A Year Later, Sacramento’s Still Mourning Stephon Clark


Daniel Byrd, Writer

One year after police shot and killed Stephon Clark in his grandparents’ backyard, activists have gathered once again to march for greater justice and accountability in the Sacramento police force. An entire weekend was devoted to memorials and activism from March 15th to 18th. This “Legacy Weekend” caps off a year that Clark’s loved ones and Sacramento residents have described as “traumatic.”

This year-long conflict began on March 18, 2018, when police officers Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet responded to a report that someone was breaking car windows in the Meadowview neighborhood. Upon seeing Clark, they ordered him to put his hands up, only for him to run into the backyard of his grandmother’s house. Police reported seeing Clark holding an object towards them, which they believed to be a handgun but was actually an iPhone. They said that after repeated demands for Clark to put his hands up, they shot him out of fear.

The Legacy Weekend to commemorate Clark’s death was first announced in early March after the district attorney determined that no charges would be pressed against the two officers who confronted him. This sparked a protest in East Sacramento two days later, when officers arrested an unprecedented 84 people. Demonstrators were especially frustrated that police showed up and started arresting people just as they were about to end the protest. To many, the response seemed too harsh, motivated less by safety concerns and more by the location of the protest in an affluent neighborhood.

“We’ve had protests in other neighborhoods and this kind of response has not happened,” said the founder of Sacramento’s Black Lives Matter chapter.

Activists attended a city council meeting the next day en masse to vent their frustration over these two events. By this point, plans for the Legacy Weekend had already begun to circulate.

Much of the weekend was devoted to meetings, both public and private, where people had the opportunity to open up about how Clark’s death and similar police shootings have impacted their mental health. Conversations like these are supposed to make it easier to cope with tragedies, especially in communities like Meadowview where mental health resources are scarce. Sacramento City officials have tried to provide these resources using nonprofits like the Rose Family Creative Empowerment Center in Meadowview. “We have to be able to answer that call [for counseling] and be able to serve them because they want it,” said Jakie Rose, the director of the facility.

This Legacy Weekend comes at a time when a California state bill, AB 392, is being hotly debated. Called “The California Act to Save Lives,” this law would require police officers to try and defuse situations through all means possible before using deadly force. As it stands now, officers are allowed to use deadly force whenever they reasonably have fear for their safety, which is how the two officers who shot Clark were acquitted.

Plenty of Clark’s neighbors and relatives believe the law would prevent such tragedies from occuring again. However, others argue that the law would endanger more lives than it would save by giving officers a sort of checklist they have to fulfill before using deadly force, restricting their ability to use their own case-by-case judgement.

For Vista students, far away from where these protests and conversations are being held, these recent events give insight into the world that many seniors will be stepping into in a few short months. For students attending schools like Sac State, Cosumnes River College, or any school in dense urban areas, these events could be seen as either encouraging or worrisome. For some, attending urban colleges is all about getting closer to where civic action is taking place, but for others, said action is seen as an unfortunate side effect.

However, one thing is for sure after observing all that’s occurred in the past month: the fight ignited by Clark’s death is far from over. Balancing the needs of police,  communities, and mental health patients will continue to be a major point of debate in Sacramento for months to come.