Police Arrest 84 After Stephon Clark Protest In East Sacramento

Sacramento police arrested 84 people after demonstrators marched through the city's affluent East Sacramento neighborhood Monday, protesting the district attorney's decision not to bring criminal charges against the officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark last March.

Those arrested include Pastor Les Simmons of Sacramento Area Congregations Together, a prominent figure in actions around the Clark cause over the past year, two journalists, and students who were part of a group that shut down the Arden Fair Mall on Sunday.

The actions by police were a stark contrast to when demonstrations erupted after Clark's death last year when only a handful of arrests were made despite protestors shutting down Interstate 5 and blocking fans from entering a Sacramento Kings basketball game.

While those previous demonstrations targeted downtown Sacramento, this was the first to take place in a wealthier, predominantly white part of the city.

"We’ve had protests in other neighborhoods and this kind of response has not happened," said Tanya Faison, the founder of the Sacramento Black Lives Matter chapter who participated in the march. "It proves that everything our DA has said, everything our chief has said, and everything our mayor has said was all words."

People are meeting in a Trader Joe's parking lot in East Sacramento to protest the Sacramento district attorney's decision not to bring criminal charges against the officers who shot and killed Stephon

The march began around 6:30 p.m. at a Trader Joe's grocery store on Folsom Boulevard, winding through the "Fab 40s" section of East Sacramento before making its way back to Trader Joe's around 9 p.m.

Many East Sacramento residents said they disapproved of demonstrators targeting the neighborhood, but would not go on the record with Capital Public Radio. Others were supportive, even joining the march in some cases.

Laura Dunkelburger, who lives blocks away from the Trader Joe’s where the march began, said she joined the demonstration after learning about it on social media.

“It seems like everyone in this neighborhood is in fear driving off,” she said. “I saw this on Twitter and was like I’m going to come support.”

Police spokesperson Sgt. Vance Chandler said the arrests took place after a property owner reported that cars in the area had been keyed. He says officers gave 10 orders to disperse due to unlawful assembly over a 2-hour period.

"Shortly after we started monitoring the group at approx 7:30 p.m., we established the group was unlawfully assembling by standing in the street," Chandler said. "We also received information that multiple vehicles in the area were vandalized."

After police ordered demonstrators to disperse, protest organizers began to encourage people to leave. Some did, while others stayed near the grocery store parking lot and eventually moved down 51st Street to a bridge over Highway 50. Chandler said six people were arrested near the parking lot.

The other demonstrators kept moving onto the bridge, where they were blocked by a line of other officers. Police began detaining and arresting people in small groups, eventually arrested 79 individuals.

"I was following the marchers as they crossed the freeway overpass on 51st Street," said Dale Kasler, a reporter for The Sacramento Bee who was detained and released without being arrested. "It became apparent as we got to the other side that there was nowhere to go and that the police had basically sealed everything off.

"There were 50, 60, 70 people all just sort of cordoned off into this small area at the south end of the overpass," Kasler said. "They just came and started detaining everyone, one by one. And I got caught up in that."

Dozens of people sat with their hands zip-tied behind their backs and seated on the sidewalk before being loaded onto vans. Chandler said they would be transported to an offsite location — later identified as Cal Expo, the site of the California State Fair — and processed, where they would be either cited or arrested. 

Despite the large number of arrests compared to previous demonstrations, Chandler said there have been no changes in how the department responds to protests.

"Each protest moving forward we will evaluate the circumstances and make the best decisions at the time to make sure we keep our community safe and allow people to express themselves the opportunity to express themselves in a peaceful manner without causing any harm to people or causing any property damage," he said.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg tweeted he was disappointed in how the protest ended, but had questions about what led to the arrests.

"No matter the reason an order to disperse was given, no member of the press should be detained for doing their job," Steinberg wrote.

The arrests also came as a surprise to many of the activists who left after the initial dispersal orders from police.

"I’m pissed, I’m angry. I’m frustrated," said Berry Accius, an organizer with Voices of Youth. "I thought everything was cool, we were about to end the protest … we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish and to get a phone call 30 or 40 minutes later and hearing my comrades, some of my friends, [Pastor] Les Simmons, some of my young people that I was with protesting shutting down the mall have been arrested today, and all for what?"

The march comes two days after Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced she would not file criminal charges against the two police officers who killed Stephon Clark last March.

The officers, Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, were responding to a 911 call of a man breaking car windows in the South Sacramento neighborhood of Meadowview. The two officers pursued Clark into a backyard — which they later learned was his grandmother’s home — where they shot him multiple times. The officers said they believed Clark had a gun, but police only discovered a cell phone next to his body.

After the police department released body-camera videos from the shooting, demonstrators spilled into the streets of downtown Sacramento, at one point bringing traffic on Interstate 5 to a stop and blocking thousands of fans from entering a Sacramento Kings game.

On Monday the Kings announced increased security around the Golden 1 arena before this evening's game, including closing the arena plaza and some Downtown Commons stores. The Downtown Sacramento Partnership also sent a notice to businesses warning of "possible traffic delays and protests."