Happy new year, Box fans, took a break during December but we’re back now.
Unfortunately, folks in Oakland and the Bay Area were presented with a shitty way to ring in the new year. It’s been all over the news, and a lot of the homies have already written about it, so I’m sure most folks know that 22 year-old Oscar Grant of Hayward, Ca. was shot and killed on New Year’s Day at the Fruitvale BART station by BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle. Grant was unarmed, lying on his stomach, a complete non-threat to the three or more officers who had him pinned down before Mehserle pulled out his gun and executed him. BART police tried to collect onlookers’ cell phone cameras to cover up the incident. Luckily, it’s the YouTube era, so some folks were able to keep their phones and released the footage virally on the internet:
Protests have been staged regularly since the murder occurred, and erupted in violence last Wednesday night.
Although I don’t advocate violence, I understand that this is a reflection of the anger, fury and frustration felt by communities of color who routinely see their family members killed by the state, with no accountability or repercussions. Violence could have been prevented if it looked like the government was actually taking steps to reach some sense of justice in this matter. Instead, it was the same old bureaucratic politicking. A whole week gone by and the officer hasn’t even made a statement to the public, to investigators, to the victim’s family? And now he’s resigned from BART, meaning that he doesn’t even have to cooperate with BART’s “internal” investigation? BART police trying to collect witnesses’ cell phone cameras to cover up the incident, and then criticizing people for virally releasing that footage over the internet? It’s the same old racist bullshit that has become all too common for communities of color: the police and the state has full authority to kill people of color, particularly young Black men, and they know that they will not be punished for it. The difference this time is that the people of Oakland got angry and decided that if the bureaucrats weren’t going to do anything, they would.
George Ciccariello-Maher wrote a great article on CounterPunch that kind of summarizes the whole situation at this point:
“It doesn’t matter if Mehserle meant to pull the trigger. He had already assumed the role of sole arbiter over the life or death of Oscar Grant. He had already decided that Grant, by virtue of his skin color and appearance, was worth less than other citizens. And rather than acquitting the officer, all of the psychological analyses and possible explanations of the shooting that have been trotted-out in the press, and all the discussion of the irrelevant elements of Grant’s criminal history, have only proven this fundamental point.”
I’m pretty sure that if it was a 22 year-old white kid they had pinned down on the BART platform on New Year’s Day, Mehserle would have thought twice about pulling his gun.
With another action planned for next Wednesday, this situation is far from over. I hope further violence can be avoided, but it is clear that the people are tired of being victims of racist killings by the state that go unpunished. They will be out in the streets demanding justice, and Oakland could continue to burn.