By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – A little more than 50 years ago, two dozen gun-carrying Black Panthers entered the State Capitol to oppose gun legislation – at that time they were providing protection in Oakland against police violence. (See article).
The May 2, 1967 “invasion” was repeated – in a way – Thursday this past week by a group of about 100 high school, community college and university students who walked out of class and marched to the Capitol to promote the passage of legislation to limit the use of lethal force by law enforcement.
March For Our Lives Too, they said, addresses the thousands of victims of gun violence at the hands of the police departments across the nation. This march was to call for policy and legislative reform.
And, May 2 was chosen specifically, according to the students, “to reiterate the demand the Black Panther Party initiated on May 2, 1967…when they marched on the Sacramento Capitol (building) to protest and demand an end to police murder and brutality in our communities. Over 50 years later we are reiterating this demand,”
The coalition of Black students marched through the Capitol Mall area, occupying all lanes of the Tower Bridge for nearly half an hour before trekking to the West Steps of the Capitol.
“Police have tormented us since the Slave Patrol. Our relationship with police has never been good. This is a continuum…it’s the same system as decades and centuries ago,” said one speaker.
AB 392 (Weber-D) is “an act to save lives. Police in California kill community members at a rate of 37 percent higher than the national average and several state police departments have (some of) the highest rates of killings in the country,” said recent Sacramento State University grad Khalil Ferguson.
Last month, Several hundred people – including lawmakers, family of victims killed by police and celebrities – rallied for passage at the State Capitol for what is being called the strongest use of force legislation in the nation.
AB 392 would reform how law enforcement officers respond to street situations, requiring them to use lethal force only when necessary to save their lives or the lives of others. It requires law enforcement to use alternatives – like warnings, de-escalation or other nonlethal methods before lethal force.
The state’s penal code relating to police use of force hasn’t been amended since 1872, just nine years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, noted Ferguson. Indeed, AB 392 failed to move through the Legislature last year. This year it passed a crucial committee vote in April.
Ferguson, in his support of the student walkout, suggested he didn’t necessarily trust that some Democrats – the party has voiced overwhelming support for AB 392 – wouldn’t help kill the measure.
“It is clear that moderate Democrats have played a role in the (lack of ) progression of Black social and economic mobility…(AB 392) faced opposition from moderate Democrats immediately,” said Ferguson, pointing out that 16 Democrats co-authored an opposition bill, AB 230, that is backed by police unions and that has no penalty for misconduct.
Ferguson quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said, “the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not…the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to order than to justice.”
The students demanded “police accountability” and wondered why the Sacramento District Attorney did a drug test on Stephon Clark – mowed down by 20 shots when holding only a cellphone – but not the officers who shot him.
“We know police are hyped up on steroids and alcohol. They should be tested. The older generation will stand with the youth. The civil rights movement was kicked off by young people…it’s time to storm the Capitol again,” said one unidentified speaker.
“March For Our Lives Too” listed six “pillars,” which students “demand to be implemented,” including criminalizing the use of deadly force, institute independent investigations of police use of force, demilitarizing police forces, full police accountability, mental health crisis services and acknowledgement and apology for historical investigations.
Among the schools represented were Sacramento City College, Sacramento High School, Sacramento State University, University of Life, Kenney High School, Cosumnes River College, American Legion, Monterey Trail High School and McClatchy High School.