California AG does not charge Sacramento police officers with Stephon Clark's death
Protesters disrupted the Sacramento City Council meeting Monday night, spurred by the decision by the state Attorney General not to charge two police officers in a fatal shooting.
For activists, it was the second blow in four days: following Saturday's announcement by the Sacramento County District Attorney, also clearing the officers in the death of 22 year old Stephon Clark almost a year ago.
Police critics also have a fresh complaint: the detention of 80 people at a protest Monday night.
"We want all of the charges against those arrested dropped", said one speaker, eliciting cheers from the audience, which packed the council chambers.
During the public comment portion of the agenda, speakers lined up, given 3 minutes each.
When Mayor Darrell Steinberg enforced the time limit, he was booed, and at one point, a speaker refused to go back to his seat.
"You're done, sit down, sit down or leave," said the mayor, as the man jumped up on a table, bringing police from the sidelines.
The crowd stood and began chanting, "Say his name, Stephon Clark, say his name, Stephon Clark," which triggered a brief recess as the council left the room.
Outside City Hall, dozens of people who couldn't get seats, erupted into cheers as well. The overflow crowd had been watching the meeting on a video feed. Eventually, the meeting and the public comment resumed.
Tensions with police are as high as they've been since officers pursuing Clark for neighborhood vandalism, chased him into a backyard and shot him, mistaking his cell phone for a gun.
"These kinds of tragedies, they're tough," said Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who said his review found the officers had reasonable fear for their lives, based on Clark's behavior, fleeing and taking a crouching stance.
"There's no win here, and we've got to find a way to move forward," said Becerra.
But community leaders say conciliation took a big detour when Monday's peaceful protest, through an East Sacramento neighborhood, turned rough, with police reportedly shoving and batoning activists, students, and clergy.
"What in the hell was that about last night ?" demanded Rev. Kevin Ross of the Unity of Sacramento Church.
"We were severely failed last night, and it was the shame of the nation."
Many in the audience told the council, they were trying to disperse, as ordered, when officers got physical.
"To push young folks who had their hands up and were completely being non-violent, into the bushes and hit them with batons is unacceptable," said speaker
Brianna Osborne, a college student.
"We did nothing last night but stand in our basic rights in peace and were met with complete terror."
The mayor has said is disappointed by the police tactics and wants answers. Faith leaders plead that any progress forged during the past year, should not evaporate.
"The situation could have gone very bad, very quick," said Rev. Pamela Anderson of the Sacramento Presbyterian Church.
"Thank God that did not happen. Let us not have this ever happen again. We are better than this."
The council adjourned without making remarks.
Stephon Clark's advocates turn now to a U.S. Department of Justice review, newly announced, examining if his civil rights were violated.
Sacramento is bracing for more turmoil as the one-year anniversary of his death looms March 18.
"This is a moment for moral courage, a moment for leaders to have leadership," said Rev. Mary Westfall of the Davis Community Church, " and there is a community that wants to live in peace. Can we make it so ?"
Mobile users can read the AG's report here.