Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, protests have ensued for weeks across the country, and in Sacramento, among other cities, led to a city-imposed curfew from 8pm to 5am.
Alongside the curfew on Monday, approximately 500 National Guard officers were deployed around downtown Sacramento with the stated purpose of “providing assistance to the Sacramento Police Department to protect critical infrastructure and vulnerable commerce during protests.”
Several protests have since congregated in Caesar Chavez Park. A frequent speaker has been Stevante Clark, the brother of Stephon Clark, fatally shot by police in Sacramento in 2018. An advocate of non-violent tactics, he denounces looting and distinguishes between protesters and individuals he believes are exploiting the demonstrations.
On Saturday, the largest protest yet drew an estimated 15,000 people to Caesar Chavez Park, with marches leading around the Capital Mall and general downtown area. At the protest, Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced the lifting of the curfew as of 1pm that afternoon.
Since protests began in the wake of Floyd’s death, a bill to ban a form of neck restraint known as the carotid hold has been proposed in California, with Sacramento suspending the hold and San Diego banning it. All forms of chokeholds have been banned by the city of Minneapolis, and a multifaceted national police reform bill has been written.
Former Black Panther Atkinsanya Kambon believes, however, that the most important police protocol to be focused on right now is handcuffing: “That’s the main thing that needs to be banned, is shackling […] behind your back.”
He observes a double-standard in handcuffing procedures, with a discrepancy between where white Americans and African-Americans are told to place their hands during arrests.
“I watched a lot of arrests in my life, I saw them when they arrested [Dylan Roof]: they had his hands cuffed in front of him. African-Americans always have their hands cuffed behind their back. When they arrested the Manson family after they did all those murders they did, […] all of them had their hands cuffed in front. They arrested some brothers and sisters in the Black Panther Party when they had that shootout: everybody’s hands was cuffed behind their back.”
“Two [officers] on his back and one one his neck. He couldn’t even raise up to breathe, couldn’t even expand his chest to take in oxygen – they suffocated that poor man. And the reason I’m so serious about this is because I’ve been done like that: I’ve had my hands shackled behind my back, and most of the time when they did it they were trying to beat me to death.”
Kambon views the current demonstrations as a single step on a larger path. “I see Black Lives Matter as actually the evolution of the Black Panther Party,” he notes. “I hope people make the connection, because the Black Panther Party wasn’t nothing but our way of protecting our lives when nobody was listening […], when nobody was believing this when you told them it was going on.”
“I think that this is an international movement: but it’s not just about George Floyd, it’s not just about him. This is about the hundreds and thousands of people who have died all over the world,” he says. “When people realize that this is a class struggle, we’re gonna rise up and we’re gonna topple all these vicious regimes that pit us against each other. We’re gonna topple them and people are gonna rise up and create a government that benefits all of humanity, all of mankind.”
With the looming trial of the four officers involved in Floyd’s death, including officer Derek Chauvin, who faces second-degree murder charges for Floyd’s asphyxiation, the current demonstrations may only be a precursor to a more severe response contingent on the process and verdict of the trial.