Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center was placed on lockdown ahead of Thursday’s Hawks-Kings match-up as protesters formed a human chain blocking the entrance to the arena in response to the deadly police shooting of Stephon Clark.
Demonstrators were heard chanting “Don’t shoot, it’s a cell phone!” in reaction to Clark’s death, Fox News reported. The 22-year-old father of two was fatally shot in his own back yard Sunday by officers who thought he had a gun. Clark was only holding a cell phone.
The mass demonstrations, which spilled onto Interstate 95, forced NBA officials to delay the game between the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, as thousands of fans were unable to enter the arena. A tweet by Sacramento police said they had stopped allowing people into the building because of the heated protests outside.
Big protest for #StephonClark, the unarmed Black man who was shot and killed by police, happening in Sacramento right now. Protestors blocking the entrance to the Kings game. pic.twitter.com/e7VaJ7CwLz
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) March 23, 2018
Stephon Clark protesters link arms outside the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, delaying the start of Thursday's Hawks-Kings game
(via Liz Kreutz/ABC10) pic.twitter.com/n8bi9R1CHQ
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 23, 2018
Many fans weren’t too pleased, however, and expressed frustration over protesters interrupting the basketball game.
“I”m very disappointed,” Fermin Rodriguez, whose family was among those barred from entering the arena, told the Sacramento Bee. “I mean, I feel their pain, but why do we have to suffer as well? We paid a lot of money for these tickets … I hope they give us a refund.”
In a statement, the Sacramento Kings promised to issue further information regarding refunds but instructed fans stuck waiting outside to return home. Only about 2,000 of the more than 17,000 ticket holders were able to take their seats, the Sacramento Bee reported.
— Madison Wade (@madisoncwade) March 23, 2018
— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) March 23, 2018
The blocked arena entrance followed protests that started around 3 p.m. near City Hall before moving to Interstate 5, the newspaper statd. Traffic was backed up for at least a mile as demonstrators stood in front of vehicles again chanting “Don’t shoot, it’s a cell phone!” By 6:15, the had protests moved off the freeway to the main entrance of Golden 1 Center.
For folks who managed to get into area, seating was abundant. Much of the upper deck was left empty and fans down below were permitted to move closer to the arena floor.
Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive issued a heartfelt message before Thursday’s game finally started, offering his condolences and words of support to Clark’s grieving family.
NBA @SacramentoKings owner Vivek Ranadive speaking from the heart with empathy ❤️last night after the tragedy in Sacramento,the shooting of unarmed black man Stephon Clark. In stark contrast to the “you better stand for the anthem” owners in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/iMB0JCiwNy
— MarkJonesESPN (@MarkJonesESPN) March 23, 2018