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Oscar Grant: Verdict Night In Oakland
Folks have been asking what's the deal?!?!? Respect to the multiple forces doing work highlighted in this piece.
Oscar Grant: Verdict Night In Oakland
By Malo Mal
Tonight, I landed in Frisco—wheels down in my hometown—knowing a verdict was on the way. Inside the Denver airport, the news flashed: Oscar Grant, cop murder trial, verdict. My wife called to say that folks were headed into downtown Oakland.
I wasn’t organizing tonight; I barely caught a flight home but I was heading downtown. Texts and voice messages poured in from random numbers: MEET AT 14th & BROADWAY; Grandma’s texts in all caps, “SLEEP OVER HERE OAKLAND NOT SAFE”; voicemails from reporters, “Where are the real hot spots going to be?”; texts from Oakland heads, NYC, the ATL all angry at the light sentence Mehserle received, confused, hoping for peace, hoping for change. I thought of 2009—West Oakland BART, a teenage boy with a semi-automatic pistol & broken legs. 2010: KTVU Newscast blaring, “At the Fruitvale BART, a cop shot and killed a young man.” PAIN. Jan. 2nd: Oscar’s mother at the BART. Justice denied then justice demanded.
Hitting HWY 880 Oakland felt empty. Downtown felt quiet. The main streets were blocked off, 4ish at a time. The police were everywhere, like they are all. the. time. Tonight, though, I saw lines of cops 20 deep running by in formation, getting tired. The sun had set; the bands, speak outs, dancing and “safe expression spaces” had officially ended. One friend said, “Oakland is empty all around; it feels like Detroit or somin.” Another friend, “It’s like Oakland just experienced an instant afternoon white flight. People left at 3 o’clock because a verdict was coming.” The Oakland Police Department has been training, running drills in West Oakland preparing for tonight. The state and the white middle class apparently both understand deep down that everyday people in mass can take down the worst of the worst beasts. Tonight I could tell the confrontation with the state would be small, but love for Oscar Grant and resistance it would be.
On Telegraph and 17th people were whizzing by heading in and out of the intersection at 14th and Broadway, and folks were in the cops faces expressing righteous anger.
The cops blocked off downtown streets, their car windows covered in duct tape like spider webs. Police in full riot gear, a sound tank and all the rest. I smelled tear gas a couple times as they were trapping different sets of people in different areas, trying to contain the crowd/protect private property. Folks did smash FootLocker. It’s probably very inappropriate, but I wish I got some Jordans. The crowd eventually split into multiple directions, and there were minor incidences like trash can fires. Johannes Mehserle: a white man, a police officer, convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the murder of Oscar Grant a young black man will probably do less time than Mike Vick did.
We Build Movement
Now it’s Friday, I’m going off a wink of sleep, a nightmare and a dream. Today people’s phones are turned off, people are sad, people are in meetings. Each of these moments helps us understand what we need to build. There are many good people here working for justice. How do we learn the lessons we need to? How do we find our places of commonality? We have to find the places of collective expression. We have to find places to impact and change the functions of the prison system, the behaviors of the cops, sentencing, all of it. There must be change, and the people know it.
There are sustained efforts for justice for Oscar Grant in the Bay. Check em out for info on the case, community organizing and community building efforts. The General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant at http://www.oaklandforjustice.org, New Years Movement for Justice http://newyearsmovement.org/, One Fam http://onefam.org/, The Nation Of Islam and Minister Keith Muhammad of Oakland Mosque 26B http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apuW9_KadRM,
Davey D's Hip Hop Corner http://www.daveyd.com/ and http://www.indybay.org/oscargrant.
Concrete organizing ideas will make the next steps of the quest for justice for Oscar Grant. A project to impact the sentencing has been put forward by South Bay DeBug http://www.siliconvalleydebug.org/ dealing with the issue that Mehserle's attorneys are going to try to mitigate the sentence. A judge is instructed to hit the middle sentence unless there are reasons to mitigate the sentence (2 years) or aggravate the sentence (4 years). The fact that Mehserle is a cop will no doubt have real effects on the results of the sentencing. A gun enhancement would also have impact. This tactic has been used to help community members not receive enhancements.
The week before last, all the way across the country I heard love for Oscar. Young people from North Carolina read a love letter they wrote for him http://www.vimeo.com/12932081 (min 6). They also showed love to 7-year-old Ayanna Jones killed in May by Detroit police; they showed love to the New Jersey 4, young queer women of color incarcerated for defending themselves from a hate crime. These young folks reinforce my search for answers; remind me that the struggle is about our lives and is so much bigger than us. Today, out my window I hear my neighbor’s brother playing cap gun shoot em’ up with her little kids. Today I pray for peace and work for justice.
Uhuru reinforces 6PM 14th & B'way call:
Black Clergy & Elected Officials Open Letter: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/92510/archives/2010/06/30/a-message-from-black-elected-officials-and-clergy-on-the-upcoming-oscar-grant-verdict