SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Hundreds of people have taken to the streets here to protest the police killing of 22-year-old Stephon Clark March 18. Cops fired more than 20 bullets at Clark, who was unarmed, standing in the backyard of his grandmother’s home where he lived. The cops claim they heard reports someone was breaking into cars and mistook the cellphone Clark was holding for a gun.
“As soon as they did the command to put his hands up, they yelled ‘gun’ and shot,” Clark’s grandmother, Sequita Thompson, said after viewing police video of the shooting, as have thousands since the cops released it. From the first glimpse of Clark on the patio to the first gunshot takes just six seconds.
For five minutes the cops did nothing to render first aid to Clark, who is African-American, as he lay motionless on the ground. They were waiting for backup, expressing concern about the number of neighbors coming out of their homes and hearing the shots. Both the shooting and the cops’ comments are caught on their body cameras and a video shot from a police helicopter.
On March 26, Thompson and other members of Clark’s family joined civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump and Black community leaders in a press conference. They demanded criminal charges be brought against the two cops, Jared Robinet, who is Caucasian, and Terrence Mercadal, who is Black.
“I want justice for my baby,” Thompson said. “Please give us justice.”
Crump has represented the families of earlier victims of vigilante and cop killings, including Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. At the press conference he called the killing an “execution.” Representatives of the California and Sacramento NAACP also spoke, vowing to keep pressure on the district attorney to bring charges.
Clark left behind two young sons, Cairo and Aiden, as well as his fiancé, Salena Manni.
Protests against the killing made national news when hundreds of demonstrators chanting Clark’s name blocked fans from entering a game by the Sacramento Kings basketball team.
At the Kings’ next game, players from both the Boston Celtics and the Kings wore black warm-up T-shirts with Stephon Clark’s name. The teams collaborated on a video showcasing players protesting the killing, saying, “We will not shut up and dribble.”
While in Sacramento to join in solidarity with those calling for the arrest and prosecution of the cops, members of the Socialist Workers Party spoke with people in the area where Clark lived.
Sameerah Muhammad, a home care worker, told us she was appalled at the number of bullets fired. Her mother, Kareemah Muhammad, said, “I don’t trust the cops. They get away with murder. If we did what they did, we’d get life in prison.”
More protests are scheduled throughout the week. Clark’s funeral is set for March 29.