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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | East Bay | Santa Cruz Indymedia | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Oscar Grant Rally in Santa Cruz Against Injustice and Police Murder
In the early hours of January 1st, 2009, Oscar Grant III was murdered by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, shot in the back as he lay face-down on the Fruitvale BART platform with BART officer Tony Pirone's knee in his shoulder.
On July 8th, 2010, Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but acquitted on the more serious charges of second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. The jury included eight women and four men. A white police officer killed a black man, yet no African-Americans served on the jury. The killing took place in Oakland, but the trail was moved out of Alameda County to Los Angeles.
It was announced that Mehserle will be sentenced on August 6th**. However, other reports suggest that sentencing may take place later, perhaps in September. Judge Robert Perry now has the discretion in sentencing to decide how to apply the findings of the jury.
** 65 years ago, on August 6th, 1945, the U.S. Military dropped a nuclear bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, on August 9th, the U.S. detonated a nuclear explosion over Nagasaki.
On July 9th, a demonstration was held on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz against police murder and the unjust verdict in the trial of Johanes Mehserle. The demonstration, called for the night before, took place from 12pm until about 2:30. It brought out about two dozen demonstrators throughout that time who held signs and engaged pedestrians.
Even though the demonstration was only called for the night before, and there were no flyers around town, there was an absurd number of Santa Cruz police officers constantly surrounding the protest, as well as non-stop surveillance and zoom lens photography from the top of a building.
At the end of the demonstration, I saw SCPD spokesperson Zach Friend chatting with a half dozen officers in front of Urban Outfitters. I inquired about the large police presence. Friend replied in a flippant manner suggesting that maybe it was because there were protests in Oakland, and maybe because there were some flyers found around Santa Cruz in regards to Oscar Grant, and maybe it was because there was property destruction in Santa Cruz on May 1st.
Friend affirmed that a number of officers surrounding the demonstration were receiving overtime pay, but didn't how many. He found it funny to point out to me that one of the officers standing there was "sipping on a latte."
I asked Friend about the two plain-clothed men on top of the building taking photos. He said that they were not police officers and that he did not know who they were. He suggested, however, that they might be property owners whose building was damaged on May 1st.
I speculate that it is more likely the two men on the roof who engaged in non-stop surveillance and zoom lens photography are FBI agents, rather than vigilante property owners.
For analysis of the verdict, protests in Oakland and around the U.S., and ongoing coverage of the Justice for Oscar Grant movement, see:
Mehserle Found Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter
Justice for Oscar Grant
In the background, demonstrators look up at two men on a rooftop surveilling and photographing during the entire demonstration.
There were even more police surrounding the demonstration than the ones shown in the photos above. I counted at least 12 - 15 cops, depending on how you count police spokesman Zach Friend and the two men doing rooftop surveillance.
For numerous demonstrators, the corporate reporters, along with their video and cellphone cameras, were getting too close for comfort. But it was over-the-top when a lady wearing an NYPD shirt walked into the middle of the demonstration.
After instigating and arguing with demonstrators, the corporate media began interviewing this lady about how much she loves the cops, right there in the middle of the demonstration.
The cop loving disruptor and corporate media quickly became frustrated during the interview, in the middle of the demonstration, when they did not appreciate the chants which began emanating, "Fuck the Police, and Fuck the Corporate Media. Fuck the Police, and Fuck the Corporate Media. Fuck the Police, and Fuck the Corporate Media."
SCPD or Property Owners or FBI Agents ???
At one point during the demonstration, I was holding the large sign seen above in the second photo which reads, "Police Can Murder! No Justice"
I crossed the street to talk to someone who I thought I recognized as Fred Keeley. I don't know him personally, but in 2002, as co-founder of the Student Environmental Center (SEC) at UC Santa Cruz, I helped to organize both the "Campus Earth Festival" and "Campus Earth Summit" where Fred Keeley was a featured speaker and participant due to his progressive environmental record as an elected official.
Keeley was a member of the California State Assembly, representing District 27 which included parts of Santa Cruz County and Monterey County from 1996 to 2002. He is currently the Treasurer-Tax Collector for Santa Cruz County.
I was expecting to say hello to Fred and maybe talk with him about the demonstration. But then I assumed it was not Fred Keeley, because this man became absolutely irate when he read the sign I was holding and got right up in my face and kept walking at me while I was backing up. He insisted that justice was served, and that I did not sit on the jury, so therefore I shouldn't be holding the sign, because I don't know all the facts of the case. He kept asking me if I knew what the definition of murder was.
At this point, I figured he was just a random crazy and aggressive guy, that happened to look like Fred Keeley, and I asked him to give me some more space. I repeated my request, pointing to the ground and asking for a "square of space" since there are visible squares there on the sidewalk pavement. But this guy refused, kept getting in my space, told me that if I wanted space I should go the fuck back to the other side of the street.
Two young women were passing by and intervened to tell this guy to leave me alone because I was not doing anything wrong; I was just holding a sign. I thanked the women who then went into Urban Outfitters.
Then the aggressive man said, "Oh, what are you gonna do now that your ladies are gone." Even though there were police all over Pacific Ave., this man was taunting me and then followed me to the sidewalk area in front of Palace Arts.
At this point, a man standing on the sidewalk beside his bicycle said, "Fred, you should calm down."
I've done and experienced a lot, and should know better than to have been surprised about any of this, however I went into some form of shock to realize that the angry aggressive man with his finger next to my face was indeed Fred Keeley.
If I had known for sure at the beginning that it was Fred Keeley, I might not have backed up when he got in my space.
While Keeley was in my space, a female police officer approached to diffuse the situation. Keeley stated to the officer, "We're just having a spirited disagreement." To which the officer replied, "That's fine, but you need to give him his space. He's backing up and you keep walking forward at him."
A day later, I looked on wikipedia and learned that Fred Keeley worked for "Law Enforcement Training and Research Associates."
I am going to speculate that this had something to do with his aggressive behavior in reaction to me holding a sign that says, "Police Can Murder! No Justice"