District Attorney Won’t File Charges against 84 Arrested Monday at Stephon Clark Protest

By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO – After the city of Sacramento police were accused of trampling on the First Amendment rights of demonstrators, legal observers and the news media Monday at a Stephon Clark protest in affluent East Sacramento, District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said late Friday she was not filing charges against any of the 84 arrested, “in the interest of justice.”

It was a quick turnabout for Schubert, who in large part was the subject of the protest after she announced last Saturday she was not going to charge SPD officers who shot and killed unarmed – except for a cellphone – Stephon Clark March 18, 2018.

It was that death that sparked Monday’s East Sac protest, and over the past year dozens of demonstrations that closed down Interstate 5, two NBA Sacramento Kings game and city streets.

When the 84 were arrested after being directed to leave, even though they did, many in the protest blamed SPD for overreacting and making arrests at a protest that was largely over. They said SPD was trying to send a message that the police were in control, and that East Sac should not be a target.


There were about 14 arrests of Stephon Clark protestors over the past year – most charges dismissed and only a few cases remain to be adjudicated – when much more disruptive actions took place in locations other than exclusive East Sac.

Friday’s decision by Schubert was not unexpected. One public defender said it didn’t take a constitutional law expert to know the arrests were not lawful, and that any jury would acquit of a case went to trial.

“It is a relief to hear that DA Schubert won’t be filing charges against the 84 arrested Monday. However, it is unfathomable that the chief of police, the mayor and the city manager claim to be unaware and surprised by actions of the police officers that night,” said Elizabeth Kim, president of the National Lawyers Guild Sacramento Chapter, who was present Monday.

“Even though the charges are dropped, every single person detained that night suffered indignity, humiliation, a record of an arrest, and time they will never get back – simply for exercising their First Amendment right. Mass arrests create fear and discouragement in the community from exercising its right to free speech (and) penalizes those who took careful precaution to protest peacefully,” she added.

She urged city leadership to “take a hard look” at the arrests and be “more thoughtful at how all of us can provide healing in the community, not mass arrests and infringement of constitutional rights.”

Kim said she was concerned about the arrests of three reporters – one from the Sacramento Bee (who was unarrested), and those from the Sacramento Business Journal and Sacramento State Hornet.

Additionally, two green-hatted NLG legal observers were arrested – Kim said that’s never happened in Sacramento, and SPD knows NLG “green hats” are not participants.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg told news media it was the “right thing to do” by Schubert to not file charges against “peaceful protestors.” He also praised the SPD for providing security for up to 500 college and high school students who left classes and marched four miles to the Capitol Thursday.

Jeff Harris, the city councilmember that represents East Sacramento, said he was at the protest Monday that he called peaceful. He said he was disappointed at the arrests at the end of the demonstration.

One East Sacramento resident was disgusted, she said, with the arrests and commented: “No one at Sac PD ever read an east sac Next Door thread? Every day, protestors or not, it’s allegations of car vandalism (usually windows smashed) and failure to pick up dog poop,” she said.

Kim said she and her other legal observers saw no vandalism, only overly aggressive behavior by SPD, the CHP and Sheriff Deputies. And put blame on city leaders.

“Even if their claim of ignorance is taken at face value it shows a disconnect between city leadership and the actions of the police that result in harm. Both city leadership and the police were preparing months in advance for the DA’s announcement on whether charges would be brought (against the officers that shot and killed Stephon Clark) indicated by their attempt to pass an ‘emergency ordinance’ to criminalize possession of items such as water bottles and pepper spray.

“Thankfully that effort was quashed. But then to conduct a mass arrest in the face of the mourning community in the form of kettling and forcing them into an area where dispersing was not possible, without presence of violence, criminal activity, any real need- and to not distinguish between journalists, legal observers, clergy- was not only unnecessary, it was unconstitutional.

“Does the city really need any more blatant violations of the Constitution? These incidents continue to affect the trustworthiness of law enforcement and continues to divide the relationship between the police and the community, when efforts should be focused on repairing their relations,” she added.

The SPD also issued a new release Friday that claimed peaceful protestors blocked access to a hospital (Mercy), although legal observers said that didn’t occur. SPD also claimed “Multiple vehicles were vandalized” but there was no evidence provided that the vehicles were vandalized either that night or by protestors.

SPD admitted in the statement that many protestors left the area, but others were arrested for “unlawful assembly.”

However, video and witness statements clearly show the 84 eventually arrested – reporters, legal observers, demonstrators and members of clergy – were directed and allowed to leave down 51st street, but were arrested when they did so. Many of those arrested were frustrated and said “there was no way out, to leave the area as directed.”

“The Sacramento Police Department respects and upholds the constitutional rights of all members of our community including the right to express and exercise free speech. We will continue to balance these rights with the protection of property and life,” SPD insisted.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Alan Miller

    I’m not happy with the violent-laced rhetoric of some at the City Council meeting — though I understand the frustration.

    I am very impressed with the nonviolence of the march, and frankly taking it into rich, white neighborhoods and keeping it peaceful is a pretty amazing feat.  A difficulty with nonviolence is that the power is diminished and all focus goes to any one violent act.  You can have 1000 peaceful protestors and one person goes off the rails and that’s what the media focuses on.  Governments have been known to stage people within peaceful protests to ruin the nonviolent spirit of a group to drain the group’s nonviolent power.

