Oakland, Calif. — Last November, 14 African-American activists chained themselves to each other, with the person at one end of the chain locked into hardware inside the train, and the person at the other end fastened to a bench in the West Oakland Bay Area Rapid Transit station. This action was part of the national protests showing outrage over a grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting 18-year-old Black youth, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., the previous August.
This action shut down BART train traffic between the East Bay and San Francisco for four and a half hours, representing the time that Michael Brown’s body lay in the street after he was shot. It took place on the shopping “holiday” called “Black Friday,” the day after so-called Thanksgiving. All 14 protesters were arrested.
Almost a year later, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley is intent on prosecuting the Black Friday 14. Unless she drops the charges, they are scheduled for trial in early December.
Supporters of these freedom fighters took the offensive on Nov.19, by rallying before the BART Board of Directors meeting. Then they all marched inside, and more than 50 of them testified during the board’s public comment period, calling on its members to direct O’Malley to drop the charges.
Strong support came from labor; many union representatives were among the spokespeople. Resolutions had been passed by both the Alameda and San Francisco labor councils. Backing also came from the faith-based community, with a number of ministers testifying for the 14 activists.
The board was reminded of BART’s role in defending the officer who killed Oscar Grant, and of its response to the struggle against police killings. One speaker pointed out the contradiction between O’Malley’s failure to prosecute the cops who killed Raheim Brown, Alan Blueford, Yuvette Henderson, Nate Wilks, Yonas Alehegne, Demouria Hogg and other oppressed people in the Bay Area, and her insistence on prosecuting the Black Friday 14, who were protesting the lack of an indictment of Wilson for killing Michael Brown.