SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A series of protests have taken place here almost daily since Sacramento District Attorney Anne-Marie Schubert announced March 2 that no charges would be filed against Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, the cops who killed Stephon Clark on March 18, 2018. Twenty shots were fired at Clark, 22, who was in his grandmother’s backyard. All but one of the eight bullets that hit him were in the back. The police claimed they thought Clark had a gun, but he was holding a cellphone.
To bolster her decision to let the cops off, Schubert has gone on a campaign to slander Clark, attempting, as Malcolm X often said, to turn the victim into the criminal.
For over an hour she detailed personal information about Clark, including his previous arrest record and imprisonment. Schubert said that two days before he was shot, Salena Manni, the mother of Clark’s children, called police to say he had abused her. Schubert said text messages and internet searches cops took from Clark’s phone revealed he feared he would be sent back to prison. They said Clark had sent Manni text messages implying he wanted to kill himself.
Clark’s mother, SeQuette Clark, spoke out against the government’s crude attempt to smear him as an excuse for his being killed. “I don’t care if he was a criminal,” she told NPR. “What matters is how those officers came with lethal force around a corner, on a vandalism call, after my son and gunned him down — when he had nothing but a cellphone in his hand.”
Others interviewed by NPR agreed. “I feel like she was charging him with his own murder,” said Quenta Givens, who lives down the street from where Clark was killed. “Why are we judging him? He’s already been killed. We should be judging the cops — that’s who did it!”
Socialist Workers Party members Jeff Powers and Joel Britton went door to door March 8 in the working-class Meadowview neighborhood near where Clark had lived. They found people very willing to share their views with the Militant about the killing of Clark, as well as to discuss what workers face today. Most, but not all, strongly condemned the police killing and the fact that the cops who did it got off.
We met Mississippi Lau at one of the first doors where we knocked. She said she was Hmong Chinese and worked at a fast food restaurant as a prep chef. “The police should be punished too for taking a life of someone who wasn’t doing anything wrong,” she said.
Lau told us that a number of her young co-workers had scrapes with the law. “People shouldn’t be treated differently just because they have a record,” she said. “I know people who have been arrested and are doing good.” Lau bought a copy of the Militant and said she would decide about getting a subscription after she had a chance to read it.
Robert, an African-American worker who lives a few houses from Lau, wanted to tell us his opinion but didn’t want to give his last name. He said he had worked in a restaurant and has done many other jobs, but isn’t working now because of arthritis.
He didn’t think Clark was blameless. “If Clark hadn’t already been doing the things he was doing this wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “Yes, Black lives matter, all lives matter, but where was his father?
“I raised my three children and they are doing just fine,” he continued. “All three are working and they have good jobs. My oldest spent six years in the Navy.”
We talked about the crisis facing working people today. Robert bought a copy of In Defense of the US Working Class by SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters. He got a copy of the Militant and gave a $1 donation.
We spent half an hour talking with LB Robinson, who works in a small warehouse driving a forklift. “Wrong is wrong — the police killed an unarmed man in his grandmother’s backyard,” he said. “The police are trained. They wear protective vests. How can you think a cellphone is a gun? What happened to using tasers?”
Robinson bought a Militant subscription and a copy of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes. As we left, he said he would very much like us to come back and talk some more. We plan to.