UC Davis med students hold 'die-in' for Stephon Clark, call for equity in healthcare



Updated April 17, 2018 07:11 PM

Lying on the cement in front of the University of California, Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento, roughly 100 medical students participated in a "die-in" protest Tuesday, urging healthcare providers to do more to help people experiencing trauma after police incidents.

Tuesday's event was hosted by the school's chapter of White Coats 4 Black Lives, a national group founded in 2015 in the aftermath of the police shooting of Michael Brown and the in-custody death of Eric Garner.

UC Davis medical students focused on the recent officer-involved shooting of Stephon Clark, 22, who was killed March 18 in south Sacramento. The two Sacramento Police Department officers who fired their weapons said they believed Clark was holding a gun when they shot him, though no weapon was found by police — only a cellphone.

"We're basically just standing with our community," said Asadullah Awan, a medical student at the school and organizer for the event. "We're demanding police accountability. We're demanding our health care institutions do more trauma-informed care within our communities."

White Coats 4 Black Lives works to bring attention to the notion that police brutality isn't just harmful to individuals, it's harmful to communities — particularly black communities — and should be seen as a public health crisis, according to its website. The group also acknowledges that the field of medicine is not immune to racism, and strives to end inequities in how healthcare is provided.

On Tuesday, many students held cellphones in their hands, while others grasped signs with messages like "Black Lives Matter." Most wore white lab coats. The event was part of a national protest held at medical schools around the country, Awan said.

Local community leaders joined Tuesday's protest, calling for crisis response teams to help families cope with traumatic events like police shootings. Speakers included Basim Elkarra, who currently serves as the president of the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission, as well as Les Simmons, a local pastor and member of Sacramento Area Congregations Together.

Salena Manni, Clark's girlfriend and mother of their two children, also attended the event, accompanied by family members.

"We're calling for equity and health in our communities," Simmons told the crowd.

In past years, people affected by violent police incidents — from 911 callers to those who have lost a loved one — have spoken about the mental health impacts.

In the weeks following the Clark shooting, his brother, Stevante, was taken to an in-patient mental health facility, where he received help as he struggled with the loss of his sibling.

Naomi Montaie, the woman who filmed a Sacramento Police Department officer punching a black man in Del Paso Heights last year, recently told The Bee she was still traumatized by what she saw.