Listen back to CapRadio live coverage from Sunday morning for interviews with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs and CapRadio reporters on this weekend's protests.
This story was last updated at 1:13 p.m. on Sunday, May 31.
A Saturday that began with a peaceful protest at the California state Capitol in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota ended with theft and vandalized businesses on Sunday.
Demonstrators broke glass doors and windows, climbed on cars and lit objects on fire in downtown Sacramento. Sheriff's deputies fired rubber bullets at demonstrators in front of the Sacramento Main Jail downtown, nearly 12 hours after protests started. And Sacramento police say they arrested 18 people during the rioting.
It's not yet clear the extent of injuries, though people in attendance reported some in the crowd being hit with the rubber bullets. According to police, a person seen hit in the head by a rubber bullet was an 18-year-old who "was contacted at an area hospital where he was being treated and was cited for assault on the officers." There is no update on his condition.
As the night continued, some involved in the protest hit glass with hammers, set couches and garbage cans ablaze and spray-painted anti-police slogans on buildings, pothole covers and the Jeff Koons sculpture outside the Golden 1 Center.
People could be seen stealing merchandise from the downtown Macy's and other businesses around the Golden 1 Center and on K Street before marching down J Street into Midtown. Police attempted to break up the gathering near J and 20th streets, firing rubber bullets into the crowd.
I’m keeping a safe distance, but some sort of shots are being fired. Could be tear gas or rubber bullets pic.twitter.com/iFWBJWuQ27— Sammy Caiola (@SammyCaiola) May 31, 2020
Tenor of the protest suddenly shifts. Honking in solidarity one moment—then 7-11 being looted. pic.twitter.com/J1vksWwfXc— Scott Rodd (@SRodd_CPR) May 31, 2020
Demonstrator Paul Wilson was on J Street around 1 a.m., and said he witnessed the evolution from peaceful demonstrations to vandalism and property theft.
“This is what happens when unarmed black men all over keep getting murdered at the hands of people that are supposed to protect us,” he said.
Paul Wilson has been out protesting since this morning. He witnessed the evolution from peaceful demonstrations to vandalism and looting.— Scott Rodd (@SRodd_CPR) May 31, 2020
“This is what happens when unarmed black men all over keep getting murdered at the hands of people that are supposed to protect us.” pic.twitter.com/WfhXlKoC4z
Speaking with CapRadio's Beth Ruyak Sunday morning, Pastor Les Summons — who was out at Saturday evening's demonstrations — said protests in Sacramento and around the country are driven by anger at systemic problems affecting the lives of black communities.
"When we have a failed system that doesn't hold law enforcement accountable, even here in Sacramento ... that's what leads up the continued frustration and built-up trauma that leads to what we're seeing around the nation," Simmons said.
Young people mostly wearing masks showed up before 9 a.m. at the state Capitol, toting signs reading “I Can’t Breathe” and chanting “George Floyd!” and the name of other victims of police violence.
The crowd, which grew as demonstrators congregated in front of the statehouse’s east steps, eventually went on the move, zigzagging through downtown’s streets — and momentarily blocking traffic on Interstate 5 and the Tower Bridge.
Saturday’s demonstrations against police brutality continued following a night of protest in south Sacramento.
Demonstrators broke glass doors to the Sacramento County jail, and fresh graffiti had appeared throughout downtown.
There are several dozen deputies from the sheriff’s dept guarding the Sacramento County Main Jail. There are expletives written on the doors pic.twitter.com/7ga4bID9Ls— Sammy Caiola (@SammyCaiola) May 30, 2020
Protesters chucking water bottles at law enforcement outside the Capitol pic.twitter.com/0AQi6m3nrL— Sammy Caiola (@SammyCaiola) May 31, 2020
A smaller group stayed at the Capitol until after 7:30 p.m., when some moved back to the jail on I Street.
Shortly before 9 p.m., sheriff's deputies fired rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Many remained in the area, where some set fire to trash cans and smashed store windows, including the Macy's store downtown.
Some people continued through downtown until at least midnight, smashing windows and stealing goods.
People continued down J Street into Midtown, until Sacramento Police and other local law enforcement began pushing demonstrators back near 20th Street. Officers fired pepper bullets, rubber bullets and used flash bangs to try and break up the protest.
Chaos. pic.twitter.com/MkNKlJ81wk— Scott Rodd (@SRodd_CPR) May 31, 2020
Jonathan Walker was at the Capitol around 7 p.m. cleaning up water bottles and other litter. He said as a black man, he understands the outrage in the crowd
“But it doesn’t excuse it," Walker said. "At the end of the day this is our city, this is something we need to make sure we look after.”
Many attendees said they disagreed with the vandalism and violence and felt there were more effective ways to show solidarity with Minneapolis.
