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Hundreds of students march after prosecutors decline to charge the cops who killed Stephon Clark


What you’ll read today

  • Spotlight: Hundreds of students march after prosecutors decline to charge the cops who killed Stephon Clark

  • In Texas, D.A. who promised reform now faces challenge from the left

  • The Appeal Podcast: The backlash against voting rights

  • How an employer, Boston police, and ICE coordinated to arrest an injured worker

  • Educating the Supreme Court about hip-hop

  • A new database on the police misconduct that is otherwise hidden

  • 16 of Mississippi’s 22 elected prosecutors will run unopposed

In the Spotlight

Hundreds of students march after prosecutors decline to charge the cops who killed Stephon Clark

Over 200 college and high school students took to the streets of Sacramento, California, yesterday. As police helicopters buzzed overhead, they chanted “Say his name, Stephon Clark” on their five-hour march through the city to the state Capitol.  [Anita Chabria / Los Angeles Times]

Two Sacramento police officers killed Clark the night of March 18 last year, in his grandmother’s backyard. They were responding to reports of vandalism in the area when they saw Clark. The officers said they had mistaken the cell phone Clark held in his hands for a gun. They fired 20 shots in the space of 23 seconds, at least seven of which hit Clark. He was 22 years old. [Los Angeles Times Staff]

Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced Saturday that she would not bring charges against the officers who killed Clark. On Tuesday, the state attorney general said he had reached the same decision. In her announcement that she would not be bringing charges against the officers, Schubert revealed that police and prosecutors had gone through Clark’s phone after he was killed and read his text messages. She announced that Clark had considered suicide and that he had been accused of domestic violence shortly before his death. The officers who killed him did not know any of this and it had no relevance in assessing why the acted as they did. Yet it was offered up as an explanation for why Clark’s death was, essentially, not the officers’ fault but rather Stephon Clark’s. [Alan Pyke / Think Progress]

Stephon Clark’s killing, and the response to it, are of course far from isolated incidents. On Twitter, the researcher Samuel Sinyangwe pointed out the long odds on accountability for officers who kill:

Commentators have noted that Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s decision, in particular, is nevertheless still disappointing at a time when prosecutors, especially Democrats, are bearing additional scrutiny from voters for their contributions to and defenses of racial injustice. [Zak Cheney Rice / New York Magazine]

Students and young people have been at the forefront of the protests following Clark’s killing. The night of Schubert’s announcement, 13 young people with the group Voices of Youth went to a local mall to stage a sit-in. The mall operators decided to shut the building down. The organizers noted that they had been successful in their effort to prevent business as usual. Khalil Ferguson, a Sacramento State graduate, told Capital Public Radio, “The goal of today was economic disturbance. We wanted to inconvenience businesses individually and we got the whole mall shut down.” [Ezra David Romero and Nick Miller / Capital Public Radio]

On Monday, marchers went to East Sacramento, an affluent, majority white neighborhood that had not previously been the site of protests. In response, the Sacramento police, in the words of the Sacramento Bee editorial board, “put their ugly side on full display” and “launched a shocking attack on the First Amendment.” Other protests had been met with relative restraint but “of course those were not in East Sacramento.”  The police “kettled” marchers, trapping them on an overpass and then claiming they refused to disperse; arrested clergy members, putting zip ties around their wrists; and swept journalists up in the mass arrest of 84 people as well. The Bee editorial board described the police actions as “a reminder of the unjust aggression and poor judgment that some allege have resulted in tragedies like the killing of Stephon Clark.” [Sacramento Bee Editorial Board]

At a City Council meeting Tuesday, more than 40 community members expressed their anger and disappointment with the police actions Monday. The first to speak was Reverend Kevin Ross. “We were severely failed last night,” he said. “Last night was the shame of the nation.” Police Chief Daniel Hahn struggled to explain why the police had made the arrests, and in the numbers that they did. [Theresa Clift, Tony Bizjak, Ryan Sabalow, Vincent Moleski, and James Patrick / Sacramento Bee] The students who marched yesterday—aware of the clampdown that Monday’s protesters had experienced—demanded that charges against all 84 people arrested be dropped.

