Sacramento police arrested two activists on Wednesday as the local Black Lives Matter chapter’s long-running demonstration in front of the district attorney’s downtown headquarters entered its 21st week.
Keyan Bliss, a member of Black Lives Matter Sacramento, says he was “engaging in a peaceful demonstration” on August 22 “like we’ve been doing for the last 146 days since Stephon Clark was shot.”
Activists often hold signs and stand in the street during the protests, soliciting honks from passing cars. But Bliss says he and other demonstrators were not blocking traffic on G Street. Sacramento Police Department officers confronted them anyway, he said.
“Bike police came up to me and immediately started escalating the situation, and just like challenging us and threatening us,” Bliss said.
Tanya Faison, who founded the local Black Lives Matter chapter, witnessed the incident and said that officers arrived on bikes, in vehicles, and some were riding on the outside of an SUV while holding on. She says they “rushed” Bliss.
He described the incident: “They [officers] basically all got off the vehicle and charged at me,” Bliss said. “And they tackled me into a short steel pole. I hit neck first.”
Police arrested and booked Bliss on two infractions, for not using a crosswalk and disobeying police orders, plus a misdemeanor charge for resisting arrest. Officers also charged another male demonstrator with two infractions.
Police spokesman Vance Chandler disputed Bliss’ claims, however, and says that the demonstrators were dangerously blocking traffic and being uncooperative. He says officers gave Bliss and others “multiple warnings,” beginning at 6:32 p.m., because cars had to maneuver around them as they stood in the middle of the street.
“We don’t want pedestrians being hit by vehicles,” Chandler said.
He says officers attempted to talk to Bliss and one other demonstrator, but that they were “both uncooperative.”
He said that Bliss “attempted to flee” from the officers when they arrived. “As he was resistive, at least two of the officers’ body-worn cameras fell off,” Chapman said.
Faison with Black Lives Matter says that officers “violently arrested” Bliss, who is black.
“They put him to the ground and were pulling his legs straight,” Faison said, then added that only one officer arrested “peacefully” the other demonstrator, a white male.
The arrests mark the third and fourth since Black Lives Matter began demonstrating in front of the DA’s office in the days after police fatally shot Clark on March 18. Two activists were previously arrested in April.
Since, a chain-link fence was erected around the DA’s office to separate demonstrators from the building.
Black Lives Matter is demanding that DA Anne-Marie Schubert bring charges against the two police officers who shot Clark.
The police department’s investigation into the shooting is ongoing, according to an interview with Chief Daniel Hahn earlier this month.