Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones is claiming that the Saturday night vigil for Stephon Clark that resulted in the hospitalization of one woman who was struck by a police cruiser was infiltrated by professional, paid protesters.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Jones alleged that “professionals” had come to the vigil and protest for Stephon Clark, the unarmed Black man fatally shot by police in his grandmother’s backyard last month.
“Unfortunately, in many protests that have developed to this scope, there are professional protesters and professional instigators that infiltrate the protest for their own purposes, as well as participants from out of the region that inflame and antagonize the event. That is what happened here, which culminated in many vehicles being struck, objects being thrown, and fires being started,” Jones said.
When asked if he had evidence of such protesters having attended the demonstration for Clark, Jones said that they do have evidence, and have “seen it previously.”
“You’ll notice the same cadre of protesters at every protest, sometimes in other states,” Jones said.
The rhetoric shared by Jones echoes conspiracy theories surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and other social demonstrations, alleging that protesters are being paid in order to incite violence and further divide movements from those who disagree with them. However, protests against police brutality and race relations go back farther than the Civil Rights era in the U.S. Demonstrations, in general, have been on the rise since Trump took office; between Jan. 21, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2017, there were over 8,700 protests in the country.
During Saturday’s vigil, a local activist identified as 61-year-old Wanda Cleveland was hit in her right leg by a police cruiser as it pulled away from protesters, who Jones said were kicking and yelling at the officers inside. Cleveland and others at the scene described it as a hit-and-run, since the police in the cruiser did not return to the scene.
Jones said that after the vehicle struck Cleveland, another protester chased after the officers and shattered the SUV’s back windshield. His office provided no other information about the officers in the cruiser. Cleveland was transported to a hospital and treated for injuries to her arm and the back of her head.
A statement from the sheriff’s department released prior to Monday described the collision as happening at “slow speeds,” surrounded by protesters “yelling while pounding and kicking the vehicles’ exterior.” The incident is being investigated by the California Highway Patrol, with the department conducting an internal review.
At Monday’s conference, Jones showed video of the incident taken from the two cruisers involved in the protest (the incident begins at 15:29).
H/T BuzzFeed News