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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Police State and Prisons
Town Hall Reports from Inside Venue Change Hearing and on Hayward Police Brutality, 10/10/09: audio
Minister Keith Muhammad attended all four days of Johannes Mehserle's change of venue motion and in this week's Town Hall for Justice for Oscar Grant reports on events as they took place inside of the courtroom. Oscar Grant's uncle Cephus Johnson says that no matter where Mehserle's trial is held he believes that justice will be achieved in the end. Jack Bryson, father of two of Oscar Grant's friends who were on the BART platform when Oscar was killed, recalled a beating one of his son's friends recently received from the Hayward police, who have been harassing Oscar Grant's friends since January 1st.
Minister Keith starts by recounting the early days after the murder of Oscar Grant when he and other community activists confronted then Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff about Orloff's resistance to charging Mehserle for the death of Oscar Grant. He mentions how President Obama was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, as was Martin Luther King Jr. previously for his work centered upon non-violent demonstration in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi. Minister Keith notes how Mehserle's defense in their change of venue request points to demonstrations at the court house as inhibiting a fair trial for Mehserle. He thanks community members for their participation at the court house on the first day of the venue hearing on October 6th. He recalls how he was told by Alameda County Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern that his greatest hope and dream was to see Mehserle's trial moved out of Alameda County. In that meeting, the Sheriff pointed at perhaps ten people standing outside of the court house peacefully assembling as a menace to his job. Minister Keith points out that one of defense attorney Michael Rains' main arguments for venue change was the amount of articles written that mentioned Oscar Grant or Johannes Mehserle, but many of those were about BART or largely unrelated matters and just included side notes about the case. Additionally, many of those articles were simply parroting motions made on Mehserle's behalf by Rains, who apparently sends then directly to the press. Chip Johnson of the SF Chronicle, for instance, took Rains' arguments put them in an article to get the defense's position in publication. Minister Keith goes on to discuss the poll that Mehserle's defense used to try and convince the court that Alameda County was too biased to judge the case fairly, but prosecutor Stein pointed out several faults in the survey during the course of the hearing. Minister Keith notes that heavy news coverage will follow the trial wherever it may go, as will community activists. He says that contrary to Rains' many assertions about protesters that demonstrators have kept each other in check and not let people pull out bullhorns inside of the court house and so forth. Minister Keith tells how Rains overly dramatically pulled out a copy of the Wednesday, October 7th Oakland Tribune that covered the demonstration and press conference at the court house the day before. (Minister Keith was in a front page photo.) Apparently, the judge walked through the crowd outside the court house and declared in court that he did not find the demonstrators intimidating. Minister Keith discusses the many failings of the corporate media on the case, and he looks back to how the Oakland Tribune didn't even cover the packed Town Hall featuring Minister Louis Farrakhan in February. Minister Keith discusses the local political atmosphere surrounding the Mehserle case and how it does not resemble the level of politics in the Rodney King case that merited a change of venue. The BART Board and Police Chief Gee are incomparable to the Mayor of LA and police chief Gates. Minister Keith goes on to recall several instances where Judge Jacobson in the venue hearing refuted Rains' assertions regarding prior case law. He draws on several historical events to show the ridiculousness of Rains' claims that Blacks in Alameda County cannot be fair jurors. The Oakland Riders were acquitted in Alameda even though some of those Oakland police officers were so notorious that they had been given nicknames by the people of West Oakland. Minister Keith works his way through the six points on why a trial should be granted a venue change and says that Mehserle's defense failed to prove any of them.
Minister Keith then discusses BART and the efforts to establish police oversight for their department. Assemblymember Tom Ammiano is holding a related hearing in Sacramento on October 20th. The Meyers Nave and NOBLE reports both make clear how desperately BART police need oversight and accountability.
Cephus Johnson, at 1:37:00 into the audio here, speaks about the family waiting for a decision from Judge Jacobson on whether Mehserle's trial would remain in Alameda County or not. He discusses the possibilities of defense attorney Rains appealing a decision to hold the trial locally or intensely grilling potential jurors. Cephus Johnson says that he believes that we will win regardless of venue.
Jack Bryson then informs attendees about an incident on the previous Saturday with Hayward police. White officers pulled over and seriously beat one of his sons friend's. The police then ripped a dreadlock from the friend's head, leaving a big bald spot. The police placed it on the windshield of their patrol car, driving around all night with the dread as a symbol of some sort of conquest. Jack recounts another incident where Hayward police stole a cell phone from one of his sons. Hayward police continue to target and abuse Oscar Grant's friends.
The Town Hall concludes with announcements about upcoming events.
previous Town Hall on 74th Avenue OPD SWAT Raid and Mehserle's Change of Venue Motion, 10/3/09: audio
Town Hall Meetings
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Olivet Institutional Missionary Baptist Church
807 27th Ave, Oakland