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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Town Hall for Justice for Oscar Grant, Oakland, 8/15/09: audio
Minister Keith Muhammad speaks about issues surrounding the murder of Oscar Grant III, including the new police oversight model approved by the BART Board. He talks about the lies police have told regarding the murders of Oscar Grant by BART police and Parnell Smith by Oakland police.
Cephus Johnson, Oscar Grant's uncle, talks about the struggles Oscar Grant's surviving friends are going through now. He also makes some honest and astute comments regarding the prejudices that people too easily carry with them when judging police actions or labor disputes.
After an opening prayer, Minister Keith introduces Dr. Ramona Tascoe who speaks first:
Ramona Tascoe speaks to the expectation of those in power that the community will drift away from the cause for justice in the time between the Mehserle preliminary hearing, which concluded already, and the murder trial currently scheduled for this October. She also spoke about a recent medical conference she attended where she spoke about the case of Oscar Grant. Former Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, was to speak following Ramona Tascoe and he gave her ten minutes of his speaking time in order for her to be able to discuss the issues more thoroughly. She tells of meeting with the family of Brownie Polk, who was murdered by Oakland police on August 1st. There will be a prayer vigil on August 25th next to the police substation at Eastmont Mall in East Oakland. She adds that building relationships with victims of police violence is helping to build the case that will be pressed with the U.S. Justice Department regarding racial discrimination in Bay Area policing.
previous Town Hall on Obama, Parnell Smith, Brownie Polk, BART, & Emeryville Police Racism, 8/8/09: audio
Town Hall Meetings
Every Saturday 4pm - 6pm
Olivet Institutional Missionary Baptist Church
807 27th Ave, Oakland
Minister Keith Muhammad speaks to the similarities between the living conditions of poor people in the San Francisco Bay Area and those in so-called Third World countries, from lack of affordable health care to the victimization by police brutality. He discusses the unanimous vote of the BART Board of Directors for their police oversight plan the previous Thursday. Minister Keith compares the anti-health care protests at the recent Town Halls of U.S. Congresspersons organized by corporations with the obviously organized effort of BART police to protest the police oversight model and the ugly comments submitted by BART police. He goes on to discuss how the BART police officers on the Fruitvale BART station platform when Oscar Grant was murdered were allowed to view hi-res video before they were questioned, allowing them hours and days to work on their stories. He notes how Tony Pirone made up a new lie on the spot during the preliminary hearing when confronted with his previously false accounts of events on the platform -- he claimed on the stand that Oscar Grant was going for Pirone's own gun at one point.
He talks about the slow history of progress in the civil rights movement and how sometimes solutions to issues are intended only to be temporary appeasement of community concerns. He adds that police oversight is important but certainly
Minister Keith talks about the police pattern of demonizing victims and falsifying of reports when they harm or kill unarmed citizens such as Parnell Smith. OPD recently called it "good policing" when they tasered a man who was sitting down at an A's game. Minister Keith says that Tony Pirone and other officers on the BART platform should have been tested for drugs after the murder because he appeared to be on steroids experiencing "roid rage."
Minister Keith goes on to discuss the power of the people to overcome the police and prison guards who constantly press legislators to place police/prison concerns over the rights of average citizens.
Minister Keith thanks numerous community activists who have been fighting for justice over the last seven months (at 40:50 into audio).
He repeats something Krystof from No Justice No BART said at the July 30th public BART meeting about the importance of staying focused on the "who" as well as the "what" when justice is being sought. It's not just about future police oversight because to this date no one at BART has been held accountable by BART for their actions on January 1st. Minister Keith notes that the Meyers Nave report was about to be released and, if it was worth the $250,000 BART paid for it, the report will document the monumental mistakes made by BART police and supervisors on January 1st, including the false reports they all filed that day. Alameda DA should seriously consider charging the BART officers for perjury for the proven lies they told in court during the preliminary hearing.
Minister Keith Muhammad closes by talking about the new Oakland police chief just appointed and the myriad of issues he faces. The new police chief is from Long Beach and supposedly has a record of reducing officer involved shootings by 70% and reducing other crimes as well. Mayor Ronald Dellums had promised the community that the new chief would be a supporter of civilian oversight and community policing. Amongst the issues facing OPD is the aftermath of recent police murders, ongoing federal oversight that arose from the infamous Oakland Riders case, and the pending civilianization of internal affairs investigations of citizen complaints.
Cephus Johnson closed this week's Town Hall for Justice by discussing the ongoing struggles of Oscar Grant's surviving friends and how their lives were changed forever by witnessing BART police officer Johannes Merserle murder Oscar Grant right in front of them. He also talks about thoughts he's had regarding the prejudices carried around by many of us, such as when he has caught himself mistakenly assuming that when he passes people being detained by police on the street that they are guilty of something. With the recent labor tensions at BART that almost led to a strike, Cephus Johnson talks about how many people often scoff at labor organizers as being greedy or lazy without considering the greed and unfair labor practices of management that labor unions continually must fight against.