Hundreds of Muslims gathered in Baltimore’s McKeldin Square Sunday to protest the March 18 police shooting death of 22-year-old Stephon Clark, a Black man.
Carrying signs proclaiming their outrage, demonstrators said police had no reason to shoot Clark. Police however allege Clark, a father of two, ran when they pursued him by helicopter.
Imam Omar Suleiman, a protester in Baltimore on Sunday, told the Baltimore Sun that this should not have prompted police to shoot.
“Philando (Castile) didn’t run from the police,” Suleiman said, referring to a string of fatal shootings of Black men by police across the country in recent years. “Alton Sterling didn’t run from the police. Jordan Edwards didn’t run from the police. So don’t tell me this is Stephon’s fault for turning and running away.”
The death of Clark has stirred outrage across the country after police in Sacramento, Calif., said they thought Clark was holding a “tool bar” when they shot him in his grandmother’s backyard. Clark was holding a cell phone, according to multiple reports.
Sunday’s crowd was spillover from the annual Islamic Circle of North America conference, also taking place in Baltimore.
The Muslim Social Services Agency and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the country’s largest organization advocating for Muslim Americans, organized the Baltimore protest, the Sun reported.
According to results of a private autopsy released on Friday, police struck Clark with eight bullets, six of them in the back.
The systemic issue
Maryland state Del. Bilal Ali, also at the protest, told the Sun that he takes issue with the characterization by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders of the Clark shooting as a “local matter” for Sacramento.
“It’s totally insane,” Ali said. “This has been a systemic issue since the beginning of people of color touching these shores. We have empirical data that clearly shows that these types of atrocities have been happening to people of color for years.”
Safa Daftani, a high school junior from New Jersey, traveled to the conference and waved a sign at the protest that read, “Are you Black? Muslim? Human? Then why aren’t you outraged?”
“At the end of the day, it’s human dignity,” Daftani told the Sun. ” People are desensitized. They hear ‘unarmed black man,’ ‘unarmed black man.’ He was a father. He was a husband. He was a brother. It hits home.”