‘Hands up! Don’t shoot!’: Sacramento activists protest law enforcement in Ferguson and beyond

Nearly 200 fed-up protesters showed up this past Sunday outside downtown’s jail

Protesters outside the downtown jail this past Sunday.

Protesters outside the downtown jail this past Sunday.

Out front of the downtown jail this past Sunday afternoon, activists stood in the middle of I Street chanting, holding signs and raising hands in the air. Berry Accius, a black man in a pink polo shirt, yelled so loud, he appeared to nearly lose his voice:

“Hands up!” he shouted.

Others quickly hollered back, “Don’t shoot!”

Traffic inched by in the only open lane, many drivers laying on their horns as the chanting continued for more than an hour:

Hands up! Don’t Shoot!”

No justice, no peace!”

The sayings are references to the killing of Ferguson, Mo., teenager Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old who was shot six times by a white police officer on August 9. Brown’s death—according to multiple witnesses, he was shot with his hands raised in the air—has sparked protests in the small St. Louis suburb, a media frenzy on TV, and also a big-picture discussion about race and inequality in America.

This past weekend, after a week of late-night activism and looting, Missouri’s governor implemented a midnight curfew in Ferguson. Hundreds of officers and the National Guard used tear gas, rubber bullets and other tactics to send the protesters back to their homes. Dozens of international media outlets attempted to document the response despite inconsistent cooperation from Missouri law enforcement.

Now, the national media’s coverage of the event is near-constant. Photos and video of mostly white and well-armed police—think ruggedized gear, automatic weapons and armored vehicles—facing off against black residents, some throwing bricks or rocks, are shared all over social-media sites.

Accius is CEO of Voice of the Youth, a local group that helps out inner-city kids. He’s been watching the protests closely. He and others here in Sacramento say they’ve had enough with how law enforcement is behaving in Missouri.

“It looked like it they were dealing with terrorists that came to attack America,” Accius said of the police response toward the protesters.

Berry Accius leads the crowd in chanting during Sunday’s action protesting police violence in Ferguson, Mo.

He said he was impressed and astonished by the number of people who showed up this weekend in Sacramento to show solidarity with residents of Ferguson. “The beautiful thing about being out here today is that all cultures are out here.”

Indeed, the 150-plus crowd included a mix of races and ages—a diversity that belies the reality in Ferguson, where a majority of the residents are black, but the bulk of law enforcement is white.

“That’s the biggest thing America needs to learn from this,” Accius said, “that racism still exists.”

South Sacramento resident Maharisha Belton told SN&R that she showed up at the rally because what’s happening in Ferguson happens everywhere. “There’s just too many bad cops,” she said.

Belton rides light rail often and said she regularly witnesses law enforcement harassing black people. “I see a lot of them stopping black males, handcuffing them, putting on them on the ground. They run their name, then let them go. It seems like every Friday it’s the same thing.”

She said the Ferguson Police Department’s protection of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, is unacceptable. “I would, for once, just like to see a cop brought to justice.”

During Sunday’s rally, city police allowed the protesters to stand in the road. Officers even shut down two lanes of I Street traffic for the group—this despite the fact that they did not have a permit for its action—a far cry from the law’s approach in Missouri.

The event, which began at 1 p.m. outside the county jail near Sixth Street, featured dozens of signs: “Stop police brutality,” “Film the police. Who’s watching them?” and “Justice for Mike Brown.”

Protesters said they would like to see cameras documenting law-enforcement officers at all times. They would also like to see independent reviews of all officer-involved shootings—a policy that is no longer in effect here in Sacramento.

Aaron Olgun drove to Sunday’s protest from his home in nearby Vallejo. He held a sign showing a picture of his brother, U.S. Marine veteran Allan DeVillena, who was also unarmed when he was shot by law enforcement in Palm Springs in 2012.

“He was leaving a parking garage with a fellow marine when two bicycle officers opened fire on him for no apparent reason,” Olgun said. He said people can learn more about his brother’s case at www.ajdevillena.com.

“We need more people policing the police,” Olgun said, adding that his brother is not alone: There’s Oscar Grant, who was shot by a BART cop in the East Bay, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, who recently was killed by a New York Police Department officer. Plus dozens upon dozens of others.

“The police are their own gang,” Accius told SN&R. “And people are fed up.”