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Oscar Grant case: No justice, no peace!

Published Jul 11, 2010 11:07 AM

There was justifiable outrage on July 9 when a Los Angeles jury, stripped of all its potential African-American jurors, found white former Bay Area Rapid Transit cop Johannes Mehserle guilty of only the lightest of the charges against him — that of involuntary manslaughter. That's the charge used when an intoxicated person accidentally kills someone with his/her car, for example.

But Mehserle hadn't been in an accident. He had shot and killed young African-American Oscar Grant while kneeling on Grant’s back in a BART station in Oakland, Calif.

A conviction of a white cop for killing a Black youth is rare enough in the still very racist U.S. capitalist society. As a background article by Larry Hales in Workers World two weeks ago made clear, “Were it not for the movement that sprang up after the ruthless killing of the 22-year-old Grant, which included a mini rebellion, Mehserle would doubtless have been allowed to go free with no charges at all. That has been the racist tradition regarding many other cops who have killed oppressed and working people.”

But Mehserle was arrested and was charged with murder. Why? Because the killing of Grant had been caught on video camera. It showed Mehserle kneeling on Grant’s back, clearly in control of the situation and facing no threat, as he pulled his weapon and fired. The video spread through the Internet and was seen by outraged millions.

The July 9 verdict was unacceptable to Grant's family, his friends, the African-American community and to anyone across the country who believes in justice and combating racism. By that evening there had already been angry protest demonstrations in Oakland, Los Angeles and other California cities. Solidarity actions in Baltimore, New York and other cities around the country followed. The one in Oakland turned into a small rebellion against the police-state conditions imposed in that majority-Black city.

Until racist traditions are eliminated from U.S. capitalist society, we will be faced with situations where Black people can be framed up, jailed for life or even executed on flimsy evidence for allegedly killing a cop, while a cop caught on video executing a Black youth, even if convicted, can get away with the lightest of sentences.

As Hales wrote in his earlier article, “If the verdict is anything less than the second-degree murder charge for which Mehserle is being tried, it will take a movement to win justice, which is best determined by the community in Oakland. That community desires that Mehserle be locked up and never again see the light of day.”

That movement should have the support of everyone in the U.S. who believes in equal justice. No justice, no peace!