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Indybay Feature

The Smothering of the Oscar Grant Movement

by Minister of Information JR
Yesterday evening, there was a rally in downtown Oakland calling for justice for Oscar Grant III, the 22 year old unarmed Black man who was being restrained by two BART police officers when he was shot in the back at point blank range, on New Years morning, in front of dozens of witnesses who caught it on camera (see to see footage).
The rally was called by members of a newly formed organization called C.A.P.E. (The Coalition Against Police Executions), which organized itself in response to the murder of Oscar Grant III. The question that I have about the name is do people have to be executed by the police for this coalition to look into their case; because some are just terrorized and not killed? Would the police terrorism suffered by Nadra Foster at KPFA Radio station in August, who was unarmed and slammed to the ground, kicked between the legs, kicked in the head, and restrained in a type of strait-jacket by the Berkeley police for allegedly making a personal call from an institution that she had volunteered at for over 10 years, qualify for attention? What about the case of Antoine “Soda Pop” Goff and John Tennision who were framed for a murder that they did not commit by the former San Francisco Chief of Police Earl Sanders and his former partner Napoleon Hendrix, and ended up doing 13 years, would C.A.P.E. take this up? Or what about the case of unarmed 15 year old Laronte Studdesville, who was shot in the back by Oakland police in 2007, although he lived and this can not be considered an execution, would this be important enough for C.A.P.E. to take up?

The rally started on the steps of City Hall, in downtown Oakland, which is the exact location where a week earlier, a rebellion against police terrorism broke out, with 105 people being arrested mostly on trumped up charges, camera's and cell phones were confiscated by the Oakland police, and thousands of dollars in property was damaged in response to the inaction of city officials and BART officials responsible for investigating the murder of Oscar Grant..

This rally seemed to be more of a prayer vigil slash Kum-by-yah festival, starting off with prayers and shouting on the mic every few minutes that “ we need to be peaceful”. I started to wonder if the organizers saw the same footage that I saw, because “we” did not shoot Oscar Grant, police officers in uniform did. How can anybody ask for peace before they ask for justice? That gave me a weird feeling when the event first started.

The event came to a climax, at city hall, when the organizers let the mayor, Ron Dellums' criminal ass speak. Less than 24 hours before this rally/vigil/festival sheriffs in Nevada allegedly arrested the trigger pulling officer for murder. The problem is the camera shows 4 other officers aiding Johannes Mehserle, the pig who pulled the trigger. Why have not they been arrested? If I was caught on tape killing anybody, me and everybody who was with me at the moment would have been arrested whether or not they knew what I was going to do or not. Why did the C.A.P.E. organizers let the Mayor speak, as if he was some kind of hero or something? Consequently, the mayor was questioned by the people during his speech about why the other 4 cops involved are not under arrest. He ignored the questions and continued to try and look like Dr. King when he spoke.

Pissed off and frustrated with unprincipled behavior, I asked the stage manager, the local singer Jennifer Johns, why was the mayor speaking at a protest at city hall. If we were not protesting the mayor at city hall, who were we protesting? I then asked if the protesters who were arrested in the rebellion a week earlier, would have a chance to speak to get support for our upcoming trials. Johns told me, “you should have come to the meeting”. I told her that I was at the doctor and meeting with potential lawyers at the times of these meetings. Her arrogant attitude personified the class contradictions that were evident between the organizers of this rally, and the young people who risked their freedom to rebel in the streets; let me remind you that it was the rebellion and threat of another one that got the cop arrested.

To add insult to injury, Oakland pimp rapper Too Short was allowed to speak, who has never been a part of a community struggle to my knowledge, but the people who were out in the streets during the rebellion, risking their freedom at the moment, and jail time in the future including those who did not commit any crimes but were peacefully protesting; we were not given a chance to speak on the mic, our cases were not talked about, and C.A.P.E. co-founder Dereca Blackmon's promise to collect donations for our defense did not happen at any time, according to what I saw and heard.

