That’s rich

Police corner and arrest more than 80 Stephon Clark demonstrators near affluent East Sacramento neighborhood

Demonstrators and their allies face a large battalion of police officers during a tense moment Monday night.

Demonstrators and their allies face a large battalion of police officers during a tense moment Monday night.

Photo by Dave Kempa

This story has been updated from its print version.

Demonstrators outfoxed police Monday evening, piloting a surgically disruptive march through one of Sacramento’s richest neighborhoods. Police, who beefed up security around the Golden 1 Center before the night’s Kings game, responded with overwhelming force—and escalated tensions at a raw moment in the city.

Two days after Sacramento County’s district attorney said she would not file criminal charges against the two officers who killed Stephon Clark—and 12 hours before California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the same—police arrested 84 people on a Highway 50 overpass near 51st Street.

Friday, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s office announced none of the 84 would be charged, “in the interest of justice.” Later Friday, the Sacramento Police Department issued a press release defending the arrests and said its investigation is continuing.

Numerous participants and witnesses said the quickly planned march, which began at a Trader Joe’s on Folsom Boulevard and 50th Street before cutting through the Fab 40s neighborhood—the affluent heart of East Sacramento—was winding down when officers declared an unlawful assembly, hemmed in marchers and ordered them to disperse.

Around 10:30 p.m. Monday, community activist Berry Accius said he had just left the march when he got word that Les Simmons, a South Sacramento pastor, had been arrested. The Rev. Shane Harris, national president of the People’s Alliance for Justice, was also arrested. Reporters with the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento Business Journal and Sacramento State’s college paper were also detained.

That prompted Mayor Darrell Steinberg to demand a Tuesday morning audience with Police Chief Daniel Hahn. “No matter the reason an order to disperse was given, no member of the press should be detained for doing their job,” Steinberg said in a statement. Later, he and City Council members asked their Office of Public Safety and Accountability to review the incident.

Several protesters gave troubling accounts that police kettled them in on the overpass, making it impossible to follow the orders to disperse. An 18-year-old poet and actress who goes by the name Khalypso tweeted that she overheard one officer on scene tell another, “So we’re trapping them on the bridge, right?”

A police spokesman echoed Hahn at Tuesday evening’s raucous City Council meeting, saying the department was still gathering information about its own response.

“Last night, there were a lot of moving parts to the protest,” Sgt. Vance Chandler wrote in an email. “We are currently working on gathering more information about what led up to these arrests. At this point, we do know that 84 people were arrested for an unlawful assembly after being given numerous announcements to disperse via loudspeakers and a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD). As we gather more facts, we will share this information with the public.”

Chandler didn’t directly respond to a question about who coordinated police’s response that night.

Police Capt. Norm Leong tweeted around 8:30 p.m. Monday that officers had “been seeing cars getting keyed so we are going to move closer into protest group to protect vehicle.” He added, “We have not seen who is doing the damage.”

The march began on Folsom Boulevard, where more than a dozen officers on bicycles trailed behind a crowd walking west and turning right on 47th Street. Organizers led chants about Clark using a makeshift sound system attached to a wheelchair. Some rode bikes decorated with flashing neon lights—one with its own radio blaring KRS-One’s “Sound Of Da Police” in front of a line of patrol cars.

“What we know is that the movers and shakers who make the decisions in this city live in this neighborhood,” shouted a South Sacramento woman. Marchers reveled.

Families in picturesque homes peeked around curtains. Curious dog-walkers ambled toward the din. A boy came outside and filmed for a few moments, before his mother ordered him back inside. While some Fab 40 residents joined the march, others were less pleased.

A middle-aged white man wearing a hat held his middle finger up to the marchers as they turned the corner of J and 45th streets.

Police upped the ante outside Mercy General Hospital on 40th and J streets after another middle-aged white man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat pushed his way into the crowd, his 14-year-old daughter in tow. The crowd pushed back. Someone took—and later burned—his MAGA hat. As he screamed at a demonstrator trying to defuse the situation, police wearing riot gear rushed the back end of the crowd.

The marchers took 40th Street up to Folsom Boulevard, speeding up as they made the 10-block trek back to where the demonstration began. They then stopped, turned, and faced the now massive police presence behind them on Folsom. On a darkened street, a symbolic divide was made literal: Officers dressed in helmets and body armor and carrying rifles. A crowd of demonstrators, wearing jeans and long sleeves and holding signs.

A demonstrator read once more the group’s demands, then all went still as protesters held fists in the air to the riot police. The MAGA-hat man, who had followed the march for 12 blocks, broke the silence with a fart noise.

As the marchers prepared to disperse, police moved into action. “Move.” “Back.”

Some marchers made it into vehicles. Others were stuck behind the line of riot police. To the east, where cops were pushing them, more police stood guard. Pressured from two directions, demonstrators turned right on 51st Street where, on the Highway 50 overpass, more cops met them at the end of the bridge. Those detained were carted off to a makeshift processing center at Cal Expo.