Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Oscar Grant, murdered on New Year's

On New Year’s Day, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant, an unarmed 23-year-old black man, as Grant was restrained and lying face down on the ground at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, CA. Thanks to bystander Katrina Vargas and others, footage of the murder has emerged, but even establishment San Francisco Chronicle columnists Matier and Ross acknowledge that it’s unlikely that any charges will be filed.

It took me a while to watch this footage, fearing that it would be too traumatic, but I decided to try anyway and actually it’s quite shaky due to the scene, but it’s useful to watch the end of this footage to see the videographer, Katrina Vargas, explaining the scene. Tomorrow there is a protest at the Fruitvale BART station from 3 pm to 8 pm – unfortunately I’ll be unable to go, since I’m doing a reading at the SF Main Library at 6 pm — if anyone else manages to go to the protest, I’d be curious to hear about it (or maybe I’ll see you at the reading).

I remember the shooting of another unarmed black man, Jerrold Hall, in 1992, just after I first moved to San Francisco, and the resulting protests. The main slogan at the time was “Justice for Jerrold Hall,” a familiar tactic for police accountability but a dead-end as far as I’m concerned. Not only will the police never be accountable, but even if the officers held responsible were punished, how would that in any way enact justice? Oscar Grant, Jerrold Hall, and countless others would still be dead and in the ground. It’s amazing that transit cops are even allowed to carry guns, not that Oakland city cops don’t mishandle similar cases all the time. What would justice mean, exactly, other than the dismantling of this entire hideous criminal legal system that allows a cop to shoot an unarmed person at point blank range— pick a cop, any cop – pick a target, any person of color (except, maybe, those occasionally in power) – happy new year!


bibi said...

I was there. It was nice at first to see all that community support. Then we started marching down international and made our way down towards Lake Merritt Bart. The farther we went the crowd thinned and but a good number of people continued on. I believe the goal was to go to BART police headquarters but the goal wasn't very clear. I think themost powerful was when we were marching on International and in hind site I wish that is where we had turned back. About a block or two past Lake Merritt Bart the crowd slowed and began to gather around a cop car chanting "no justice no peace!" At this point the crowd was quite young and felt aggressive. I'm not sure how many were actually members of the original commmunity of the fruitvale area. A young man jumped on a cop car and a began to jump up and down. A dumpster with flames was pushed towards the cop car. I heard glass breaking and saw riot police approaching and decided my non-violent ass needed to figure out a way home.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Bibi, thanks for the reportback!!! I'm glad that the protest got a bit rowdy, and that you got home safely...

Love --