My personal highlight from the day, was Minister Keith Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, calling for the resignation or recall of DA Orloff, who hesitantly arrested one of the cops, and still has not arrested the other 4 that were directly involved in the incident that costed the 22 year old father, Oscar Grant his life. This was the only strong demand that I heard come from the stage at the “rally”/kum-by-yah fest.

The Bay Area is fortunate enough to not be plagued with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson types, who run to the bedsides of victims to hijack community struggles then water them down. We have to maintain that legacy and not allow no one to lead us that does not have a principled track record of struggle, in this arena. This is too dire of a situation to let some rookies, and that's with me giving them the benefit of the doubt, take the lead, while they learn what going head up against the system is about. In my opinion, they need to humble themselves to find out what the community really wants, including those who rebelled in the streets. Who is C.A.P.E. really saving, the system or the people?
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by right on
I too was offended when Too Short was introduced as some kind of hero to the Oakland community. If I remember right, he moved away to Atlanta in the early to mid 90s and basically said, "Fuck Oakland," on his way out, burning bridges before and after he left. He pretty much left because he was run out by too many people that were sick of the way he acted and he refused to make amends. Has he moved back? Or just thought maybe he could drop by and that those who don't remember might go out and buy some of his records? He too called for peace in the streets, saying it would be a "shame" if someone rebelled that day after the feel-good rally.

The broken record about peace was annoying throughout.

And, insult to injury, no mention of solidarity for those brutalized and arrested by the cops over the last 10 days. The people of Oakland that the cops selected for arrest are now to be outcasts, presumed guilty, and the mayor who did next to nothing until AFTER the social unrest on the 7th was the hero of the day? The mayor who is now promising the Chamber of Commerce that he is their guy:

The name CAPE is a bit too specific, but if specificity was their goal, maybe the name really should have been the Coalition for the Arrest of the Single Officer Responsible for the Murder of Oscar Grant and To Keep Everyone Calm So Business Can Parade Over Poor People As Usual. Something like that.
by M.
CAPE is not interested in the 9 other POC that have been executed by OPD in the last 18 months. They are solely focused on Oscar Grant and his families message of keeping the peace. Donations were collected, but they said the funds were for CAPE because they can't put on other protests without the $$$. They are pretty full of themselves and do not have the communities interest at stake.

Good for you JR.
by Max Allstadt
The reason Ron Dellums should not have been a target of that protest is simple: Dellums has no authority over BART police, and neither does anyone at Oakland City Hall, or at the Oakland Police Department. If you knew this, or any of the jerks who broke off from your protest knew this, perhaps BART headquarters would have been the target of your rage instead of innocent small businesses and middle class people's cars.

By the way, calling yourself "Minister of Information" and not using your real name in your byline reduces your credibility and is rather cowardly given the strength of your rhetoric. The stronger the argument, the more necessary it is to claim ownership.
by miles
You don't get out very often do you Max? And if you're just sitting at home, I guess you don't turn on your radio in the early evening. I very rarely have my radio on at work but I still know that MOI JR is a frequent contributor on KPFA. So take your head out of your behind before you spout off against a public figure who has the credentials and credibility to back up his outrage at the politics-as-usual of the cretins who organized the protest more than you do at him because he happens to have a public persona that doesn't fit into your idea of nominal responsibility.
by .
Saying that the group which organized that protest are cretins is a pretty effective way to marginalize yourself. Why do you want to say that the thousands of people who participated in the main rally in a peaceful fashion, where people felt comfortable bringing their kids, are somehow dupes or moderate liberals. It's pretty disrespectful of a large contingent of activists. Given what had happened the two days before, people would have faced a real risk showing up without the dialog with city hall and the police. If someone who was a parent had to visualize being detained because property destruction or civil disobedience were taking place around them, they might not show up. Likewise, when I was detained or near civil disobedience in SF during antiwar protests, people near me with immigration green cards were having their stomach sink, or were trying to quickly leave the area if they could, because they know misdemeanors can be used against them. Do you think that the people in Chinatown will feel comfortable walking over?
by D
Thanks to JR for this reflection.

