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Add comment on:Town Hall on Obama, Parnell Smith, Brownie Polk, BART, & Emeryville Police Racism, 8/8/09: audio
Family and friends of Parnell Smith attended this week's Town Hall for Justice for Oscar Grant. Parnell Smith was shot and killed by Oakland police on July 15th as he ran away unarmed. Minister Keith Muhammad draws parallels between the recent OPD murders of Parnell Smith and Brownie Polk (on August 1st) and the BART police murder of Oscar Grant III. Minister Keith talks about how police publicly smear the character of their victims and lie about the incidents when they kill. Police would never say they just shot an unarmed man running from them. Police unnecessarily blocked off several blocks around the site of the murder of Brownie Polk in order to keep the public far away from witnessing the scene. Minister Keith recounts the memorial services for Brownie Polk the previous day and how popular he was in his neighborhood. Brownie Polk was helpful wherever he went and had done maintenance work in the very store where he was shot down. Oakland police have a videotape of the shooting they will not release, perhaps out of fear of repercussions similar to those that came from the community after seeing the video of the murder of Oscar Grant on January 1st. If the Brownie Polk tape so clearly exonerates the officer who shot him, one might think the OPD would release it as they typically do any information they think puts their shootings in a better light. Minister Keith goes on to say that law enforcement is so bold and arrogant now that despite video being public of their tasing of a nonthreatening 62-year old man sitting in his seat at an A's game they came on television and claimed that the tasing was good policing. Minister Keith then compares the police at the A's game who tased the man simply for being verbally disrespectful and non-compliant to the BART police who have an insecurity issue that became apparent on New Year's day when they became so emotionally disturbed that Oscar Grant and his friends said they weren't real police. In the court room at Johannes Mehserle's preliminary hearing, the BART police testified that if they had not been responded to like that, Oscar Grant would still be alive. Later in his talk, Minister Keith notes that similar reasons were given historically for lynchings in America, such as accusations of supposed disrespect like having looked at a white woman the wrong way. Minister Keith also discusses the BART plan for oversight of its police force, citizens' police review in Oakland, and the recall of Alameda DA Tom Orloff. One attendee, a lawyer, speaks near the end of the Town Hall (at 1:21:00) about a police action he witnessed a few days prior at the Pack 'n Save grocery store in Emeryville where he witnessed white Emeryville police officers telling an African American man that his kind was not welcome in Emeryville, that the man should not come back, and that the man should tell his people not to come to Emeryville either. Parnell Smith's younger brother speaks briefly, thanking the Town Hall for its interest in the case (at 1:41:00). Bishop Fanzo King speaks first and talks about Obama missing an opportunity to confront racial injustice when he instead chose to have a beer with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the Cambridge police officer who arrested him. Fanzo King adds that Gates must have forgotten he was black because he was surprised about aggressive police racial profiling when it happens every day to many other people. Bishop Fanzo King opens the Town Hall with a prayer:
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