Protesters block NBA arena over fatal Sacramento police shooting

CNN/ Newswire | 3/23/2018, 5:42 a.m.
Protests erupted in Sacramento four days after Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, was shot by police in his grandmother's ...

By Darran Simon, Sonya Hamasaki and Madison Park, CNN

(CNN) -- Protests erupted in Sacramento four days after Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, was shot by police in his grandmother's backyard. Demonstrators blocked the entrance to an arena where an NBA game was scheduled Thursday, chanting "Black Lives Matter" and the name of the 22-year-old who was killed.

Police said the officers who fired at Clark believed he had a gun. Investigators said they did not find a weapon, only a cell phone.

The shooting sparked an outcry in the city, bringing protesters to the Golden 1 Center, where the Sacramento Kings defeated the Atlanta Hawks in a nearly empty arena.

Most ticketholders weren't able to get inside, and the Sacramento Police said via Twitter that "no one else will be admitted to the #SacKings game."

Outside the arena, protesters linked arms and chanted at fans, "Join us or go home!"

The NBA and the Kings made the decision to close the doors, Sgt. Vance Chandler of the Sacramento Police Department told CNN. The game started with a delay and the team said it would refund the tickets.

Protesters began to disperse at night, and police made no arrests.

After the game, Sacramento Kings owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé addressed the crowd, joined by the team's players, coaches, front office and executives.

"On Sunday we had a horrific, horrific tragedy in our community," Ranadivé said, in reference to the shooting, and conveyed sympathies for the Clark family.

"We at the Kings recognize people's ability to protest peacefully and we respect that," he said. "We here at the Kings recognize that we have a big platform. It's a privilege, but it's also a responsibility. It's a responsibility that we take very seriously. And we stand here before you -- old, young, black, white, brown -- and we are all united in our commitment."

"We recognize that it's not just business as usual, and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place, starting with our own community, and we're going to work really hard to prevent this kind of a tragedy from happening again."

Protests in Sacramento

Earlier in the day, protesters had also marched into Sacramento's City Hall and onto an interstate highway as the mayor called for calm.

They called for the arrest of the two officers and demanded to see Police Chief Daniel Hahn as they marched into City Hall. The protest, which was organized by Black Lives Matter Sacramento, briefly spilled onto Interstate 5 after the group left City Hall.

"A phone is not a gun," protesters chanted.

Less than an hour before the protest, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said Clark's death warrants a thorough review of the shooting, and of police policies and procedures.

"It is vital that we give voice to the pain in our community, especially the African-American community," the mayor said.

Steinberg said, "I feel the community's anguish." He called for the public not to rush to judgment until an investigation is completed.