Max, seriously? A murder was committed in Oakland city limits. Ron Dellums has authority over that, BART police or not.

JR's right on the mark: it was the rebellion that forced the establishment to act. They haven't yet done things consummate with real justice, but at least we forced them to act.

All this talk about how the young folks in the streets "need to be nonviolent" is ridiculous. Yes, smashing people's cars and damaging small businesses is not productive and harms people who probably also deplore police violence. However, we're not the ones committing murder and thwarting justice.
by Donna
Saying Minister of Information JR hides behind a fake name is like saying Malcolm X hid behind one. Max's statement is completely ignorant and shows that people who have no idea what's going on still feel they are in a position to judge and dismiss.

The person who signed as "." hasn't noticed that the only reason murder charges were brought against Mehserle was because of the rebellion that took place. As Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) said: “A lot of people in the bourgeoisie tell me that they don’t like H. Rap Brown when he says, ‘I’m gonna burn this country down.’ But every time Rap Brown says that, they get a poverty program.” In this case, we got a highly unusual murder charge for the police killing of a 22 year young black man who was lying face down with his hands behind his back pleading not to be hurt.
by RealTalk
I don't think anyone could have said it any better. for too long now glory seeking organizers have attempted and succeeded in pacifying a movement into the point of irrelevance. furthermore such frauds as Al and Jessie are nothing more than leeches that travel the country sucking the life out of every movement before traveling to the next, stopping only to dine at the white house........stay the course, stay strong and stay militant..
by Mario
JR's observations are astute . But C.A.P.E. is still a work in progress. The name is a good one . Direct, Dramatic and accurate . Also note '' Police executions '' plural , which opens up the political space for organizing to expose past cop killings.
Secondly i understand there will be a open organizing meeting in the near future . If anyone doesn't want the more conserative elements to dominate , then show up and speak and fight for your positions. It also should be noted that despite Dellums ignoring the issue of the other BART cops CAPE hasn't . They call for their arrest and prosecution .
PS What happened in Court Friday 1/16 ? Were any charges dropped ? Added on ? What's the situation with JR"s charge ?
by ACJ
JR, you're the man. This report-back was exactly what I heard heard and felt that day. Keep it up, others in the Bay area are with you. It's papers like yours that keep folks motivated. Solidarity!
by Donna
I respectfully disagree with Mario, I think CAPE has already decided who is "in" CAPE and who is "out." The fact that JR was not invited to speak at the rally, in spite of his solid public speaking record, is evidence of their position towards him and POCC, and other individuals/organizations on the streets on Jan. 7 and 14. They have also not demanded amnesty for the people facing charges stemming from the riots, even though this includes several black and brown people, further reflecting their "in/out" position. I know a number of individuals who signed up to be on the CAPE mailing list but who have apparently been excluded from e-mails regarding future open meetings.

There would be less worry about the direction of CAPE if they presented themselves as an alliance of a few organizations (or something like that) rather than a coalition. Calling themselves a coalition gives the impression they are the flagship organization representing all voices, when they really only function as one org among many, some of whom have been shut down when they've tried to work with CAPE.
by .
The point is definitely granted that the first two major protests contributed to the DA charging Mehserle with murder (which is almost unprecedented for police shootings).

At the same time, I think the disrespect or exaggeration regarding the major protest organizers really underestimates their contribution to getting results and getting the story in the media.

For example, many people held signs listing victims of shootings in addition to Oscar Grant. The public at large or outside of Oakland had largely never heard of them, even though their initial deaths had been shallowly covered in the news. Think about why major protests took place over these prior killings. Perhaps... it's because nobody *organized* a good demonstration? When I look at major events (Answer marches are one of the biggest examples locally), it can look like people simply issued an announcement and had a meeting to reserve a site or route. However, when I have tried to organize small things myself, it was surprising how few people will show up or express interest unless you really have a knack for networking. If you put advertisements on the message boards and calendars that you know of, perhaps 5 people might hear about it through that. A lot of work and skill is involved in making people prioritize a particular event and encourage their friends to go.
by Mario
i can't really disagree with most of your points other than to say that things are moving fast and no one political tendency has control of this movement. (And in my opinion NO single org. should , we really need a united front )
As for upcoming meetings if no one else does i will post the time and place .
by AA
"Any person or organization that attempts to rally us under one cause or one banner, to speak for all of us, shall be seen as they are.

Vultures who look for any opportunity to lift themselves up.

We do not seek others to fight for us, we will fight for ourselves.

As I have said in the past, this text is not simply a publication to read and put down.

Every word is meant.

Let this be a weapon to hold to the head of any forked tongued, neo-liberal demon that attempts to take our rage from us.

At this point it seems as if it's the only thing we have left. -CG"

we need submissions please!

we focus on militancy within disempowered communities in the far east bay and abroad.

Please take a look at us and also our email is

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Great article.

I really hope we dont let ourselves fade into irrelevance.
by miles
Whoever organizes themselves to be the representatives of other people deserves all the insults thrown at them.

Whoever sets themselves up as monitors at demonstrations to protect the sanctity of private property deserves to be paid by the police department.

Whoever organizes themselves to create a division between "good" protesters and "bad" rioters deserves even more than insults.
by Donna
So if we agree that despite CAPE's efforts city officials had not moved on the Mehserle's case until the riots, the point is that CAPE was the first to dismiss the riots as a bunch of outside agitators taking advantage of and leading black youth in to mayhem. The police and the corporate media had the same story. Anyone who was actually on the streets has discredited and refuted this narrative. (See and CAPE has not issued any public statement in support of the people who were out there raising a ruckus the last two Wednesdays, have not demanded amnesty for them, nor even modified their organizing efforts to reflect a changed perspective on what happened. What you are interpreting as disrespect towards CAPE is actually frustration about being presumptuously identified as an immature element that needs to be quelled and controlled even when people who were out on the streets have made good faith efforts to work with CAPE.

The point isn't "let's all get crazy" but rather that riots happen for a reason, in a context, and should be recognized as having an important (if unsettling) role in broader social struggles that work in tandem with (not against) getting better social programs, better education, better housing, etc.

