SACRAMENTO, Calif. – On a day when a second set of prosecutors absolved the police officers who killed an unarmed black man in this capital city nearly a year ago, the anger and agitation that marked the last few days gave way to peaceful demonstrations and the first steps toward healing.
A crowd rallied in front of city hall Tuesday after state Attorney General Xavier Becerra earlier in the day announced his office wouldn’t charge the policemen who gunned down 22-year-old Stephon Clark after responding to a report of vandalism on March 18, 2018.
But in contrast to Monday night, when Sacramento authorities arrested more than 80 demonstrators protesting the local district attorney’s Saturday decision not to charge the officers, Tuesday’s events proceeded without major incident.
Likewise, some 200 congregants gathered at night in the South Sacramento Christian Center to hear inspirational music and speeches, and to share their feelings about the developments of the last four days.
“It has been an emotional roller-coaster, as we knew it was going to be,’’ said Les Simmons, the church’s pastor. “But I’m so proud of Sacramento’s youth and leaders that have lifted their voice in a peaceful way and that have the courage to say, ‘We want more.’’’
Simmons was especially grateful for the support of the organization Build Black and for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, who sent a group of representatives that included forward Harrison Barnes and former star guard Doug Christie. Both addressed the congregation and answered questions.
Motivational speaker and artist Karega Bailey, who said he grew up on the same city block where Clark was shot, received a warm ovation as he followed a rap performance alongside the ensemble group SOL Development with words of hope and encouragement.
“There was a big conversation about healing tonight,’’ Bailey said. “And I also wanted to make sure folks know healing isn’t linear. It’s cyclical. And how we respond to what we encounter again and again will be an indication of our wellness.’’
At city hall, protestors aired their grievances during a city council meeting that spanned about four hours. Several speakers got emotional, shouting at the podium and going over their three-minute limit. The council took a 15-minute break at one point as tensions rose amid yelling and chants.
Simmons said he was among the 84 people arrested at Monday’s protest, which he said was mostly peaceful except for a couple of instigators. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg has been among those questioning the police’s tactics in dispersing the crowd and their arrest of a Sacramento Bee reporter.
While regarding the arrests as unnecessary, Simmons said he noticed a tamer reaction to Tuesday’s news, which he credited in part to Becerra’s conciliatory attitude in explaining his decision.
District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert had provided information about Clark’s domestic violence incident and his suicidal thoughts in her Saturday news conference, angering his family and community activists.
“The AG’s announcement had a very different tone than the DA’s announcement,’’ Simmons said. “I think people knew already what was going to happen (Tuesday), although they wanted to believe something different.’’
And they appeared ready to move on. Moments after the end of the gathering, a member of the congregation approached Simmons with a message that seemed to resonate among most of those in attendance.
“We needed this tonight,’’ she told him.
Contributing: Kristin Lam, USA TODAY