On Thursday, for the second time in a week, protesters blocked the entrances to Golden 1 Center and prevented thousands of fans from entering a Sacramento Kings game in an effort to continue calling for action by local officials following the police killing of Stephon Clark.
Sacramento police responding to a call about someone breaking car windows shot and killed Clark, a 22-year-old black man, on Sunday, March 18, in his grandmother’s backyard. Video of the shooting released last Thursday showed that officers, reportedly believing Clark had a gun, fired 20 shots at him. An after-the-fact search revealed that they’d mistaken Clark’s iPhone for a firearm.
Black Lives Matter demonstrators led a march on Golden 1 Center last Thursday, encircling the arena and preventing fans from entering the Kings’ matchup with the Atlanta Hawks. The Kings wound up choosing to lock their doors, keeping all but a very few fans out. As Dave Zirin wrote for The Nation, following a 20-minute delay, “The game was subsequently played in front of empty seats, the silence of the arena standing in for the silencing of Stephon Clark’s voice.”
After the game against the Hawks, Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé joined the team’s players, coaches and executives on the court to extend “our deepest sympathies” to Clark’s family after the “horrific, horrific tragedy in our community,” and pledged that the Kings would “work really hard to prevent this kind of a tragedy from happening again.”
Members of the Kings and Boston Celtics came out for Sunday’s game dressed in warmup shirts bearing Clark’s name on the back and the phrase “Accountability. We Are One” on the front. They also recorded a brief public service announcement calling for accountability and unity that played on the Jumbotron before the start of the game.
“Yes, that was really surprising,” Tanya Faison, the founder of Sacramento’s Black Lives Matter chapter, told Zirin. “But it just showed that, even though there’s a lot of people saying they’re not happy with what we did, it needed to happen. I’m very happy with the outcome, especially the video by the Kings and the players who spoke out in support. So yeah, I’m very happy with that. Hopefully, it’s followed up by some action.”
On Tuesday, though, protesters expressed their displeasure with what they view as the ongoing lack of action in the matter by shutting down entry to the Kings’ game against the Dallas Mavericks. From The Sacramento Bee:
Across town, a Sacramento City Council meeting intended to address the police shooting of Clark quickly devolved into chaos Tuesday evening, with council members leaving the dais, police officers entering the City Hall chambers and some protesters and pastors calling for the overflow crowd to show restraint.
After some public testimony, Mayor Darrell Steinberg adjourned the meeting after 8 p.m., saying the city could not assure the safety of attendees. […]
A protester, Tyrone Brown, helped break up a fight. He said protesters were frustrated that they couldn’t into the City Council meeting and moved toward Golden 1.
“No one was being heard at the City Council meeting,” Brown said. “They decided to come down here and go for a bigger platform.”
After initially saying that the game was expected to start with a delay, the Kings announced at 7:05 p.m. local time that it would instead tip-off as scheduled, mere minutes later, despite throngs of protesters remaining outside the doors of Golden 1 Center:
Early in the second quarter, when it became evident that the protest ringing the arena would continue, the Kings again elected to ask the fans who’d been prevented from entering to turn around and head home:
That angered some of the fans stuck outside, according to the Bee:
Dave Gaines, who was blocked from using his Kings ticket Tuesday night, was angry.
“They have a right to express their opinion,” he said. “We have a right to go to the game.”
On one hand, it appears that members of Clark’s family might not necessarily view continuing this particular method of protest as productive:
On the other hand, the elevated visibility that comes with not only taking to the streets, but disrupting the operation of a televised and nationally covered sporting event, could increase the likelihood of such protest persisting, especially with a high-profile opponent coming up on the Kings’ schedule.
The Mavericks won Tuesday’s game, 103-97. After the game, the Kings issued a statement on the protest.
“Tonight’s demonstrations beginning at City Hall migrated to Golden 1 Center preventing ticketed guests from safely entering the arena,” the team said. “The safety of our guests is our number one priority. Due to law enforcement being unable to allow ticketed fans to safely enter the arena, the doors were closed to maintain guest and public safety.
“We continue to work with law enforcement and City leadership to ensure the safety and security of fans and the public on Thursday and at future events.”
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