Minutes after hundreds of protesters finished a “die-in” around the corner from his home, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said Friday he expects more changes to city police department policies.
Steinberg said in an interview in his living room with The Sacramento Bee that “we are absolutely going to see more changes” than the city passed following the 2018 police killing of Stephon Clark, a shooting that led to changes in the department’s foot pursuit and body camera policies.
“What matters is what happens when the protests die down,” the mayor said.
A large and peaceful crowd staged multiple 8-minute, 46-second “die-ins” on Greenhaven Drive on Friday — a reference to the amount of time a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died during the incident last week.
“To have 1,500 people gather blocks from your home when the message is intended for you is not an everyday experience even for a high elected official … but I would consider this one of the most important nights of my career,” he said. “Thousands of Sacramentans came to my door, or at least close to my door, and said they expect me to lead a change that is essential for real justice and for healing.”
It’s unclear what changes might be in store. The mayor said he has some ideas, but wants to listen more first to people of color. Steinberg expressed support for a statement earlier in the day by Gov. Gavin Newsom that carotid holds — a neck restraint used to cut off blood flow to quickly render a person unconscious — should be prohibited statewide as a police use of force tactic.
The Sacramento Police Department changed its foot pursuit policies after the March 2018 killing of Clark, an unarmed black man shot and killed by police in his grandmother’s backyard. Clark’s death also led Newsom to sign Assembly Bill 392, one of the toughest laws in the nation restricting when police can use deadly force.
That was a “hopeful and important start,” Steinberg said, but people do not want to hear about what has already been done right now. They want real, meaningful local change, and fast.
Steinberg was in his living room with Councilmen Rick Jennings and Allen Warren as the vigil unfolded near his home. They watched the protest on the local news and talked about their responsibility to heed the call.
The mayor longed to be there, he said. But he knew if he went, he would become the main attraction, as he has with previous events, and the night wasn’t about him. After it was over, he sat in his living room in jeans with his wife, Julie, reflecting.
“I was very moved,” he said. “It was a powerful expression of the anger and the rightful demand that we not only talk about change but we act upon it. And I am digging deeper in myself than I ever have before and I’ve been at this for important causes of social justices for a long time but none of that matters now. What matters is that I take this moment, that our city take this moment and that we lead.”
Steinberg thanked Black Lives Matter Sacramento for holding the event.
“I know we have a long long way to go, but I want to be judged not by my words but by my actions and I want to try to be a leader,” he said. “I’m a 60-year-old white mayor of a very diverse city and for me that comes with even greater responsibility and even greater obligation to dig deeper and to be a voice. The lead voice. For what people rightfully expect, and what was demonstrated a couple of blocks from my home this evening in a peaceful, beautiful way.”
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