In memory of Stephon Clark: We will not shut up and dribble

By Gerald Smith

The Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality (OGC) went to Sacramento on March 29, 2018 to join the demonstrations following the police killing of Stephon Clark. On our way to the demonstration, a young man walked up and hugged me. I was taken by surprise. This young man was Stevante Clark, the brother of Stephon Clark. He is the man who on Tuesday, March 27 led hundreds of people to disrupt the Sacramento City Council meeting as he danced into the building and jumped up on the dais chanting his brother’s name. He later said, “They gun him down like a dog. They executed him…” Of the 20 shots the police fired at his brother he said, “That’s like stepping on a roach and then Steppin Steppin Steppin Steppin Steppin Steppin Steppin.”

The killing of Stephon Clark on the 18th of March by Sacramento Police has sparked anger and militant protest in the capital city of California. Clark, a twenty-two-year-old father of two was standing, unarmed, in his grandmother’s backyard holding only his cell phone when pigs, who did not announce they were police, appeared in the dark, yelled at him to show his hands and quickly fired 20 shots at him before he could comply. In the wake of this, his 25-year-old brother has been thrown into the national spotlight and forced to deal with the media, protests, lawyers, and donations while struggling through his own pain, grief, and anger. He said, “ I shouldn’t have to defend my brother. They [the police] should be proving their innocence.”

On April 19, Stevante Clark was arrested for threatening his roommates. No bail. I was in Sacramento on Friday, April 20 supporting the anti-fascist protesters Felarca, Williams and Paz, who are currently on trial. In the courthouse, I was fortunate to learn from a number of activists who knew Stevante what was going on. They explained to me that Stevante was deeply troubled having lost two brothers to police violence. That his behavior had been erratic. He threatened everybody they said. He even threatened Fred Hampton Jr., the son of assassinated Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, when he came to town. His roommates had called the pigs multiple times to complain about Stevante’s threats. No police response. Then, they came down on him.

Jamier of the Party of Socialism and Liberation explained to me: “Stevante was a symbol that the establishment created and then demonized. They built him up so that they could tear him down and replace him with the Build. Black. Coalition. What they don’t want is an independent People’s movement.”

The recent protests have rocked Sacramento. They blocked downtown traffic; marched on the I-5 freeway; and shut down the Kings basketball games. This is not our Grandmothers’ civil rights demonstration. The authorities had to install a fence around the entire stadium to ensure that King fans could attend the games.

On March 29th, Hundreds attended Stephon’s funeral. At the funeral, Stephons grandmother, Sequita Thompson lamented:

“Why didn’t you just shoot him in the arm, shoot him in the leg, send the dogs, send a taser? Why? Why?”

During the funeral, Reverend Al Sharpton declared, “Yesterday, the president’s press secretary said this is a local matter. No, this is not a local matter. They’ve been killing young black men all over the country.” Indeed, this horrific murder by police was like too many others…

After the protesters shut down the Kings NBA game, organizer Barry Accius received a startling response from the Kings. They asked him to come and speak to the owner. Accius thought he was going to be arrested having just blocked 10,000 fans from seeing the game. Instead, he met with co-owner Vivek Yeshwant Ranadivé and former player Doug Christie. They offered to set up a fund to help the young black people of Sacramento. This was a big surprise. The money has been donated to the Build. Black. Coalition. This grouping includes Black Lives Matter and the NAACP. The majority of players in the NBA are black and they know that they too could be victims of police murder. DeMarcus Cousins, formerly a member of the Kings, presently with the New Orleans Pelicans, offered to pay for the funeral expenses. Matt Barnes offered to pay for the college expenses of Stephon Clark’s two children. On March 25, when the Boston Celtics played the Kings, the players wore t-shirts that read: #Stephon King and on the back “Accountability-We Are One”. The NBA players made a video in which Al Horford of the Celtics proclaimed “We will not shut up and dribble”.

The struggle continues.