By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
Pictures and posters of Black men who have died at the hands of law enforcement lined an erected stage outside the state Capitol last week. Strong winds repeatedly blew them down, but they repeatedly were put back in place by folks attending the Stephon Clark Justice and Accountability March.
“The spirit is moving,” said Clark’s older brother and event host, Stevante Clark. “We’re going to get some justice and when it comes down, it’s going to blow like the wind and knock sh*t down. We’re going to get our justice and not just on some levels.”
The march and rally were hosted by Clark’s extended family in observance of the fifth anniversary of his death and part of the Stephon Clark Legacy Weekend that was established to keep his name alive and draw attention to police violence in Sacramento and elsewhere.
Clark, 22, was killed by two Sacramento police officers – Jared Robinet and Terrence Mercadal – on March 18, 2018, when they chased him into his grandmother Sequita Thompson’s Meadowview backyard and mistook his cell phone for a gun. The officers shot at Clark 20 times. No charges were filed and they eventually returned to duty.
Speaking at last week’s rally, local activist Leia Schenk recalled the protests and actions that erupted throughout Sacramento following Clark’s death.
“We took over like they did back in the day with the Black Panthers and with our Nation of Islam brothers. We took over the streets because we wanted everybody in this city to know that nobody will get peace until we get justice,” said Schenk, the founder of the community-based group EMPACT.
There are a lot of “misconstrued ideas of what justice means,” she said.
“A lot of people think if I give you a couple of dollars, that means justice, you all will go away and you’re going to be quiet and you stop asking for stuff. Then they’ll say, ‘OK, well, we’ll put the officers on suspension just to make you Negroes get out of the street so that we can have peace back in our streets. But I always ask the question back: ‘Why can’t we get peace?’ Because we want peace as Black people. We want to know when we get peace from y’all. When do we get peace from white America? When do we get peace from these killer cops? When do we get peace from these lawmakers that make laws that further oppress us and our children?”
Other speakers included activist and educator Sonia Williams Lewis, who is related to Thompson’s late husband and another Black man, Donald Venerable, who was killed by Sacramento police in February 2001, when they mistook his cell phone for a gun; and renowned Bay Area civil rights attorney John Burris, who also takes on alleged police misconduct cases in Sacramento.
The rally was highlighted by the showing of several videos created by Untold Productions that chronicle the family’s quest for justice and accountability. The event also offered space for other impacted families to share their stories. Many, like the Clarks, have started their own foundations or joined existing ones to call for awareness and answers in their loved ones’ deaths.