Yesterday’s walkout was organized by college campus chapters of the Black Student Union. It began at Sacramento College, which Stephon Clark attended, and then moved on to include students from other colleges and multiple high schools. It was captured in videos from throughout the day that showed the hundreds of students moving down the streets. [Sawsan Morrar, Tony Bizjak, Theresa Clift, and Alex Yoon-Hendricks / Sacramento Bee]

The students’ demands were clear: the firing of the officers who killed Clark and DA Anne Marie Schubert’s resignation; a stop to overpolicing in black neighborhoods; and an end to an on-campus policing contract between local school districts and city police. At the Capitol, they also spoke in support of Assembly Bill 392, which would limit police use of deadly force. [Sawsan Morrar, Tony Bizjak, Theresa Clift, and Alex Yoon-Hendricks / Sacramento Bee]

The young people who marched to the state Capitol yesterday were aware of the long history of activism against police violence that has come before them. Their walkout came 52 years to the day after the Black Panthers marched to the Capitol, armed. The Sacramento Bee looks back on that day: “Leader Bobby Seale of Oakland read a statement calling for the public to take note of legislation that intends to keep communities of color “disarmed and powerless” while “racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder and repression of black people.” [Sawsan Morrar, Tony Bizjak, Theresa Clift, and Alex Yoon-Hendricks / Sacramento Bee]

Stories From The Appeal

 

Audia Jones is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a prosecutor with four years’ experience under Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg and her predecessor. [Courtesy of Audia Jones]

In Texas, D.A. Who Promised Reform Now Faces Challenge From the Left. Audia Jones pledges to tackle “brokenness in the system” by unseating Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. [Roxanna Asgarian]

The Appeal Podcast: The Backlash Against Voting Rights. States throughout the U.S. have recently expanded voting rights to millions of people with felony records previously barred from participating in elections. The Appeal’s Kira Lerner joins Adam to discuss the hurdles these movements still face and the forces pushing back against increased enfranchisement. [Adam H. Johnson]

Stories From Around the Country

How an employer, Boston police, and ICE coordinated to arrest an injured worker: Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham looks at the horrific story of Jose Martin Paz Flores, an undocumented man whose workplace injury—a broken femur when he fell off a ladder—set in motion a chain of events that included his employer contacting the police to have him deported rather than paying workers compensation. Despite Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s assurances that immigrants can trust the police, it is clear in this case that the police were involved in coordinating Paz’s arrest by ICE. As Abraham writes, “Something is seriously amiss if the Trump administration protects the rights of an undocumented worker better than the city of Boston does.” A federal Department of Labor complaint alleges that the chief executive of Paz’s employer promised money to help cover medical bills and invited Paz to his office so that the police and ICE could arrest him outside. Paz’s 2-year-old son was in his car, screaming as he was arrested. [Yvonne Abraham / Boston Globe]

Educating the Supreme Court on hip-hop: Artists including Chance the Rapper, Meek Mill, Killer Mike, and 21 Savage filed a brief with the Supreme Court on Wednesday, urging the justices to hear a First Amendment challenge to a criminal conviction. Jamal Knox, also known as Mayhem Mal, of Pittsburgh was facing criminal charges when he recorded a song that named the officers who arrested him. Among the lyrics was the line “let’s kill these cops ’cause they don’t do us no good.” Knox, who was 19, was found guilty in 2014 of terroristic threats and intimidating witnesses. In their brief, the artists argue that Knox’s work “is not intended to be taken literally, something that a reasonable listener with even a casual knowledge of rap would understand.” Knox’s lawyer pointed out that “judges and juries are routinely convinced that lesser-known rap artists are somehow living out their lyrics as rhymed autobiography,” while white artists like Eminem “win Grammy Awards and make millions off the violent imagery in their songs.” [Adam Liptak / New York Times]

A new database on the police misconduct that is otherwise hidden: The Legal Aid Society has created a public database with information on over 2,300 lawsuits against police officers since 2005. The database, called CAPStat, “is searchable by an officer’s name, unit, precinct and type of allegation—or by the names of the people filing suit,” reports the New York Times. In addition to 2,339 lawsuits filed against 3,897 officers, it also includes internal disciplinary records for about 1,800 officers accused of misconduct. Cynthia Conti-Cook, the attorney leading the project, told the Times that the purpose of the database is to expose both individual officers’ misconduct and the lack of accountability. “Our interest is not just who is a bad officer,” she said. “The interest is in which commands are really cultivating the type of misconduct that systematically goes undisciplined, completely unchecked, unsupervised and allows officers to act without any accountability?” [Ali Winston / New York Times]

16 of Mississippi’s 22 elected prosecutors will run unopposed: Most elected prosecutors do not draw challengers, an obstacle for reformers looking to bring accountability through the polls. That will be the case again in this year’s local elections in Mississippi, where the filing deadline passed last Friday. Sixteen of the state’s 22 district attorneys will run for re-election unopposed. Among them is Doug Evans, who faces Supreme Court scrutiny later this month for aggressively removing African Americans from the jury pool while putting Curtis Flowers on trial six times for the same crime. The year’s marquee DA election for criminal justice reform is likely to be that of Hinds County, which contains Jackson. One of the candidates is Jody Owens, who as managing attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s state office has pursued litigation against the state’s prison conditions and disenfranchisement rules. [Daniel Nichanian / The Appeal: Political Report]

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