Emotions run high at victim’s funeral
A standing-room-only crowd packed into a church Thursday to celebrate the life of a 22-year-old black man who was shot to death by Sacramento police, prompting angry protests and a resolve to force changes in police departments around the country.
The musical and Scriptural celebration of Stephon Clark was interrupted by his emotional brother Stevante, who hugged and kissed the coffin, led the crowd in chants of his brother’s name and interjected as other’s spoke.
The Rev. Al Sharpton hugged and consoled him and told the crowd not to judge how families grieve.
“This brother could be any one of us, so let them express and grieve,” Sharpton said as he delivered the eulogy with Stevante Clark clutching him around the neck. “We are proud of them for standing up for justice.”
About 500 people attended the funeral, where friends and family shared memories of Stephon Clark’s “keen dancing ability,” sense of humor and smarts, and his desire to be a good father to his two young sons. Speakers frequently started call and response chants of “I am – Stephon Clark.”
Clark’s name has sparked protests and calls for police reform in California and beyond. Families of people killed by police marched in Compton, calling for more transparency in use-of-force investigations.
In Sacramento, Sharpton and others chastised President Donald Trump for failing to comment on police shootings of young black men, which White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has called a local issue.
Later Thursday, about 100 protesters blocked downtown streets for the third day in a row during rush hour but did not prevent fans from entering a Sacramento Kings NBA game at a downtown arena as they had during two previous games. Stevante Clark had asked protesters not to block the game.
Clark was killed March 18 by two Sacramento police officers responding to a report of someone breaking car windows. Video of the nighttime incident released by police shows a man later identified as Clark running into the backyard of his grandparent’s home where police fired 20 rounds at him after screaming “gun, gun, gun.” It turned out Clark was holding a cellphone.