There are so many important things I need to write about today that as I sit at the keyboard, I am conflicted, not knowing where to begin. Trump’s emoluments lawsuit? His DACA threat? His intent to pull out of Syria? His threat to pull out of NAFTA? His ignorant statement that The Washington Post should have to register as a lobbyist organization? Laura Ingraham’s cruel statements about the kids protesting for gun regulation and the backlash against her? Then again, I have a piece started about how gerrymandering could affect the mid-term elections, but it requires more research that I haven’t yet found time for. Sigh. But I know that I will write about none of these topics for this post, because while they are all extremely important, another story has stirred my emotions … all of them: rage, grief, despair.
A young man, Stephon Clark, was only 22-years-old when he died, fatally shot in his grandmother’s backyard by police officers. Police said he was coming toward them with a weapon. In fact, he held a cell phone. Police said they shot in self-defense … all twenty times. In fact, six of the eight bullets that hit Mr. Clark, hit him in the back … in the back!!! They shot an unarmed man six times in the back! Stephon, as I’m sure you have guessed by now, was black. It happened two weeks ago, 18 March, to be precise. At first I steered clear of this story, for it was reported that Stephon may have been vandalizing cars in the neighborhood, and details seemed conflicting in several areas. Besides, our friend Gronda had done a fine post about it, so I went in a different direction. But when I heard the autopsy reports, I began to lean toward writing about it after all. And then today … on Saturday night, a Sacramento County Sheriff’s car hit a 61-year-old woman in a crowd of protestors and then … sped away!!! That’s right … one of “Sacramento’s Finest” is guilty of hit-and-run against a woman who was doing nothing more than protesting a brutal murder by other members of “Sacramento’s Finest”! It was at this point that I knew I had to write this else my fury would eat me alive.
Wanda Cleveland, the woman the deputy hit, will fortunately be alright. She was treated at the hospital for injuries to her arm and the back of her head. The incident was captured on video, so there should be no doubt as to who the guilty deputy is, though the Sheriff’s office has not released that information as yet. They say only that it is ‘under investigation’. There is already a demand that the two officers who shot Stephon be fired, and I would add this deputy’s name to the list of people who do not need to be in law enforcement.
Does anybody remember the riots in Los Angeles in 1991 after the videotaped beating of Rodney King by L.A.P.D. officers? It looks a lot like Sacramento wants to repeat those riots. Protests in Sacramento had been ongoing for days, but those protests increased in intensity and tension after the results of the autopsy were released. Thus far, the protests have shut down major roadways, blocked entry to an NBA game and created a seemingly ever-present tension in the streets of California’s capital. I must commend the protestors, for through it all, there have been only two arrests.
And there have been signs of compassion and remorse. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg walked with Clark’s family as they left his funeral last week. The Sacramento Kings NBA team has launched an education fund for Clark’s children. Protest organizers are cautiously optimistic about the new Police Chief Daniel Hahn, who just last August became the city’s first African American police chief. Hahn did not hesitate to swiftly release body-cam videos of the shooting and summon the assistance of the state attorney general’s office to investigate it.
So yes, there are signs that this is being taken seriously, there may well be olive branches extended, but it is not enough. Steps must be taken to hold law enforcement accountable, and thus far that has not been done. As Attorney General under President Obama, Loretta Lynch initiated investigations and implemented procedures to ensure federal oversight of police departments, especially those accused of racial profiling. Upon taking office, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who has a history of proven racism, repealed much of what Ms. Lynch had put into place, saying …
“It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies.”
Then whose responsibility is it, Mr. Sessions??? We The People are sick and tired of unarmed black men being gunned down in cold blood by local police, and never being held accountable. Local police across the nation have proven that they are not going to terminate officers who shoot unarmed black men. Community outrage? Sure, for a while, and then it dies down, the officers are found “not guilty” and reinstated in their positions, their killing weapons returned to them so that they can go out and take another young life. #BlackLivesMatter is a movement that is rarely understood among the white population of this nation. It is not saying, as some would claim, that only black lives matter … it is saying that black lives matter every bit as much as white lives! Just maybe not to the police, the courts, or the current Department of Justice.
Something must change. This cannot continue. The people of Sacramento are angry. The people of this nation are angry, at least most of us. And we are tired … tired of racial injustice, tired of law enforcement being “above the law”. Tired of white supremacism, bigotry, racism and hatred. I hope the protests in Sacramento continue until finally somebody sits up and takes notice. I do not hope to see more lives lost, but hope that, like the young people who marched for laws to control guns, the protesters are spirited, yet operate peacefully, within the bounds of the law. But the point must be made, somehow, that no, this is not okay with us!
In two days, 04 April 2017, it will have been 50 years since the assassination of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King. Are we any further along in our quest for racial equality than we were 50 years ago? You tell me …