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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Racial Justice
The first hours of the New Year would be the last for 22-year-old Oscar Grant-Revolution
The first hours of the New Year would be the last for 22-year-old Oscar Grant, another murder at the hands of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police. Another precious life stolen from his family, his friends and humanity.
As hundreds looked on at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, they saw Oscar, kneeling with his hands in the air, forced to the platform, face first, by Officer Johannes Mehserle, with another cop’s knee on his neck. Witnesses said Oscar told his friends, who were being threatened by police with tasers, "be cool" and "just do what they say."
Officer Mehserle got off Oscar’s back, stood up and drew his gun. Just as Oscar said, "Please don't taser me, I have a four-year-old daughter,” the cop deliberately pumped a round into Oscar’s back.
Oscar Grant died a short while later, leaving behind a four-year-old daughter and grieving family and friends.
Not only was this a sick, and sickening, execution committed in front of a crowd of horrified witnesses, both on the train platform and from inside a packed BART train stopped at the Fruitvale station, but it was captured on video recorders and cell phones. Several videos taken by BART riders have been shown on TV and YouTube.
One video shows about 5 police yelling at a group of young men, apparently detaining them, roughly. Three or four of the youth are sitting or kneeling on the platform, some are handcuffed. You hear people on the BART shouting at the cops with anger, protesting the treatment the youth are getting. Then you see the cops force Oscar down, his chest to the concrete. One cop puts his knee on Oscar’s neck, then Mehserle stands, straddles Oscar’s back, un-holsters and points his gun—and you hear a shot and see the muzzle blast.
Outrage and shock spread as the video spread on the Internet and national television. For Oscar’s funeral on January 7, over a thousand people overflowed outside the doors of a large church. An outpouring of rage from the community, people of different nationalities, unseen in years, has erupted—daily demonstrations for justice, joined by Oscar’s friends and those who never were given a chance to know him. The Revolution Club—which has been out there from day one—has been joining with the anger, and struggling for the need for revolution.
Knocked back by the intensity of this outrage, a BART spokesman called for calm, cautioning that a rush to judgment was premature before all of the facts were in. BART initially denied having any “corroborating” video surveillance of the incident—claiming that the video camera in that station was not operational.
But witnesses told of being attacked or arrested and their cell phones taken by police. They have not been returned. Many of the witnesses spoke to the press, determined to get the truth out, fully aware of the risk they were taking. They told how because of a reported fight on the train two stations earlier, cops grabbed the first Black youth they saw at the Fruitvale stop. Oscar’s sister told us, “He was a good man. He died because he got off that train.” Though it did not make the press, many told us how the cops were swarming on the platform, threatening, hitting and cuffing anyone who called them out, cursing people and calling them “niggers.”
A well-known lawyer who is representing the family, and who has represented many cases of police murder, called this "the most egregious shooting I have ever seen."
Of course, BART and the Alameda County District Attorney—who are the ones who are responsible for filing criminal charges against Mehserle—promised a full investigation. They did question many witnesses to the killing. BUT, seven days after this blatant killing, Mehserle, who had been on paid leave—and, as this is written, has just “retired”—has refused to be questioned. What’s up with that? A cover-up—while getting their “story” together? When are any of us, when accused of a crime, allowed the “right” to not being interrogated?
The authorities are starting to work their case in the media, suggesting that this is a “double tragedy”—that the murdering cop is suffering too! They suggest that he might have intended “only” to taser Oscar and pulled out the wrong weapon. What bullshit! That a cop, trained in firearms, would mistake a lightweight plastic bright yellow taser for his heavy steel fully-loaded automatic weapon, which he had to cock before firing.
In a personal letter to the family of Oscar Grant, Cornelius Hall—whose son Jerrold was killed with a shotgun blast to the back of his head by the same BART police force in 1992—wrote, “I understand your pain although I will never know what you feel nor will anyone else. Stay focused in your quest for justice although you may get tired at times.”
Then he added from his own experience, and that of many other families who have lost loved ones, “BART will try to demonize your son in order to make his image look bad. Hold your head up high with the memory of his love.”
In fact, this has already started. The media is parroting stories fed by the police about a previous arrest, years back, on Oscar’s record.
But family and friends who knew and loved Oscar are holding their heads high with the memory of a young man who was working two jobs, who loved people and would try to find the best in everyone he met, who loved sports, and was a record home-run hitter in little league, and desired to marry the mother of his beautiful daughter. "What hurts me the most is when he would share with me his love for his daughter, Tayana," one friend told us. Another, talking about plans he and Oscar had just made, said, "I'm angry. I'm in a lot of pain."
A family friend lamented, "We were a village and we raised our boys, we raised them so this would not happen."
But it did. And it does far too often. What kind of system is this that does this to our precious youth?
This capitalist system has made clear once again that it has no future for a whole generation of youth. They have let us know what they think of us. We have to fight for a different future. The murder of Oscar Grant must be met with even more resistance.