Protest over fatal police shooting delays NBA game in Sacramento

Hundreds of protesters formed a human chain across the entrance to a sports arena in downtown Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday evening, in reaction to Sunday's fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man.

The protesters chanted, “Don’t shoot, it’s a cell phone!” in reaction to the death of Stephon Clark, 22, who was shot multiple times by police, but was holding only an iPhone.

Police had been investigating reports of someone breaking car windows when they encountered Clark.

Inside the arena, a sparse crowd was watching an NBA game between the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks. The game was delayed but not canceled because of the protest.

A Twitter message by Sacramento police said that officers had stopped allowing fans to enter the arena because of the protest outside.

Some fans criticized the protest, saying it was not right for demonstrators to target the basketball game.

"Their rights don't supersede everyone else's," Doug Hillblon, from the Elk Grove area, told the Sacramento Bee.

Fermin Rodriguez and his family were among the fans who were not permitted to enter the arena, despite having purchased tickets.

"I"m very disappointed," he told the Bee. "I mean, I feel their pain, but why do we have to suffer as well? We paid a lot of money for these tickets. I hope they give us a refund."

Demonstrators countered that a basketball game was a trivial matter compared with a man's death.

Hundreds of protesters march in Sacramento, Calif., disrupting rush hour traffic, to protest a police fatal shooting of an unarmed black man.

Hundreds of protesters march in Sacramento, Calif., disrupting rush hour traffic, to protest a police fatal shooting of an unarmed black man. (Sacramento Bee via Associated Press)

"Stephon couldn't be here to watch a game," Brrazey Liberty, an activist with Black Lives Matter, told the newspaper.

Earlier in the day, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he was horrified by the fatal shooting but wouldn't second-guess the "split-second decisions" of the officers. He praised Daniel Hahn, the city's first black police chief, for quickly releasing videos of the shooting to increase public transparency.

“It is vital that we give voice to the pain in our community, especially the African-American community,” Steinberg said, adding: “Emotions are understandably high. People are anguished. I understand it and we understand it. I urge our community to remain peaceful.”

The blocked arena entrance followed demonstrations that began around 3 p.m. near City Hall before protesters made their way to Interstate 5. Traffic was backed up for nearly a mile, the Sacramento Bee reported.

"We are at a place of deep pain" because of recent violence directed at black people in Sacramento and elsewhere," said the Rev. Les Simmons, a community leader.

Clinton Primm said he was friends with Clark, who was nicknamed "Zoe," for about six years and feared others were also at risk of being shot by police.

"He was a great dad," Primm recalled of Clark, the father of sons ages 1 and 3. "He loved both of them to death."

Shortly after 6 p.m., the freeway protesters had moved to the entrance of the arena, the Golden 1 Center, chanting “Shut it down!” and holding Black Lives Matter banners. Thousands of fans were forced to wait outside.

Around 7:30 p.m. the Sacramento police tweeted, “Due to unforeseen circumstances around Golden 1 Center, no one else will be admitted to the #SacKings game. #SacPD”

Because of the small number of fans inside the arena, they were permitted to move closer to the court action and received free drinks and snacks.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.