Oakland, Calif. — The seventh annual vigil to honor the memory of Oscar Grant was held on Jan. 1 at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit station, where Grant was killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle. The 22-year-old father was handcuffed and lying face down when Mehserle shot and killed him on Jan. 1, 2009. After the community erupted in protest, Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Los Angeles, where he was tried after winning a motion for change of venue.
In attendance at the vigil were Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson; his young daughter, Tatiana; and his uncle, Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson; among others. A number of community members and family members of other victims of police killings spoke, including Minister Keith Muhammad; Sheikh Hashim; Laurie Valdez, wife of Antonio Valdez, who was killed by the San Jose State University police; Rosemary Duenez, mother of Ernest Duenez, who was killed by the Manteca police; and Cyndi Mitchell, sister of Mario Romera, who was killed by the Vallejo police.
The most touching part of the vigil was when Jack Bryson read a poem written by Tatiana Grant, thanking supporters and saying that if she had known it was the last time she would talk to her father, she wouldn’t have let him leave. Tatiana was four years old when Oscar was killed.
Controversially and to the surprise of many, the vigil organizers also invited BART Chief of Police Kenton Rainey to speak. In response, the Anti Police-Terror Project issued the following statement later that day:
“Although we stand in total support and solidarity with the Oscar Foundation, Wanda Johnson and the Grant family, we stand in strong opposition to ANY representative from the BART Police Department being given a platform to propagate a perspective that they are in compliance and/or in support of the people’s interests.
“It is our position is that police departments cannot be reformed. They serve as the military arm of the white supremacist, predatory apparatus, in this case the Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency.
“We acknowledge that we can and must engage in the reform arena in order to get relief, or what the Panther Party called survival programs. BART Police Department and every other policing agency in the United States is, and will always be, the military arm of the ruling elite. This has been and remains our position. We stand in solidarity with the families and disenfranchised masses that are being terrorized by police agencies in Oakland, San Francisco, Chicago and across the U.S.”