Police, Sacramento Kings bracing for more Stephon Clark protests

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SACRAMENTO — Authorities and the Sacramento Kings are preparing for more protests Thursday after the funeral for Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was killed by police in his grandmother’s backyard.

Over the past week, the Kings have found themselves at the center of the conflict between police and outraged members of the community.

Protesters have blocked the entrance to the arena on two occasions in protest over the March 18 shooting. Last Thursday, the protest forced the Kings and Atlanta Hawks to play in a nearly empty arena.

On Tuesday, the doors of the arena closed as protesters arrived, again preventing fans from getting in.

Sacramento police said Wednesday they are talking with team officials to plan for the Thursday game against the Indiana Pacers. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. PT (10 p.m ET).

Clark’s funeral is scheduled to take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. PT (2 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET) a little more than seven miles from the NBA arena.

“We don’t know exactly what we’ll be doing. We will assess every situation as it presents itself,” Sacramento Police spokesperson Sgt. Vance Chandler told CNN.

In a tweet, the Kings said they are also meeting with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and community leaders. Team officials said they “are committed to ensuring the safety and security of fans on Thursday and future events.”

The team has weighed in on the controversy.

Addressing the crowd after last Thursday’s game, Kings owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé conveyed sympathies for the Clark family. He was joined by the team’s players, coaches and team executives.

“On Sunday we had a horrific, horrific tragedy in our community,” Ranadivé said, referring to the shooting.

“We recognize that it’s not just business as usual, and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place, starting with our own community, and we’re going to work really hard to prevent this kind of a tragedy from happening again,” he said.

During Sunday’s game, the Kings and Boston Celtics wore warm-up shirts that said: “Accountability. We Are One” on the front and “#StephonClark” on the back. The Kings also produced a public service announcement.

The fatal shooting took place after Sacramento officers responded to a report that a man had broken car windows and was hiding behind a home. Police said they pursued a man — later identified as Clark — who hopped a fence into his grandmother’s property.

The officers said they shot Clark, 22, because they believed he was pointing a gun at them, police have said. Investigators only found a cell phone near his body.

The officers — one of whom is black — have been placed on administrative leave amid a use-of-force investigation.

Clark’s family has disputed the police’s account.

Tempers and emotions flared at a Tuesday City Council meeting. One one point, Clark’s brother interrupted the meeting by marching to the front of the council chambers, jumping on top of the dais in front of Steinberg and chanted his brother’s name.

On Wednesday, Black Lives Matter Sacramento gathered for the second consecutive day of protests in front of the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. Protestors held cell phones in their hands in reference to the cell phone found near Clark’s body.

“Cell phone. Don’t shoot,” they chanted.

BLM plans to hold another protest at the same location on Thursday.

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