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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Town Hall on Venue Change, State BART Hearing, and Oakland Merchant Credit, 10/24/09: audio
Topics covered in this week's Town Hall include the many fallacies behind the decision by Judge Jacobson to move Mehserle's trial for the murder of Oscar Grant III outside of Alameda County; the California Assembly hearing on BART's dysfunctional police force; a merchant credit system being set up in Oakland to keep city taxpayer dollars in Oakland; and environmental justice in the Bay Area. Reverend Henry Williams opens the Town Hall.
Minister Keith Muhammad missed the previous week's Town Hall as he was attending events related to the 14th anniversary of the Million Man March in D.C. He notes that the anniversary was the same day the venue change order was announced. Minister Keith talks about how arguments made in Mehserle's motion to change venue were picked up by the corporate media now pushing the angle that activists are to blame for venue move. But Mayor Ron Dellums, Congressperson Barbara Lee, and Assemblymember Sandre Swanson made statements about justice. The Oakland Tribune is now making it seem like activists' fault but the venue order mostly mentioned other reasons. Lawyers are telling Oscar Grant's family that activists are making things harder for them, but activists have been the only ones to offer them comfort. Mehserle probably wouldn't have even been charged without activists. If it was an accident, the murder, then Mehserle should have apologized but he's relying on the system to get him off. But the poor have never gotten justice from the system. In moving it to another county, there is no county in California as diverse as Alameda. Sacramento was ruled out, Monterey was an option the family was told. Simi Valley concerns raised -- police-friendly venue that saw every flinch of Rodney King while the police beat him mercilessly as resisting arrest. Police officer can't get a fair trial in the county the crime was committed in, the Judge said (yet teachers, politicians, business leaders have been tried at home). As activists organized more, the streets were tamed (only when there was no sense of justice was there "violence"). Oscar Grant's family will get an apartment wherever trial goes.
Minister Keith then moves on to discuss the hearing in Sacramento on BART's police department on Tuesday, October 20th. Shorthand: BART police bad training, everything wrong on January 1st when Oscar Grant was killed, detailed in Myers Nave report. NOBLE detailed so many issues, should BART even have police? Assemblymember Jerry Hill supported AB312 (to establish police oversight at BART), but it was never voted on due to BART interference. Jerry Hill asked at the hearing if BART needed police. NOBLE said BART needed force, but NOBLE are police themselves. Minister Keith notes that at the Oakland Airport TSA officers don't carry guns or tasers and they call the Sheriff if weapons needed. NOBLE missed the point that BART police need to be de-militarized, and focused on differences between taser and gun training. Ammiano was originally involved with crafting legislation similar to AB312 after Jerrold Hall was murdered by BART police in 1992. In January or February 2010, two bills will come before the Assembly: AB312 and BART's toothless proposal. People need to encourage Swanson and Ammiano to strengthen bills. BART has taken very few actions such as training and reporting force now. Don't let BART distract you when Pirone and Domenici and all the cops who lied in court at Mehserle's preliminary hearing have not been fired. BART hired a black-owned company (NOBLE) as a PR move, but we still want justice. There are issues with the part-time BART Board (at $2,000/mo) managing armed police and three full-time dead people since 1992.
Moving back to the venue decision, Minister Keith says the decision on final location is expected in 2-3 weeks and November 2nd supposed start of trial will likely be delayed (civil suit against BART and Mehserle has been set for October 2010). The Feds stepped in after Simi Valley acquittal, for civil rights violations (and one of the officers, Koon, served time in Federal prison near Santa Rita). Mehserle will be haunted by looking in the mirror every day if he never pays a price (only the corporate media support Mehserle in court hearings).
Minister Keith reminds attendees that we have yet to see the video of the murder of Brownie Polk and the video would have been released if is showed Polk at fault, because police always try to smear and blame their victims, but it remains locked away which raises suspicion.
Policing in America started as slave catchers, and perhaps BART has armed police to make suburbanites feel safer in Oakland. Policing issues didn't start in Oakland with Black Panthers (there was also the Deacons of Defense in the South). A slave rebellion in Haiti sent fear through American South, and same thing happening now, with fear of a Mehserle conviction running throughout establishment. It's not the protesters but the video and guilt of Mehserle that made them move the trial. Minister Keith says that the Town Hall for Justice might moved around Oakland from its usual location in West Oakland, to East Oakland, and other areas, and to travel throughout Northern and Southern California. The two main counties mentioned as possible venues have been Los Angeles and San Diego. NOBLE's reasons for BART police didn't prove BART needed police, and we want to see if the California Assembly demilitarizes BART police and installs oversight.
Introducing Wilson Riles, Minister Keith points out that African Americans would be the 8th largest income earners in the world if they were a nation, but don't spend their money with themselves. How many Oakland city paychecks are not spent in Oakland?
~1:00:00 Wilson Riles, former Oakland city councilmember
He's been working on a proposal for a year and the city council just sent out an RFP (request for proposal) for a vendor to develop a program on spending Oakland city dollars here in Oakland. Oakland is a hole in the doughnut of the Bay Area. 90% of police don't live here and spend their paychecks elsewhere. Gentrification is digging the hole deeper as people pushed out. That's why city needs a merchant credit system of local currency (city in Austria did it in 1930s to get itself out of recession) that can only be spend and redeemed in Oakland with local merchants.
Minister Keith discusses the new Oakland police chief being sworn in, and says he's voiced support for increased community policing.
1:09:00 Reverend Henry Williams
Chauncy Bailey started "Black Wednesday" after '89 earthquake. Fear is the flipside of faith. He tells the story of a recent witness to a murder leaving the community but still hopes he will testify. It's prejudiced of the press to not get the Town Hall side of things. No corporate media for vigil for the murder, and no one knows that there's a $20,000 reward. The FCC is violating civil rights by blocking a news station like they did a Stevie Wonder station. Reverend Williams' reparations work is proceeding.
1:18:57 Nehanda Imara, Environmental Justice teacher
There is environmental racism in East Oakland, which has a 7-year shorter lifespan, asthma from diesel trucks at the port. Toxic violence will be shown in the Toxic Tour, Friday 3-5pm, with a bus leaving from Allen Temple Baptist church. Get on the Green Bus will be November 19th, sponsored by Youth Uprising.
Minister Keith says we need a change of government and communities. Stopping murder is not solved by greater miliarization and we need to resist that. Do for ourselves, take care of ourselves, checking ourselves. Conditions now reflect that too many people are ready to react with SWAT teams etc and accept police violence against our people.
previous Town Hall for Justice for Oscar Grant Faces Mehserle Venue Change Order, 10/17/09: audio
Town Hall Meetings
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Olivet Institutional Missionary Baptist Church
807 27th Ave, Oakland