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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Gabe Meyers Speaks on Civil Disobedience, Personal Sacrifice, and Justice for Oscar Grant: video
Gabe Meyers speaks about throwing red paint on BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger: "I felt that a strong statement of protest was necessary and I had decided to act.... I think the only way that things are going to get done is the way in what this judge has talked about in how this society has been shaped before, the way people have done it in the 50s and 60s when they fought for civil rights, and that's in terms of protest, and that's in terms of civil disobedience, and that's in terms of saying what you do at BART, what the BART police have done, what the District Attorney's office has done, is unacceptable and we're not going to tolerate it. That was my attitude that day when I splattered the paint. It's unacceptable. I wanted to let the BART Board know in a big way.... And I was willing to go to jail."
On April 6th, BART responded to the civil suit filed by the family of Oscar Grant III with a court filing that declared that the shooting of an unarmed Oscar Grant in the back was a "tragic accident" and that had the heavily armed officers on the Fruitvale platform on January 1st not responded with force against Oscar Grant that he would have beaten them. The tragic accident claim was made despite the fact that the Alameda County District Attorney was already pursuing murder charges against Johannes Mehserle. Absolutely nothing from several videos shot at the scene show that Oscar Grant was ever about to physically beat the six BART officers on the platform. "Oscar Grant willfully, wrongfully, and unlawfully made an assault upon defendants and would have beaten, bruised, and ill-treated them if defendants had not immediately defended themselves," BART's response said. "(The) defendants necessarily and unavoidably came in contact with decedent Oscar Grant and threatened him, but no more than was necessary for said defense." Despite this claim of necessity by BART, the Meyers Nave report released in August made abundantly clear that the actions of the BART officers on the Fruitvale platform were "seriously deficient" and that it remains "unclear if the right persons were detained" that night in the first place. Not surprisingly, BART's fallacious civil suit filing greatly offended and insulted the family of Oscar Grant and community activists.
Three days later, on Thursday, April 9th, No Justice No BART assumed control of BART's Board of Directors meeting. Demonstrators took turns voicing their objections to the lack of accountability and the apparent cover-up attempts at BART regarding the murder of Oscar Grant. Demands included the firing of General Manager Dorothy Dugger, BART Police Chief Gary Gee, and BART police officer Tony Pirone. No Justice No BART activists pressed the BART Board over their broken promise to hold public meetings at times convenient for working people in Oakland.
After numerous community activists spoke during the meeting takeover, Gabe Meyers independently threw a small amount of red paint onto BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger and Assistant General Manager Marcia deVaughn. He was tackled and arrested on the scene by BART police.
In the video below, Gabe speaks about his reasons for taking such an action and his willingness to make a personal sacrifice for justice for Oscar Grant. Gabe describes how he was originally charged with three counts of battery, vandalism, and disturbing a public meeting.
On September 4th, Gabe Meyers accepted a plea bargain that was offered to him by the judge in his case, for just the disruption of a public meeting charge. In the courtroom, the judge described Gabe's action as civil disobedience in the tradition of earlier civil rights and Vietnam-era anti-war protests that shaped our society. The judge also claimed to be a proponent of civil disobedience. The prosecutor from the Alameda County District Attorney's office objected to the charges being reduced and Gabe points out that he finds it offensive and hypocritical of the prosecutor to insist that Gabe be charged with battery for splattering children's paint on a "corrupt bureaucrat" engaged in a cover-up while the DA's office to this day continues to refuse to bring charges against BART police officer Tony Pirone for being violent with Oscar Grant and his friends on New Year's Day.
"If the prosecutor wants to object to something, I think he should object to his office refusing to prosecute Tony Pirone for battery or accessory to murder," Gabe says, "because to me he's guilty of a hate crime. He's on video calling Oscar Grant the N-word. It is unacceptable. For the District Attorney not to charge Tony Pirone in this matter, is basically the District Attorney's office engaging in a cover-up in protection of police. Just the same way BART has engaged in a cover-up in protection of its police by refusing to terminate the employment of Tony Pirone as well as other officers who were there that night and committed crimes such as trying to steal cameras from people, in terms of pointing tasers in people's faces, in Oscar Grant's and his friends' faces, just before he was shot."
"Instead what the BART has done, instead of taking appropriate action and firing these cops, they've promoted them. They've been promoted to positions where they can now teach crowd control to other officers. The whole thing is a major slap to the face of the community, the family, most importantly, and to justice. I think the only way that things are going to get done is the way in what this judge has talked about in how this society has been shaped before, the way people have done it in the 50s and 60s when they fought for civil rights, and that's in terms of protest, and that's in terms of civil disobedience, and that's in terms of saying what you do at BART, what the BART police have done, what the District Attorney's office has done, is unacceptable and we're not going to tolerate it. That was my attitude that day when I splattered the paint. It's unacceptable. I wanted to let the BART Board know in a big way. I wasn't trying to do anything violent. I wasn't trying to hurt anyone. I wasn't trying to commit any bodily injury against Dorothy Dugger or anyone else in that room. I wasn't trying to start a melee, nothing of the sort. But I wanted to make a really strong statement that what was happening was wrong and I was willing to sacrifice my freedom. And I was willing to go to jail."
For his action, Gabe Meyers was sentenced to 30 days in jail (which can be served alternately as 30 full days in the Sheriff's Work Program), three years probation, a $188 fine, 26 weeks of anger management classes, and restitution to BART (which at this point is a dry-cleaning bill a BART police officer submitted for paint that supposedly ended up on his uniform).
On September 18th, Gabe Meyers attended his first interview with the Alameda County Sheriff's Work Program. He signed the basic paper work and was told that he has to pay $400 to participate in the work program by November 4th. His alternate sentence of 30 days labor in the Sheriff's work program will start a week after that. If by that time he does not secure the $400 payment and a temporary place to live in Alameda County (he currently resides in the Sacramento area), he will have to begin a 30-day jail sentence instead.
"The struggle still goes on," Gabe says. "I hope that people will still make a sacrifice, like I did. I know it's a really difficult thing to do, to have to give up your freedom, but I think sometimes that's what it takes. It's what Martin Luther King did when he was in jail in Birmingham. It's what Nelson Mandela did when he sat in Robben Island for all those years. And it's what I'm going to do for thirty days. But it's important. I'm not going to jail because I'm a criminal. I haven't committed a crime. I acted out of my conscience."
Gabe Meyers speaks at the BART Police Department's headquarters, Lake Merritt Station, September 11th
For more information, see:
Gabriel Meyers arrested, charged with battery on BART GM
Gabe Meyers: Why the Paint?
Gabe Meyers Arrested at BART Board Meeting: video
Gabe Meyers Sentenced to 30 Days for Throwing Red Paint on BART GM Dorothy Dugger
Gabe refers to this BART informational action near the end of the video: