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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Raheim Brown Supporters Protest Barhin Bhatt as Chief at OUSD Meeting, 8/24/11: audio & photos
On August 24th, family and supporters of Raheim Brown Jr. once again gathered at Oakland Unified School district headquarters to demand that OUSD police officers Barhin Bhatt and Jonathan Bellusa, the officers responsible for the murder of Raheim Brown, be fired and charged with the killing. This time, though, the anger was even more intense as it was learned less than a week earlier that the tone-deaf and callous superintendent and school board had not only ignored the repeated previous pleadings of community members, but had promoted Barhin Bhatt (Raheim's shooter) to interim chief of the school police upon the previous chief's sudden retirement when racist and threatening comments of his became public. [Audio in three parts below]
[Pictured above: Civil rights attorney Anne Weills speaks to the corporate media during a press conference held before the OUSD school board meeting.]
On August 4th, the following allegations were lodged in complaints filed by fellow officers against OUSD police chief Peter Sarna. Apparently, while driving back from an event at Sequoyah Country Club in Oakland with three other officers, chief Sarna began to rant. Sarna turned to an African American officer, who lives in Orinda, and said that he had no right to live in Orinda because he was a "n----r" and that “he should be hung in the town square” and that “he was the last n----r that he would ever hire.” The story became public on August 15th, and by August 17th Sarna submitted a letter announcing his immediate retirement.
On the same day that it became clear that Sarna was out, it was learned that Barhin Bhatt had been promoted to replace him as interim chief of OUSD police. The decision by OUSD superintendent Tony Smith, with the backing of the board, to appoint Bhatt outraged community members, especially considering that it had barely been a week since dozens of protesters had last rallied at the OUSD administration building calling for firing and charging Barhin Bhatt and Jonathan Bellusa for the murder of Raheim Brown. The move was perceived as a huge slap in the face to Raheim Brown's family, as well as supporters who have been fighting for justice since Raheim Brown was murdered on January 22nd, 2011. It is beyond comprehension how Oakland students could possibly be expected to have any faith in a police force rocked by an ugly racism scandal at the very top followed by the same man who put seven bullets into an unarmed Raheim Brown being appointed to lead the department.
After receiving the fury of community members at the school board meeting on August 24th, it appears that the board has finally listened to protesters on this one point if nothing else. Reports are that the board is reconsidering the decision to appoint Bhatt and that a replacement interim chief is being sought. If Bhatt remains chief, the superintendent and board could very well find themselves facing escalating protests beyond just community members speaking out at and disrupting the next board meeting on September 7th.
August 24th Announcement: Say NO to Murderers in our Schools
Justice for Raheim Brown Jr Demanded at OUSD Board Meeting, 8/10/11
Unfortunately, about first ten minutes of press conference missing. Audio here picks up with Anne Weills statement in progress.
The NAACP was present em masse that day to address other shortcomings of the OUSD, but joined in solidarity with Justice for Raheim Brown supporters.
Includes NAACP speakers and a few others on OUSD deficiencies unrelated to Raheim Brown, but most speakers present to object to promotion of Barhin Bhatt as interim chief. OEA teachers' union members lent their support and sternly questioned the choice of Bhatt as chief.
Public comment ends with supporters disrupting the meeting by chanting "Justice for Raheim Brown" as they exit the board room.