News World Sacramento reels from police shooting as activists demand justice

Sacramento reels from police shooting as activists demand justice

Black Lives Matter protesters march in California. Photo: EPA
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The shooting by police of an unarmed black man in Sacramento has sparked days of consecutive protests in the Californian state capital as activists demand justice for the victim.

Protesters took to the streets for the fifth straight day on Sunday (Australian time) after 22-year-old Stephon Clark was shot and killed by police in his grandmother’s backyard where he lived.

Since the shooting on March 18, the activists, who say Mr Clark’s death is the latest in a long line of police shooting tragedies involving young, black male victims, have used civil disobedience to shut down the city, blocking entry to an NBA game and closing major roads.

“All he wanted to do was go see his sons again, and unfortunately he can’t,” Curtis Gordon, Mr Clark’s uncle, was quoted by The Guardian as saying on Sunday.

“So remember that, while we mourn, while we shout, while we cry because it ain’t just our pain, it’s their pain.”

Stephon Clark left behind two young children. Photo: EPA

Bodycam footage released by local authorities shows two police officers fire numerous – later confirmed to be 20 – shots in Mr Clark’s direction.

They had been called to the scene to investigate reports somebody was breaking windows in the area.

After shooting Mr Clark, the two officers can be heard giving instructions to the victim, who does not respond.

The officers, of whom one is white and one black, have also been criticised for briefly muting their body cameras. After more officers arrived, the team then handcuffed the mortally wounded Mr Clark.

Local police authorities said the officers believed Mr Clark was carrying a gun and “advancing” towards them. They can be heard shouting “gun, gun, gun!” in the video before firing their weapons.

However, Mr Clark was only found carrying a mobile phone.

Further, the police account that Mr Clark was a threat to police was called into question late last week by an independent autopsy, commissioned by the victim’s family, that found he was struck eight times, mostly in his back.

Sacramento police said in a statement they could not comment on the autopsy, which they had not seen, according to The New York Times.

“We acknowledge the importance of this case to all in our community,” the police said in a statement.

Community anger over Mr Clark’s death was further amplified on Sunday when a police car struck a protester during a vigil.

The protester, identified by local media as 61-year-old Wanda Cleveland, was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Police said they were investigating the incident, which critics claimed was a “hit and run”.

Protesters, who argue two officers should be fired, said at the weekend they are planning more demonstrations. The officers have been placed on administrative leave.

Sacramento police chief Daniel Hahn, the city’s first black leader of the force, has said California’s Justice Department will be involved in the investigation.

As of March 30, police in the United States had shot and killed 264 people since the start of 2018, according to a Washington Post analysis.

The Black Lives Matter movement, which has been represented in Sacramento, has gained national prominence the deaths of unarmed black men at police hands including Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

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