Stephon Clark anniversary prompts students to speak out

Students weigh in with their thoughts on the matter

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Will Coburn - The State Hornet

Protesters march through Sacramento’s Fab 40’s neighborhood, a collection of upscale homes. The protest was organized in response in theSacramento District Attorney’s decision not to charge the officers involved in the fatal shooting of unarmed 22-year-old Stephon Clark.

Luis Platero and Jose Fabian

The 348-day wait of whether or not the police officers who fatally shot Stephon Clark would be charged with a crime ended Saturday when Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced she had no plans to charge them.

Students at Sacramento State had mixed responses in regard to this outcome. Daniel Guerrero, an engineering major, was in favor of the decision.

“I feel that it was the right decision,” Guerrero said. “Reason coming from a police officer’s standpoint and the way they’re trained.”

Guerrero said he has a fraternity brother who just graduated from the police academy.

“They’re trained that the moment you take something out of your pocket it could be a piece of gum, a note, or a phone,” Guerrero said. “Like they said he pulled out a phone, but it could be a weapon.”

Attila Mali, an organizational communications major, echoed Guerrero’s thoughts on the shooting. Mali recounted a story about a police shooting in New York where police shot and killed a man last year after he pointed a metal object at them which later appeared to be a shower head.

“A lot of the time there is misjudgment,” Mali said. “It’s happened multiple times where cops see it wrong, and they think it is a weapon. It’s sad to hear about it.”

Mali went on to say that we’re all wrong in different parts of our lives and sometimes misjudgments are clearly wrong.

“I feel that it was the right decision due to the circumstances,” said Mali.

Chimdinma Okpo said she has been following police shootings for a while.

“I noticed that when it’s people of (color) there already is a bias in people’s minds,” Okpo said.

Okpo said she thinks once there is that bias the ability to stop and analyze what is going on ends.

“They just assume he is a criminal, and they first go to the last resort,” Okpo said. “When it’s minorities (police) have different terminology, and when they have different terminology they have a different way of looking at the situation.”

Okpo said she believes that reform begins with respecting each other as individuals.

“Seeing them first as human beings,” Okpo said. “That will determine how we look at that human being and that will determine how we then perceive whatever situation we have.”

The fatal shooting of Clark on March 18, 2018 by led to a tumultuous year for Sacramento and Sac State students alike. It spawned numerous protests, some of which shut down a highway, a mall, many streets in the downtown Sacramento area and Sacramento Kings games.

One of the protests occurred at Sac State on April 3rd, 2018. Over 100 students marched on campus in support of Clark’s name and opposing the actions of the officers. A group of counter-protestors also attended to show support for law enforcement.

Looking back at the campus protest, Jennifer Robles, a freshman international relations major, said she views the event as a strong showcase of the political voice of students.

RELATED: Stephon Clark shooting leads to weeks of protest in Sacramento

“I think it says a lot about the students who are here at Sac State and our generation,” Robles said.

Michael Brook, a junior philosophy major, believes this type of action is perfect for a college campus.

“That’s great, universities are where (protests) should happen,” Brook said. “Bastions of free speech and ideas, the cutting edge discussion.”

Sonia Lewis, a relative to the Clark family and leader of Black Lives Matter Sacramento, supported the campus protest. Lewis also shared her belief that it’s important for college campuses to address these issues of racial equity.

We have to require Sac State and other campuses to be at the forefront of these kinds of issues,” Lewis said.

She said Black Lives Matter Sacramento have been in front of city council multiple times trying to make sure that, as new laws are presented in regard to how police officers do their jobs, they are not a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

Black Lives Matter has participated in many protests outside of the District Attorney’s office. Their aim is to move Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert to “do her job,” Lewis said.

We have been steadfastly challenging the systems that are in place, that are supposed to take care of justice.”

Following the shooting of Clark, Black Lives Matter Sacramento participated in large scale protests that shut down Interstate 5 and blocked off fans from the Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings.

RELATED: Protest over Stephon Clark shooting closes Golden 1 Center for the second time in a week

The protests moved the Kings to partner with Black Lives Matter Sacramento as well as the Build Black Coalition to help fund black youth programs. These demonstrations arise organically from a collective community rage, according to Lewis.

Lewis and Black Lives Matter Sacramento meticulously planned and organized large protests including “8 days, 8 shots”, which occurred several months after the shooting. The movement symbolized the eight gunshot wounds Clark received by shutting down “business as usual” for eight days. Locations such as the courthouse, jail, and police department were chosen, according to Lewis.

Six months after Clark’s death, they organized a protest at the California Peace Officers’ Association’s COPSWEST Training & Expo where protestors gathered at the Sacramento Convention Center. The protest was to bring attention to law enforcement accountability, transparency, and policing tactics. As a part of the protest, demonstrators lay in makeshift coffins to stage a die-in.

RELATED: GALLERY: Protesters clash outside statewide law enforcement expo

“We don’t want people to forget the name of Stephon Clark and the other individuals that have been taken at the hands of law enforcement here in this area,” Lewis said. “If people forget, they get comfortable. If people forget, they don’t demand change.”

These planned protests were organized by Black Lives Matter Sacramento with the help of fellow community activists such as Les Simmons, a senior pastor at South Sacramento Christian Center and Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT) board member.

“Around the death of Stephon Clark, there was an invitation to be in our community and to stand for justice, to stand for accountability, and to stand for change as well as standing for love,” Simmons said.

Former Sacramento Kings player Matt Barnes led a march downtown soon after the shooting, where he was joined by Clark’s family and city leaders.  

RELATED: Ex-King Matt Barnes leads protest involving families of Stephon Clark and Joseph Mann

In addition to marching for policy and societal change, Barnes revealed plans to set up a scholarship for Clark’s two children so they can have the necessary funds to attend college.

Julio Guzman, a junior finance major, said he thinks that these types of protests are a good and valid way to accomplish their goals.

“I think they’re very effective,” Guzman said. “It’s one of the most effective ways of expressing ourselves as a community.”