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Demonstrators Delay NBA Game To Protest Police Killing Of Stephon Clark

Hundreds of people blocked the entrance to the Golden 1 Center before a Kings game to protest the death of an unarmed 22-year-old black man gunned down in his grandmother's backyard.

By Reed Richardson

Four days after Stephon Clark was killed by Sacramento police, hundreds of people turned out to protest his killing by blocking portions of Interstate 5 and surrounding that city's basketball arena, the Golden 1 Center.

Linking arms and chanting the victim's name, the protestors blocked many fans from entering the arena, briefly delaying a scheduled game between the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, according to a report in NBC News

The killing of Stephon Clark last Sunday night sparked community unrest after it was revealed Clark had been gunned down in his grandmother's backyard by two police officers who mistook the cellphone he was carrying for a weapon or burglary tool. 

"The officers believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them," the Sacramento police said in a statement. "Fearing for their safety, the officers fired their duty weapons striking the suspect multiple times." The police had been responding to a 911 call that complained of a man breaking into cars in Clark's neighborhood. 

In subsequent reports, the police said the two officers had fired 20 shots at Clark, striking him numerous times, according to the Sacramento Bee. They then waited several minutes until additional officers arrived before approaching him and administering emergency first aid. Clark's death comes on the heels of other high-profile instances of law enforcement shooting unarmed black men in recent years, including the deaths Michael Brown in 2014 and Walter Scott three years ago. According to the Washington Post's Fatal Force Tracker, Clark was the 225th civilian killed by police in 2018. 

The protests on Thursday followed the release of police body cam footage the day before that revealed the officers had muted the microphones on their cameras soon after the shooting. As the protestors gathered peacefully at the arena on Thursday evening, word quickly spread and the demonstration became a popular subject on social media. The Kings eventually decided to start playing even though many fans were blocked from entering, leaving the arena mostly empty during the game. 

After the game, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Randivé came out onto the court to address the protest and make a plea for healing: "We recognize that it's not just business as usual and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together and make the world a better place, starting with out community," he said. "We are going to work really hard to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again."

[Photo: Getty]