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Town Hall for Justice Responds to Mehserle's Involuntary Manslaughter Verdict, 7/10/10: audio
This week's Town Hall for Justice for Oscar Grant was held at True Vine Ministries on West Street in West Oakland rather than its usual location at Olivet Baptist. The topic, of course, was the involuntary manslaughter verdict issued by the jury in the murder trial of Johannes Mehserle just two days prior. It was followed by a press conference outside for the corporate media with speakers including Minister Keith Muhammad, Tony Coleman, Jeffrey Pete, Wilson Riles Jr., Donald Lacy, and Cephus Johnson.
After Reverend Zachary Kerry of True Vine Ministries opened the Town Hall with a prayer, Minister Keith Muhammad declared that the principles of justice are universal. Certain people are willing to help build a new world. The press is waiting outside for the press conference to follow the Town Hall. We welcome the family home and to continue on the mission for justice.
Minister Keith continues by noting that the jury in the Mehserle trial convened in record speed. (Judge perry had threatened to delay the trial five years after seeing Oscar Grant posters outside the court house.) The first day of deliberations was a short day, then July 5th was a holiday, then juror out sick Tuesday so no deliberations, then Wednesday a juror left for vacation, so Friday's deliberations were moot and an alternate juror was brought in and deliberations didn't restart until late Wednesday, giving them about three hours. On Thursday, the jury deliberated for maybe three hours. The jury had to work their way down from second degree murder charge on a unanimous basis. If one jury thought second degree charge was reasonable, then they needed to deliberate on that. If not, then they move to examining voluntary manslaughter charge and so on. Jury needs to find clarity on technical issues, but in lightning speed a verdict was announced Thursday. The jurors were asked individually if they agreed with the verdict and one of them cried when asked (maybe that juror wanted a Voluntary Manslaughter or Second Degree Murder verdict). Chip Johnson of the SF Chronicle reported wrongly that Cephus Johnson, Oscar Grant's uncle, had said that people were "pimping" Oakland youth. Another Chronicle report quoted Youth Uprising's Olis Simmons saying that Cephus basically incited a riot with his response to the verdict.
Minister Keith points out that Martin Luther King Jr. was called an "outside agitator" with no right to rile up otherwise "happy negroes" in the American South. But MLK responded, "I am here because injustice is here." Furthermore, MLK said, "Wherever there is injustice, I should be. An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere." Oscar Grant was from Hayward -- so does that mean his surviving friends can't come to Oakland? Everyone seriously involved with the justice for Oscar Grant movement since January 1st, 2009 has spoken responsibly.
Mehserle changed his tune as the wheels of justice moved forward -- he only wrote his supposed apology letter on July 4th, 2010, and still has no words for Oscar Grant's family.
The murder of Oscar Grant, calling it was it was, was an execution Alameda Supervisor Keith Carson said. Mayor Dellums authorized OPD to investigate as they would any other murder in the city, but the corporate media turned off their cameras and asked the mayor if he really meant to say "homicide." Some media refused to acknowledge it was murder, and many advocated as if it was Oscar Grant's fault. The press ignored much, and didn't report on Tony Pirone's "bitch ass ni**er" statement to Oscar Grant. One press person said to Minister Keith that he should hold a press conference to call out that remark from Pirone or the media wouldn't report it, even though they were in the court room when the video was played where Pirone could be heard saying it.
Minister Keith continues that we are not satisfied with involuntary manslaughter. If we've learned anything from this, it's not to be an armchair revolutionary, to talk a big game but follow others in doing nothing.
In court room Oscar Grant and his friends were treated poorly. All were unlawfully arrested, his friends being held in handcuffs for six hours. BART officers taunted them while they were detained. Then BART PD said they were not under arrest and were free to leave, even though they were in handcuffs. The cuffs were taken off and then they were read their rights. A soft-spoken female officer then said, "we're your friends, and want to get to the bottom of this." Oscar Grant's friends didn't speak at that point and they were under duress during earlier statements that they made, but what they had said was attempted to be used against them in court to show conflicting statements. But those who testified stood up to Mehserle's million-dollar lawyer (Michael Rains). Rains didn't think they were intelligent, but he was proved wrong. Rains mocked them all, even Jamil Dewar for crying in court. When Jamil Dewar cried, the judge cleared the court room, yet when Mehserle cried the judge let the jury absorb it all.
Mehserle never said anything in all these months and didn't even say it was an accident at the time. Mehserle even refused to sign a document that called the shooting an accident. Justifiable homicide was declared for Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell. Mehserle said, "I thought he had a gun" before the video came out. Why didn't officers testify or fill out reports that they were threatened? Only the video "expert" said that (and he was paid $50,000). One use of force expert, on tasers, a consultant with a taser company, said in a UCLA article he wrote that you never stand up to tase someone on the ground, but in court he said Mehserle did the right thing. Oscar's last act with a cell phone was to photograph Mehserle holding his taser -- are we to believe that he had it out, put it away, then got confused less than two minutes later and accidentally pulled out his gun? We all know Oscar Grant was murdered.
In a city that is 25% white (Los Angeles, where the trial was held), 75% of the jurors where white. A conscious effort was made to remove African American jurors.
The press conference to follow the Town Hall is to express gratitude to those who have fought for justice for Oscar Grant. Don't put your heads down and say there's nothing you can do about the involuntary manslaughter verdict. Get active, demand justice. The Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Barbara Lee, is here. We have enough Black elected official that if they don't stand up for justice then we don't need Black elected officials.
Full audio from press conference featuring Tony Coleman, Jeffrey Pete, Wilson Riles Jr., Donald Lacy, and Cephus Johnson to follow shortly. Link will be added as comment below.
previous recorded Town Hall on Justice for Oscar Grant and Community Gathering at 14th & Broadway, 7/3/10: audio
Town Hall Meetings
Every Saturday 4pm - 6pm
Olivet Institutional Missionary Baptist Church
807 27th Ave, Oakland
Press conference held after Town Hall here: