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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Former Sacramento Kings forward and Sacramento native Matt Barnes closed the rally he hosted at Cesar Chavez Plaza on Saturday by thanking the crowd of 400 people for coming out in support of Stephon Clark’s memory and for peacefully protesting Clark’s death at the hands of police.
And just hours later, a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department vehicle hit a protester during a vigil being held in honor of Clark in south Sacramento near 65th Street and Florin Road.
Witnesses took to social media to describe the SUV taking off after striking the woman. Video taken by Guy Danilowitz of the National Lawyers Guild showed Wanda Cleveland, who consistently attends Sacramento City Council meetings, being hit by the car.
— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) April 1, 2018
We just watched as a protester was put in an ambulance. Witnesses say she was hit by a Sacramento sheriff’s deputy’s suv. This video, from a member of the National Lawyers Guild, shows the impact. Its not clear where the deputy is now. pic.twitter.com/SiRlOqZNGW
— Max Resnik (@KCRAMax) April 1, 2018
Per the video, the sheriff’s deputy said, “Back away from my vehicle” four times as he incrementally began to move the car. Approximately 30 people were around the first vehicle when it started to pull off. Cleveland, hearing the command and dealing with arthritis in her knees that was causing her pain, started making her way to the curb in accordance with the deputy’s demands.
As she was attempting to reach the sidewalk, a second sheriff’s vehicle sped up unexpectedly, Cleveland said, and hit her in the knee, which sent her airborne and into the curb.
A Periscope following the incident showed Cleveland unable to move as protesters attempted to help her. A Fire Department crew came in to assist her onto a stretcher.
Cleveland was transported to Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center and released after midnight. She suffered bruises to the back of her head and on her arm.
“He never even stopped. It was a hit-and-run. If I did that I’d be charged,” Cleveland told The Sacramento Bee. “It’s disregard for human life.”
Said legal observer Tifanei Ressl-Moyer to the Bee: “I heard wheels spin. And then I saw her body flung to the curb. The vehicle sped off and some protesters went after them.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Shaun Hampton confirmed in a news release on Sunday morning that a protester was struck by one of their deputies but did not explain why the car didn’t stop. The release said at around 8:40 p.m. the vehicle was surrounded and individuals were yelling and kicking the vehicles.
A cop car just slammed a protester at the vigil for Stephon Clark. These are three blurry photos of it happening. pic.twitter.com/5yJxoqMEPy
— Blake Montgomery (@blakersdozen) April 1, 2018
Clark was killed in his grandparents’ backyard after Sacramento Police Department officers said he had a gun on him. He was only holding a cellphone. Members of Clark’s family, as well as the family of Joseph Mann, a black man killed by Sacramento police in 2016, took to the stage during Barnes’ two-hour rally along with reverends, community leaders and the Kings’ Garrett Temple.
Temple came to the rally because he wasn’t playing against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night because of an injury. He attended the Kings’ forum co-sponsored by Black Lives Matter Sacramento and Build. Black. Coalition on Friday night.
The Kings are creating an education fund for Clark’s two young sons, Aiden and Cairo. Barnes on Saturday announced his college scholarship for the little boys.
“I’ve got two 9-year-old boys that look just like this and I fear for them, I fear for them, and now I got a fear for the cops,” Barnes said. “How do we explain to our kids that because of the color of your skin that people aren’t going to like you? That’s not fair, but that’s something you have to explain to your kids every day.
“We didn’t want to lose sight of why we’re here. Thank you to everyone who came out and kept it peaceful. We’re going to get some accountability for the stuff that continues to go on. I’m in the process of starting a Clark boys college scholarship. Like we mentioned earlier, this is not a Sacramento problem, this is a nationwide problem, so this is something that once we get it up, we’re going to carry nationwide to provide kids who have lost their fathers to unfortunate stuff like this a chance to still come up and be productive men.”
The most emotionally charged point of the rally was when Jamilia Land, a friend of Stephon Clark’s mother, came to the stage. She started off with what she wanted to say most before her speech, which was thank you to all of those who came to lend their support.
She proceeded to discuss mental health and the lack of resources allocated to the black community. She defended Stevante Clark, Stephon’s older brother, who has been in the news after incidents with Sacramento’s mayor and his interview with CNN’s Don Lemon.
“Stevante is suffering from post-tramautic stress disorder,” Land said. “Stevante has lost two of his brothers. I was over at Stephon’s gravesite yesterday where he is buried on top of his 19-year-old brother. Stevante has lost his older brother, he has lost his baby brother and he is losing some of his mind.
“And while everyone has something to say, while everyone wants to talk negative, this is why this baby says we need a resource center. Where are the mental health professionals in our community? He needs help. What you see is not rare. It just had to happen this way because every single day there is a child that looks just like Stevante who is running around here, who looks half crazy to the world, but you don’t know the damage that’s done inside. We are living in communities that are like war zones.”
Stevante Clark just went to a funeral where his baby brother was buried on top of his older 19-year-old brother. “He is going through post traumatic stress disorder…you all will not demonize him.” #StephonClark pic.twitter.com/iWvUZVG2L8
— Rhiannon Walker (@InstantRHIplay) March 31, 2018
After Land’s speech, Barnes said this is the time to go from talking about changing the issues in the city that led to Clark’s and Mann’s deaths to actions that would eventually bring change. First, he told the crowd they needed to vote. Second, he said it is the responsibility of the community to hold politicians, whether it be the people they voted in or not, accountable for their actions and not following through with promises they made during the election.
Barnes spoke of the need for police officers to know their communities, to actually get out of their cruisers and speak to the people in the neighborhoods they patrol. He also advocated for community picnics, sporting competitions and meet-and-greets to help change the perception on both sides.
“You have my word being from here that I’m a do-everything,” Barnes said. “I’m sitting down with the mayor, I’m sitting down with the gang leaders. I’m going to be in your communities, and I’m going to be the driving force behind Sacramento making a change.”
Jamier Sale of the ANSWER Coalition organized the vigil during which Cleveland was hit so people in south Sacramento would have an opportunity to show their support and to also hold the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department accountable for its role in Clark’s death.
“The dominant narrative has really focused on the two officers who pulled the trigger,” Sale told the Bee. “We have to realize they didn’t just find themselves there. They were directed to this position by this other officer in a helicopter.”
Sale wants to see the people manning the helicopter fired and questioned why one was needed for a “petty crime” of breaking car windows in the first place. After folks in the central part of the city started holding the Sacramento Police Department’s feet to the fire, Sale helped bring 150 people together at 7 p.m. on Saturday to start applying pressure to the Sheriff’s Department.