    Honestly, even if a few cars were keyed — it sucks for those that had it happen, but that’s pretty minor stuff and could not possibly have been the will of the majority of protestors.  One idiot marching among them could have done all seven — or as is pointed out — it may have happened another time.  Had a large rock been hurled through a windshield, a police response would have been justified — but nothing like that happened.


    1. Edgar Wai

      I think there is are simple solution to that nonviolent protest dilemma.

      1. The protestor who pledge nonviolence can all wear a badge provided by the organizer. The organizer is responsible for judging who they give the badges and must take responsibility for any damage those wearing the badges cause.

      2. The organizer can have badged member video their own group as cya measure against anything the group didn’t endorse.

      3. Before a protest or march, the organizer could provide the list of participants so that if someone that is not a member causes problem, the public could prosecute that nonmember.

      4. The organizer can have the group march in formation, making it clear who is and who is not in the group.

      5. The organizer could have members in charge of spotting and documenting nonmembers who cause problem to assist their arrest.

      We have parades and marching bands walking through the middle of the street loudly and band members don’t get arrested or accused of keying cars. We know how to do a peaceful nonviolent protest. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. It is not as hard as it seems.

      All it takes is to register a parade/protest group.

    2. Edgar Wai

      About keyed cars: on March 4th, because the protesters were shouting “no justice, no peace.” According to the messages from the protesters, this chant meant this:

      Because/if you don’t gave us justice, we don’t give you peace.

      The intent of the protest was to disrupt peace until their demands were met.

      When the residences reported that their cars were keyed (and a man got his hat taken), the police would have reason to believe that the protestor did those acts. (The group had about 150 people, from the video of hat snatching, at least 10 helped surround the man, a pastor tried to talk to the man, but the pastor did not condemn the people who took his hat or to help retrieve his hat.)

      If you want to protest about accountability you should know how to behave in an accountable way and turn in anyone who failed your group’s pledge of nonviolence:

      After someone from the group took the man’s hat, the organizer or pastor should stop the march or the conflict, give the hat back to the man.

      After there were reports of cars being keyed, the organizer/pastors can condemn such acts and keep their group in formation. (They could also left a note on the car saying that they don’t mean to cause such collateral damage, so that if the residence found later their car was keyed, they know the protesters meant to be peaceful.)


    3. Edgar Wai

      If one person in 1000 causes trouble and the other 999 condemn that act and arrest that one person, then the media will report that the group understands accountability.

      Otherwise it is one group with no accountability accusing another group having none. If the demand is to fire the chief if accountablit is is not observed, the group could do the same to itself as a role model.

      1. John Hobbs

        Your endless intellectual Onanism distracts from the fact that the police shot a kid with a cell phone who may or may not have broken some car windows and now the members of his community are using civil disobedience to get his case the attention it deserves. The police and mayor and city council would just sweep it under the carpet, like Davis officials did about the picnic day brouhaha. Here in Meadowview the cops act like an occupying army. The neighborhood is determined to change things for the better, in spite of the police and city government.

  2. Edgar Wai

    If a neighborhood does not want police presence, a peaceful way is for the neighborhood to “police” itself. I put “police” in quote because the neighborhood can follow whatever model and principle they see fit as long as it is legal. Then they can so metrics and data of their improvement and invite the media to see how well they could do it without police presence (that the neighborhood itself is peaceful, no one is violating laws, and no criminal is doing crimes outside the neighborhood then hiding in the neighborhood).

    To me, how to have a peaceful protest is not a challenge, we have proven examples of doing that (see marching bands). How to peacefully “police” a neighborhood is a challenge.

    A neighbor hood has people you know and people you don’t. Who do you trust? How do you know if someone is being truthful? How do you tell who needs to be arrested? How do you do the arrest?

    UC Davis has “aggie hosts” for events to minimize police presence. They don’t have guns but people say they look mean with sunglasses.

    The police does not just catch criminals. But if we focus on only their role to catch criminals, that role is a type of self-defeating role. To be good at fighting crime, is to actively reduce the need to fight crime. A police who is fighting crime is trying to create a future where there is no “police” because there is no need to have police when there is peace. As a neighborhood become more and more peaceful, “fighting crime” part of the job description will become more and more of a side job. If policing does not become a completely voluntary role or a side job, then police officers would be all doing community service projects (i.e. cross-trained as social workers, EMT, firefighters, etc).

    The police force could actual admit that this is part of their mission:

    “To create a future where each citizen embodies the values of community and peace in order to reduce the resource spent by the community to fight crime.”

    When a group creates a protest, it draws the community’s resource away from fighting crime. A group that tries to protest can instead spend the same energy “policing” its neighborhood and collecting statistics to show its own improvement without police presence. Then everyone gets what they want and we are not wasting anything.

    1. David Greenwald

      “If a neighborhood does not want police presence, a peaceful way is for the neighborhood to “police” itself.”

      You’ve posted this before – it’s false. And it’s also besides the point.

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