SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Students from all over Sacramento staged a walk out Thursday in response to the district attorney's and state attorney general's decisions not to criminally charge the two officers for the shooting death of Stephon Clark.
The student march grew as the group moved from Sacramento City College to McClatchy High School, Sacramento High School and ultimately the steps of the Capitol.
“I’m sick and tired of adults telling me we’re doing this in the wrong way," said a student representing Next Level Advocates from Sacramento High School. "Don’t let anybody dim your light.”
Democratic Assemblymember Kevin McCarty supported the large crowd, telling them, “You are welcome here. This is your state Capitol. You’ll remember this 20 years from now, the time you stood up not only for Stephon Clark, but for all the Stephon Clarks."
McCarty is a co-author of Assembly Bill 392, which would revise the circumstances under which a police officer may use lethal force.
As of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the gathering began to wrap up at the Capitol, with many students leaving via public transit, according to Sacramento Police Captain Norm Leong. A man attending the event held a stack of bus passes in his hand and gave them out to students, ensuring the teens didn't have to pay to return home.
Students who walked out of class to participate in the demonstration will not be punished, according to a spokesperson from the Sacramento City Unified School District.
"We would never punish a student more harshly. We are very sensitive to the situation going on. We understand a lot of our students are hurt and want to express themselves and we are sensitive to that," said the spokesperson to ABC10. "We are going to comply with our normal attendance policy. If a student leaves for the march, their only punishment would be a strike on their attendance."
St. Hope, former mayor Kevin Johnson's organization that manages Sacramento Charter High School, said their policy is the same as the Sacramento City School District. They respect their students' rights to freedom of expression, but any missed class time will be viewed as an unexcused absence.
Sacramento Students walkout, march in honor of Stephon Clark | PHOTOS
Still, Sac High sophomore Yashar Yisrael and seniors Darnay McMillan and Jada McClure all attended Thursday's walk out and said they're worried about being reprimanded by the school for protesting.
“We’re truant," Yisrael said. "We’re being threatened with suspension."
“And we’re seniors, so they might say we can’t walk," McMillan said. She made a point to add that the punishment would be "worth it because it could be my brother, it could be my cousin, it could be someone I’m really close to."
McClure added that this feel personal.
“It could be one of us, even," McClure said. "It can be just as easily us walking down the street and (somebody) thinking that we’re doing something bad just because we may be wearing a hoodie or we’re African American in a different type of neighborhood."
The teens said they're standing up for what they believe in, even if it means facing discipline at school for leaving class to participate in the protest.
“If you're silent in this situation of injustice, then you're choosing the side of the oppressor," Yisrael said, "so I would do this a million times again until we get justice.”
She noted the five-hour protest happened without incident or arrests like Monday night's protest when 84 people, including clergy and journalists, were arrested as demonstrators weaved through the wealthy Fab 40s neighborhood in East Sacramento.
Hadiyah Owens is a senior at Sacramento State and came to participate in the march, which wound through parts of Land Park, Curtis Park, Oak Park, the Broadway corridor and Midtown.
"If people weren’t listening, they’re definitely listening now,' Owens said. "If they weren’t paying attention, they’re definitely paying attention now, and I think that’s important. We’re not going to stop until justice is served, and that’s that.”