Youth extend solidarity with rebellion
FIST demands justice for Oscar Grant
Published Jul 14, 2010 8:12 PM
The following statement was issued by the militant youth
organization Fight Imperialism, Stand Together.
When the jury in the trial of Johannes Mehserle, the former Bay Area Rapid
Transit cop who shot and killed Oscar Grant III, rendered a verdict of guilty
of involuntary manslaughter, many were undoubtedly angry but few were actually
From the very beginning, days after the shooting on Jan. 1, 2009, BART and the
administration of the city of Oakland appeared to be trying to sweep the
killing of another unarmed Black man under the rug. But the shot still rings in
the ears of those who have seen the video or were there in person when Mehserle
squeezed the trigger.
BART officials initially refused to release the cop’s name. Mehserle
refused to submit to an interview and the officials never forced him to. After
the video aired on television the whole city became aware of what others at the
Fruitvale station had witnessed that early morning on New Year’s Day.
The next day, the day of the funeral of this 22-year-old father of a young
daughter, a rebellion broke out in response to BART’s and the
city’s negligence. It was an act of militant resistance by people who had
become fed up with the killings of people of color, primarily Black people in
the Bay Area, by police.
This action put pressure on the cops and ultimately led to Mehserle, who had
become a fugitive, being arrested in Nevada and extradited back to California,
where he was charged with murder.
Another rebellion was touched off just hours after Mehserle’s
slap-on-the-wrist verdict was rendered by a jury that didn’t include one
Black person. The city administration ordered hundreds of cops in full riot
gear out on the streets, making Oakland appear even more as an occupied
Yet the city administration has been able to confuse some in the progressive
movement by characterizing the participants as “outsiders” and
condemning the acts of those who rebelled, casting them in the same light as
the cops who arrested dozens of people.
Some of those arrested had not even participated in the rebellion, including
elderly people and well-known attorney Walter Riley, father of hip-hop artist
Boots Riley of The Coup, among others.
The Grant family and others in the Black community have the right to be
cautious and the family merely wants justice, for Mehserle to be charged and
convicted as the murderer that he is.
The oppressed Black community in Oakland, which deals with regular police
occupation and daily violence from cops, certainly doesn’t need another
excuse for cops to brutalize the community. The rebellion, however, was an
expression of anger predicated on an unjust verdict and an unjust process, one
that saw Mehserle and his defense counsel granted favorable motion after
favorable motion, starting with the change of venue from Alameda to Los Angeles
A just response
The rebellion was not pre-written or “destined” to happen, but a
just and commensurate response, entirely avoidable if justice had been
dispensed, if the proceedings had been fair in the eyes of the Grant family and
the community, which they were not.
Rebellions happen in unjust societies, where injustice is systemic, as it is in
the U.S. The system here is based on profit, from whence exploitation and
oppression come. Racism, sexism and homophobia are part of the capitalist
culture and necessary weapons used by the wealthy to forestall the unity of the
Therefore, rebellions as an act are right, and the moral and other authority
rests with those who rebel, not the administrators of the cities, states and
the federal government, nor their police or other agents used to control and
maintain the status quo.
The judges, Alameda Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson and Judge Robert Perry
in Los Angeles, the city of Oakland, BART officials and other administrators
and state officials bear the responsibility for the rebellion, just as they do
for letting the circumstances exist wherein a cop gets off with a light
sentence that will most likely see him walk out of prison in two years.
The rebellion that occurred, viewed in light of the years of police harassment
and killings and the slap-on-the-wrist conviction of Mehserle, was
understandable and justified. If it were not for the rebellion on Jan. 7, 2009,
Mehserle may never even have been arrested.
For the media and state authorities to focus on broken windows, shoes liberated
from a store, overturned police cars or burned dumpsters is to blame the
victims instead of the victimizers; it’s like blaming the abused one for
blackening the eye of her or his abuser.
The abuse has only continued after the verdict. The heavy police presence in
Oakland includes numerous acts of brutality committed by police, as well as
denying freedom of movement, and bullying and harassing protestors and people
just walking down the streets. All this has stoked the anger of Oakland
Nearly 80 people were arrested and many of the injured were denied medical
treatment, were ridiculed by cops and subjected to taunts and more physical
Fight Imperialism, Stand Together believes that all the charges against the
arrested should be dropped immediately and that they be compensated for their
incarceration and injuries; Johannes Mehserle should be retried in Alameda
County; and the Oakland police and any police agencies that took part in the
actions of Jan. 7, 2009, and this July 8 should be investigated.
Justice for Oscar Grant!
All power to the people!
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