ACT in Action
Most powerful at last night’s Board meeting were the voices and stories of high school students from throughout the District. Every single student in attendance demanded the Board acknowledge their negative and traumatic experiences with police officers on campus and reject the contract in order to find alternatives to policing. As Stephanie López Hernández, high school student at Luther Burbank and member of Brown Issues states, “Nearly all the research about police on campus shows that it undermines safety and harms students, but the Board could have simply listened to the voices of Black and Brown students here in their own District. We live it every single day. Voting to extend this contract is a betrayal of the trust Board members have tried to build with our communities. They were more concerned with temporary inconveniencing school administrators than the lifetime of trauma and criminalization that’s triggered when there are cops on campus. We need more counselors, more teachers, more support; not more cops.“
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 saw Stephon Clark die twice. March 18, 2018, and we saw him die March 2, 2019, today, in how he was referred to, and then no accountability of these officers... This is no justice for the Clark family and no justice for the side of what we call Beloved Community, right? Dr. King lifted up the idea of Beloved Community, which stands on justice, which stands on love, which stands on belonging, and this is not that. I think we have an opportunity in Sacramento to lead not only the state but the nation in redefining what justice looks like for these incidents.” Pastor Les Simmons
"We don't believe the DA's findings represents what justice is for this community, for this city, for this state, and for this nation," said Pastor Lee Simmons.
The news conference was co-organized by Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT).
"Police officers who police the black community should be trained in de-escalation and mental health tactics, and if they don't have this type of training, then maybe those police officers shouldn't be policing our communities," said Allegra Taylor with Sacramento ACT.
Also represented was the Muslim faith through civil rights attorney Saad Sweilem, with the Sacramento Valley chapter of CAIR (Council on American–Islamic Relations).
"It's taken only two days after Black History Month for us to be reminded that the journey of our black brothers and sisters to obtain justice and equality before the law is still as much a struggle today as it has ever been before," Sweilem said. "For as long as we have laws that enforce racist policing, inform biased trainings and excuse the senseless murders of unarmed black men like Stephon Clark, there is no justice and no equality."
Allegra Taylor, with Sacramento ACT, began her response with an African proverb: “The child that is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.”
She called for the city to implement a higher standard for use of deadly force that mirrors AB 392.
As a coalition of faith communities, Sacramento ACT holds that every single person’s life is valuable to God and to the human family. As long as black lives do not matter to many of those in power, we cannot say all lives matter.
Police accountability is now the subject of one of SacAct’s organizing campaigns. Their initiative is called HEAT, which stands for Hiring Equipment Accountability and Training. Flores said they have met with Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn in recent months and plan to offer a number of recommendations to improve the relationship between police and community members in some areas.
Any day now, the city is expecting the district attorney to announce whether or not the two officers who shot him will face criminal charges.
In the meantime, Sacramento faith leaders have been preparing to deal with the fallout of that decision.
"I think there could be some situations when the DA comes out with the findings for the killing of Stephon Clark that I think clergy will be called on to help heal, to help stand, to help community through really a moment," said Pastor Les Simmons with Sacramento Area Congregations Together.
It’s that moment Sacramento Area Congregations Together, or ACT, wants to be ready for.
"These are faith leaders that have been in position already waiting for almost a year now," said Pastor Joy Johnson, president of ACT. "And so, we’re coming together and gleaning some support from each one of the houses of faith that would be represented."
"If the DA doesn't convict, how does the city step in place to say that's not the style of policing that this community is asking for?" said Pastor Les Simmons with Sacramento Area Congregations. "That's the standard that we have to set as a community."
In March 2018, Sacramento police officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, the latest in a string of law enforcement killings of unarmed black men.
This fractured the community and galvanized mass protests, vigils and attendance at City Council meetings all invoking two basic demands: more accountability and transparency at the Sacramento Police Department, Sacramento Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s office.
As the community awaits the findings on the officer involvement in Clark’s death, it is imperative that these demands are met in order to rebuild community trust. Even in the midst of so much pain, grief and anger, the community has worked together at different levels to bring about healing, hope, change and justice.
Allegra Taylor of Sacramento ACT, an advocacy group, said at the meeting that there’s a double-standard – she thinks if black McClatchy students had posted an offensive video online, they would have already been suspended or expelled.
“The same way you quickly penalize, suspend, expel black children is the same way we want to see you quickly deal with these two children of privilege, who felt that they had a right to do what they did,” Taylor told the board. “It was cruel, it was hatred, it was racist, and we want you to do something about it.”