2 hours in order to speak publicly for 2 minutes) is worthwhile.       Obviously, this is also a highly dubious method of bringing about social change in my opinion. The biggest movement-building moment that took place at Sacramento City Hall in my memory was probably when Stephon’s brother hopped up on the council’s podium in the immediate aftermath of the murder, so in fairness it does make a difference sometimes and a lot of people still tend to turn to government to solve community problems, alas.

The rest of this week will be very interesting. People in Sacramento demonstrate during outpourings of discontent around police killings in other cities, and to be very real, seeing people in other cities holding solidarity demonstrations with us and for justice for all victims of state terror would mean A LOT right now to people in Sacramento. I’m gonna repeat that. Solidarity demos and actions in other cities that publicly lift Stephon’s name and the situation in Sacramento right now would mean a lot and could show people some of the power we have across all our communities.

Final Reflections

The part of this that was handled best by local partisans of justice was the solidarity with the – 84 arrestees, who had about 80 other people waiting for them as they got let out of custody. This was the kind of spontaneous yet organized anti-repression that makes the difference between what would have been a disheartening experience and an empowering, movement-building experience. Here are some things we could have handled better. While in custody together, some of the arrestees tried to sing but did not really know the words to any of the same songs. Nonetheless, this small effort was meaningful and helped some cope with their feelings. This may seem to some like an insignificant thing to point out, but culture really does make a movement much stronger and music is a big part of that. Music and food bring people together. Chants simply do not have the same power as songs.

Second thing is this: we have a missing number of people who are still in state custody and facing more serious charges. Solidarity with these people is the most important but has also been the most lacking. We will aim to correct this tomorrow and in coming days.

Third thing. People need to commit to masking up or not. If you are only masked up part of the time you might as well not be at all. Also using a long shirt as a mask/head covering is way more secure than using only a bandana. Although medics were not needed, there could have been more preparation in regards to the possible use of tear gas or other forms of indiscriminate force.

It would be great to read about any solidarity actions here on IGD. We will never undermine the power of the cops without undermining the larger power of the “moderate” and reactionary press first and that means both being and boosting our own media. I know tons of actions happen that never get documented or publicized and this is another thing we all should put more effort into.

We also remember the others whose lives have been unjustly taken by the enforcers of law in Sacramento:

Adriene Ludd

Dazion Flenaugh

Joseph Mann

Jason King

Lorenzo Cruz

Desmond Phillips

Ryan Ellis

Mikel McIntyre

Brandon Smith

Darell Richards

Marshall Miles


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