On Wednesday, more than 1,000 protestors marched from City Hall to Golden 1 arena to demand justice for Stephon Clark. The 22-year-old father of two was shot 20 times in his grandparents’ backyard, after police officers say they mistook Clark’s cell phone for a gun.
It’s an all-too common story, one that local activists in Sacramento are beyond tired of telling.
“Sacramento is in deep pain,” Ryan McClinton, 32, a community organizer with Sacramento ACT told theGrio in an exclusive interview. “[We are] completely agitated and tired- tired of being told that ‘Oh this is how officers have to respond when they fear for their lives. And we’re not even given a chance to react.”
McClinton grew up in the same South Sacramento, predominantly Black and working class community as Clark. His sister and niece live right near where the fatal shooting took place.
“My niece was sitting outside in tears… it hurts,” McClinton expressed, overcome by emotion.
Sacramento community leaders and organizers recently felt victorious in their fight for officers wearing body cameras, a decision which now requires the police department to release footage within 30-days. This came after the police shooting death of Joseph Mann, a 50-year-old man carrying a pocketknife.
“It’s taken cooperation from Chief Hahn to do so,” McClinton told theGrio. “But that didn’t stop what happened.”
Sacramento Police Chief Hahn said in an interview with NBC, he doesn’t know why the body camera audio was turned off.
“This incident and the resulting actions in the community and the sentiments and the anger just shows that we have a ways to go in our relationship between law enforcement and the community in Sacramento because if we had a great trusting relationship we wouldn’t have some of these things and we’re working toward that,” Hahn said.
And Sacramento’s Mayor Darrell Steinberg urged the community to remain respectful and peaceful and expressed that he wouldn’t rush to judgment about why the officers reacted the way they did in a “split-second” situation.
“Emotions are understandably high. People are anguished. They’re angry and they are upset. I understand it, and we understand it,” the mayor told reporters at City Hall. “Let us channel our anguish into healing and to justice.”
McClinton says police community engagement took a step back in recent years, and he can pinpoint when.
“The year after Obama got elected, something told me the reality we were living in was about to change,” said McClinton. “So, I started counting how many times I got pulled over.”
According to McClinton, it was 35 times, each incident he says he sees as a blessing.
Unfortunately for Stephon Clark, he will never have another opportunity. With the Black Lives Matter Sacramento taking the lead, McClinton says the entire Sacramento activist community is united in their fight to get justice for Clark’s death.
Noting that this is an election year, McClinton and other activists are focused on the District Attorney and other offices.
“California is a state where folks look at us to change the narrative,” McClinton said when it comes to why the nation should keep following this story. “This is a moment where people are looking for us to change—now.”