Organizers are facilitators, if folks are interested in what is being organized and know about it, they'll come. No amount of networking or cajoling will get people to come organize a resistance movement that they're not interested in. All power to the people.
by tony
great that all voices getting heard even if we dont always agree with eachother. my own family debated about this. some points JR made i get but i cant agree with it most of them. i was there both as a organizer and a videographer. i believe as most believe that the so-called riots had some positive results. when i seen the police car on fire i couldnt help but to feel proud that folks were that outraged and willing to demonstrate that passion.
as for cape JR in a way may be right that we're so-called rookies though as individuals were not. we're learning how to be a coalition with eachother. taking out time to meet and dialog. our intentions are good. its only been a couple weeks and the mtgs we've had been public so that the brightest if they really care can come and add to the work instead of sitting on the side line or worst working in isolation and complaining about what others doing wrong. cape is not the enemy. we want justice! if u know how to organize better than what cape has done so far then by all means do your thing. there should be hella coalitions forming. what plans do u or your org have for the cause in the future? cape not the only ones. if no org start one then critic it. critic is good. i appreciate hearing this critic along with other opposing view points. shh the police aint talking giving us opposing views we needed an opposing view point so thank u. do u also have any solutions to add?
by deanosor
1. Will CAPE call for the charges to be dropped against those who participated in the rebellions? 2 Will CAPE stop dividing "good" protestors from "bad" protestors?
by Donna
1. Will CAPE call for the charges to be dropped against those who participated in the rebellions? 2. Will CAPE stop dividing "good" protesters from "bad" protesters?
by Mmmm
At CAPE meetings, the people who were involved in the rebellion, or any dissenting voices for that matter, are consistently sidelined and sometimes even insulted, yet are being told to keep coming to their meetings. A rhetoric of co-optation is developing amongst the self-appointed leaders: Long winded speeches are made that "those who are REALLY committed to the struggle" will keep coming to their meetings even though there doesn't seem to be any desire to really LISTEN to any other voices besides the liberal moderate ones aimed at containing revolutionary elements. I just want to be clear that it is their compromising liberalism that is smothering this movement, not a lack of desire or commitment on the part of the rebellion.
by wrth
Well, if you don't like what CAPE is doing, then start your own group and do your own protests. Sometimes the solution to "watering-down" is simply to move away.
by tony
i think those are real good questions that need to be answered as a group. me as an individual stand by all the protesters. i also dont like the tone of bad ones and the good ones. we all in this together and when i was young i wouldve done more than break windows, i wouldve tried to come up. but now im grown raising grandbabies and teaching them wasup. i also understand that the rally was really heavy on prayer and spiritual and repeating for folks to be peaceful. i dont always agree with everything we do as a group but thats democracy, sometimes folks dont always agree with me and still roll if we majority. if folks want to do a more better job then lead the way. i think we all looking for good leadership. if cape is to watered down for you in its inception before we even had any real dialog about structure etc... then show the people the REAL way to do it, and let us learn. the time is now. justice b4 peace
by A. Camus
This statement is great. No need to mince words here. Maybe CAPE should have a rally to commemorate the execution of dozens of windows in Oakland over the past 2 weeks.
by tony
check out video report 1
by sick n tired
of police violence and neglect. from when i was 15 yrs old and got hit y an off duty officer running a red ligt in a pedestrian crosswalk then denied even an ambulance although i couldn't stand in st. louis to the numerous times i've been hand cuffed and hit around the country to all the bullshit in new orleans in the the 90's and early 2000's to all this power tripping abuse still being admministered in our present. justice for oscar grant and adolpf grimes as well as all the rest for their peace as well as their families. but also for us because this does have roots spread much deeper than these individuals. who hasn't been harassed by the police on here minus the cops who post. who probably were arassed before they joined up with the opposition. the people will rise up through action not having dreams. it is te only way to be heard these days. the only way, wake up.
by Malachi
I hope that all have the ability to understand that nothing is perfect and ask how they can get involved to help our collective work for justice get even stronger and sharper in it's varied expressions. It is saddening that hours are spent at a computer bickering over line struggles or components of an overall very powerful response to this situation and larger epidemic.

My elders assured me Monday and Tuesday that this would arise and to not be taken off track but embrace criticism in ways that in the long term make us all stronger and bring us more unity. I encourage folks who have criticisms to raise them directlly and to get involved with future work so that the expertice of your leadership can shine through in what is to come.

I truly believe that everyone did their best and scarified to pull of something that had to be done in an expedited way. I hope that folks can begin to focus on the future incorporating the successes and the errors of the past.

by Malachi
It is sad that folks would make up lies on this service. The donations were given to teh Grant family wed night. Please folks stop making up things.
by Donna
First I want to thank Tony for the care and generosity in his messages.

In response to people who think we shouldn't be posting criticisms here:

I could say I was hurt when I went to the first CAPE meeting, and had to listen to some of "the leadership" talk about people who were out on the streets on Jan. 7th and 14th as if we weren't in the room, and then talked about as bad, wild and out-of-control, needing to be contained. No support was expressed for the youth by the people who identified primarily as CAPE, and there was a clear line drawn between good protesters/ bad protesters. I realized soon after that my hurt was more than emotional--it marked a serious political difference--and that is where the meat of the issue lies.

Let's be clear, these criticisms are directed at CAPE's decision to dismiss and disown the rioters as "not us." All they had to say was exactly what Bishop Kane said at that first meeting at Olivet on the 10th, and follow it up with an action plan that was coherent with that message.

