Thanks to my good friend and comrade Jay for sending in this report from the Oakland demonstrations against the police murder of Oscar Grant….
On Monday January 13th BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, who recently resigned after two years on the force was arrested in Nevada near Lake Tahoe and charged with murder thirteen days after Mehserle shot and killed Oakland resident Oscar Grant in the back. Grant was being restrained by another officer and lying on his stomach on the Fruitvale BART station platform early New Years day when he was shot. Before Mehserle’s arrest community organizers had planned a rally and march in Oakland to follow up a protest last week that ended with Oakland riot police attempting to control the crowd and make mass arrests while using tear gas and “non lethal” rubber bullet munitions. Some demonstrators from that demonstration took out their frustrations with the history of police aggression in Oakland and the riot police crackdown by trashing a police car setting small fires in dumpsters and breaking windows of some businesses.
Organizers of the rally for Wednesday January 14th were determined not to allow for demonstrators to react similarly at this weeks planned action after local and national media portrayed the last rally as either anarchist or black youth running out of control in the streets of Oakland. There was a very large number of news crews and up to five helicopters both news and police in the air at one point. The police made their presence seem minimal choosing to keep riot cops hidden out of sight. The rally was organized by a number of groups but primarily put together by the Coalition Against Police Executions (CAPE) and the Ruckus Society. Around 1000 people gathered at 4pm at the Frank Ogawa Plaza outside Oakland City Hall to hear speakers. Many leaders from different religious organizations spoke demanding justice but also pleading for those gathered not to resort to the destruction of property at this rally. Oakland rapper Too Short spoke asking for people to peacefully demonstrate. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums who unsuccessfully tried to speak and calm the demonstration last week was yet another voice speaking and asking for demonstrators to be peaceful. Until his appearance at last weeks demonstration asking for calm Dellum’s (who supports the increase of police in Oakland) had yet to have made any comments regarding the shooting of Oscar Grant.
The most significant speakers outside City Hall were members of CAPE who read out their demands that included: The criminal prosecution of all officers involved in the incident at the Fruitvale BART station that resulted in the death of Oscar Grant III. That BART provide the community a forum to voice their concerns and to present to the public, a policy that will ensure that this will never happen again. The reseignation, retirement, or a recall of the Alameda County DA for delaying the prosecution of this case.
Demonstrators then marched through downtown Oakland to the city courthouse where there were more speakers. Oscar Grants high school coach spoke, Oscar Grant Sr. the grandfather of Oscar spoke and a number of others. The crowd then marched through downtown Oakland back to Frank Ogawa Plaza at City Hall where a number of people performed songs, hip hop, and spoken word.
Late Wednesday evening there were reports of damage to property by a small group of people but overall the media failed to get the chaos that they seemed to be wanting.
Last Sunday in Modesto, CA a police officer shot and killed Richard Phillip Robles, 45 who was wielding a two to three foot sword. Robles had been taking medication for mental health problems. Officer Latisha Leap who killed Robles had been on the force three years. Around 100 people are killed by police officers in California each year. Police rarely if ever are charged with murder for an on-duty incident. Legal experts say they can recall no instance of a police officer in California being charged with murder for an on-duty incident. California has recently passed laws that protect police further by making the records of the officers past history of service unavailable for court cases. Today a BART rider has come forward and alleges being beaten during an arrest that involved Johannes Mehserle on Nov. 15, 2008.