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Town Hall on BART and June 30th Day of Action to End the Death Penalty, 6/27/09: audio
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The Town Hall for Justice for Oscar Grant on June 27th focused on the many continued failings of BART and the upcoming Day of Action to End the Death Penalty on June 30th. Speakers included Minister Keith Muhammad, several community members, former Oakland City Councilmember Wilson Riles, and Delane Sims and Natasha Minsker from the ALCU's campaign against the death penalty. Minister Keith Muhammad discusses the "American Experiment" and how it has not lived up to its promise historically. He describes how the earliest version of American police were slave patrols created in order to suppress any potential slave rebellions. He goes on to talk about the continued pervasiveness of racially-focused police abuse in California and across America, including the racial injustice of people of color being disproportionately sentenced to the death penalty. As a recent case example, he mentions the case of the man laying face down who was kicked in the head by police in Los Angeles last month. Minister Keith Muhammad also addresses how this has been playing out at BART with NOBLE (the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives) being used as cover for BART's racial injustices and in the trial of Johannes Mehserle with Michael Rains trying to move the trial to a less diverse county. Speakers from the community, moderated by Dr. Ramona Tascoe, took turns addressing various related issues. Jack Bryson, father of Oscar Grant's friends, Krystof from No Justice No BART, D'Andre from the Revolution Club, Reverend Henry Williams and others spoke. A strong consensus emerged that BART has not done a single thing the community has asked for and still has not held anyone accountable for their actions on the night Oscar Grant was murdered, nor have their supervisors, Chief Gee or General Manager Dorothy Dugger, who have actively worked to cover up for the crimes of their police. As BART has not lived up to any common sense community demands, the consensus was that it is time to initiate more protests against BART. Wilson Riles listed three strategies he sees as useful to fight BART and hold them accountable. He also discusses the perverse situation of corporate personhood and how many of the injustices in our society are linked to that legal falsehood. A day-long public hearing will be held in Sacramento to receive comments about proposed regulations concerning use of lethal injection in California on June 30th. Anti-death penalty activists intend to appear in force at the hearing to object to the death penalty itself. After the hearing, activists will proceed to the Capital building to express their views to elected officials. Any person may submit comments in writing (by mail, fax, or email) but all comments must be submitted by 5pm June 30th. Contact info is listed below. Delane Sims and Natasha Minsker point out that Alameda County is the third in California for sending people to death row. They also address the historical inequality in how the death penalty has been applied in the U.S. -- people of color convicted of killing a white person are far more likely to get the death penalty than white people killing people of color. They add that one often-forgetten route to decreasing the numbers sent to death row is to pressure local DAs such as Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff to use the discretion in his power to sentence convicted people to a life term rather than a death sentence. Minister Keith Muhammad speaks first here, after a prayer from Reverend Henry Williams:

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