Instead, different individuals who participated in the "riots" had to spend a bunch of time correcting the official narrative that was all over the media and that CAPE was completely complicit with: the whole outside agitators line. It seems to me that now that the discontent is out in the open on this blog that our very real concerns, criticisms and political disagreements ARE being acknowledged by CAPE people. Up until now we were being completely dismissed or ignored, so it has been productive to spend the time to post here even if assumptions are being made that we aren't at the meetings, or just sitting on the sidelines hatin.

I know a lot of us have been to all the meetings and have been networking with each other. At the Olivet meeting last Saturday a couple of people WERE there directly challenging the BART rep. Others have gone to CAPE organizing meetings and directly challenged what was being said and done, and been ignored. No one can say we haven't been trying to contribute or haven't been coming to the meetings. We've been to the meetings and the court hearings and the demos.

Which brings up wrth's comment about just starting our own org if we don't like CAPE. I say that's not enough, we can't pretend we live on separate islands.

"Riots are the voices of the unheard." - Martin Luther King
by malachi (garzamalachi [at]
I would encourge you to set up a one on one. This has been a successful way for folks to vioce their concerns and provide helpful leadership. It is unfortuniate that you have been shut down and not what is strived for! There has been some mistakes for sure and people are willing to learn from them. There is also a real oppertunity here for collaboration that is getting interest from a lot of different groups who may have differeing tactics or lines or bases but the more we can build a united front the better.
by miles
You do know the difference between a United Front and a Popular Front, right? A United Front is a temporary defensive extra-parliamentary alliance among explicitly (working class-based) revolutionary forces to deal with a "greater enemy." A Popular Front, in contrast, is a permanent cross-class electoral alliance of "all progressive forces" (including the middle class) intended to defeat some "greater enemy" through legislation. What you're calling for is a Popular Front, an implicitly counter-revolutionary alliance across class lines that aims to change political policies that make you sad. It is not a problem of leadership--it's a problem of content and constituents. Is civilian oversight of the police (municipal and BART) what you want? Is harsher punishment for "bad apple" cops what you want? If your goals are anything less than community control of safety and security (i.e. the abolition of the police as a paramilitary occupying force in the community that protects the property of the middle class and the rich), then you're my enemy, and no amount of lip service to better leadership and a softer capitalism is going to change that.
by A place and time for everything
I'm not going to spend much time responding to the comments,I would like to simply say -haven't we learned yet that we can have multiple strategies to address injustice? Can we really say that activist who employ a peaceful strategy to fight against injustice care less than those who employ civil disobedience or vice-versa? A man was murdered - we certainly can be mature enough to recognize we are diverse people with diverse strategies- please remember there were folks who choose to sit a home and do nothing. There is a place and time for EVERYTHING!!!
by Let's agree on this
I heard on KPFA this AM that Mehserle has a bail hearing this friday , Jan. 30 , at 2pm . (Uncertain which courthouse and room . Does anyone know ? )
His high powered Millionaire attorney (I wonder who's paying his probable high six figure legal fees ? ) will try to get his client released on bail .
Normally progressives wouldn't oppose bail . Think of all the guys spending a year or more in the county jail just awaiting trial .
BUT this is very different . Someone accused of being a Cop Killer is NEVER granted bail . In contrast on those rare occassions when a cop is charged with murder, he almost always is granted bond .
So despite all our other legit tactical and idelogical differences let's pack the courtroom this Friday in solidarity with Oscar Grant's family.
Let's outnumber those cops and Fox news fans that will be there to back their ''brother''.
by Unity in Action
Johannes Mehserle's Bail Hearing :
Jan. 30
Alameda Co. Courthouse
1225 Fallon St.
Dept. 11
Let's turn out in force to demand that this killer cop be treated the same as someone accused of killing a cop . NO BAIL !!
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