Mario Castellanos was telling protesters to not damage Mike’s Camera on J Street
“You’re not getting your message across” by damaging small, local businesses, he said.
I just spoke to Mario Castellanos, who was telling protesters to not damage Mike’s Camera on J. He’s a patron.— Scott Rodd (@SRodd_CPR) May 31, 2020
“You’re not getting your message across” by damaging small, local businesses, he says.
There’s no damage to the store that I can see. pic.twitter.com/GbUjcTatSJ
Chris Loftin, owner of Stylz Tattoos, got some valuables out of his shop before it was robbed. But he said the damage on top of having to close during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order could be crippling.
“We’re in a messed-up position," Lofton said. "We haven’t been in business for four months now. And to have this happen is just an extra expense.”
Sacramento Police said at least seven officers received minor injuries at Friday night's protest. In a statement early Saturday, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said that he shared the demonstrators' outrage over Floyd's death, but that "violence of any kind is wrong and unacceptable."
"We will not let a few detract and derail the strength of our ability to come together for change," Steinberg wrote. "The trauma that people feel is real. Acknowledge it. Let us acknowledge it, let us respect it, let us demand change. Let us demand an end to systemic racism. No violence against anyone ever!"
A Second Day Of Protest
The crowd gathered on the Capitol lawn earlier in the morning, again calling for justice for those brutalized by police violence. The event is part of the national call for change following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. On Friday, at least two people died in protests across the country.
Demonstrators and CHP officers face off at the west steps of California’s Capitol, with people sitting in trees and chanting “I can’t breathe.” pic.twitter.com/jVbpHqshSQ— Nick Miller (@NickMiller510) May 30, 2020
The march moved down K Street toward the Sacramento Kings arena. At the Golden 1 Center, demonstrators discussed where to go next, with chants of “Freeway!” heard from the crowd. They removed barriers and entered the former downtown mall area.
The march has taken down barriers and is entering the former Downtown Plaza mall area. I hear a loud banging. pic.twitter.com/s6EsB5SqFW— Nick Miller (@NickMiller510) May 30, 2020
The protest then moved onto Interstate 5, before CHP officers moved people off the freeway, then across the Tower Bridge into West Sacramento, shutting down traffic.
Stevante Clark leading chants as a much smaller group, which separated from the main march, catches up and crosses Tower Bridge pic.twitter.com/9Piqg0x7FO— Nick Miller (@NickMiller510) May 30, 2020
One of the people at the protest since the early morning was Stevante Clark, the brother of Stephon Clark, who was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers in 2018.
“I been hurt, stressing, grieving all over again, it’s terrible," Clark said Saturday. "I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, this is a club nobody wants to be a part of.”
Younger Saturday Protest
Some who attended the Friday demonstration in Oak Park noted that the Saturday crowd was younger, and many who attended said they heard about the day’s protests on Instagram.
Demonstrator Christina Lensworth said while she wasn’t able to attend the previous protest in Oak Park, she was happy to make it to one and glad to see so many young people.
“I feel like even in the past election, the younger generation didn’t pay attention,” the 21-year-old said. “This generation’s going to be the one to make a change so it’s good to see them out here.”
Ryan Royster was also out at the demonstration and said he felt it was important to show up because recent events have reminded him of why his family chose to move to California a generation ago. He said that yesterday was the second anniversary of the death of his grandmother.
“What she has seen, was the echoes of the same things she has seen growing up in the south and moving to California” Royster said. "It is the collective echoes of decades of violence that has reverberated throughout the fabric of Americana since its inception.
Jamier Sale with the Sacramento ANSWER coalition is a longstanding organizer but was not involved in planning Saturday’s event. He marveled at the new faces, who he says showed up without coordination from any of the usual activist groups. He also felt that the nation was going through another moment of upheaval.
“For me I’m having flashbacks to 2014, '15, '16, when we saw the whole nation rise up against police terror,” Sale said. “We’re seeing a lot of years with pent up frustration with law enforcement, and the fact that we’re at the capitol is really about the entire system that’s overseeing the police terror.”
He added that he also saw a correlation between the protest and the higher rates at which African-Americans were dying from the coronavirus. Though most participants were wearing masks, social distancing was difficult to maintain.
“The pandemic has really just added to it,” Sale said. “We see how black people are more likely to die during this pandemic. So even before we were seeing these incidents of police terror we were seeing black people basically targeted by this lack of resources and literally dying, that’s a big part of it.”
Demonstrators told CapRadio a protest is planned at Arden Fair Mall for Saturday evening. Regional Transit wrote on Twitter that some bus routes have been moved away from the mall, and some intersections were blocked off by Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies.
Editor's note: We have updated this article to avoid the term looting, as suggested by Associated Press guidelines. Find more information about that here.
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