July 9, 2010

Oakland Says Guilty! Justice For Oscar Grant!

[The verdict on killer cop Johannes Mehserle is in. An all-white jury in Los Angeles has determined that the act of shooting year-old Oscar Grant in the back while he lay handcuffed and face down on the Oakland BART station platform constituted involuntary manslaughter (an “oopsie” verdict which will give him a maximum of 4 years in the slams). As the verdict approached, Oakland had tensed for a re-run of the rebellion which ripped there after the killing.

An old friend did a quick report on that initial eruption here at FotM and followed up last week with some thoughts on the mood in Oakland as trial summations were delivered. In the middle of last night he sent in the following hasty notes and photos when he got home from the action downtown. But let him tell it:]

By the time I got there late (7:30 pm), the crowd had thinned to 800. Not sure how much more it had been. I expected larger . I think the police buildup and pre-verdict hype I wrote about last week had some, perhaps many, scared. Many of my son's friends (high school age) were told they couldn't go for fear of the violence.

The rally was still on with some speakers, mainly those who walked up to the mike and wanted to say something--the big names musta come and gone before.

I heard Jabari Shaw, president of the Black Student Union at Laney College in Oakland, complement the multi-racial make up of the crowd and declare that we must focus our anger on change to go beyond venting our anger on the businesses in the area, that we need to change the whole damn system.

Bobby Hutton's niece spoke! (Bobby Hutton, or "Lil' Bobby," was the youngest member of the Black Panther Party. He joined soon after the conception of the BPP in 1966 at the age of 16. On April 6, 1968, he was killed by Oakland Police after a firefight. According to witnesses, police shot him more than a dozen times after he had surrendered and had stripped down to his underwear to prove that he was unarmed.)

She talked of the services that the Black Panthers provided, free breakfast programs and daycare for the kids. She said that these services are still needed in our community now, that people are still hungry, but that the BPP had been decimated by the police. And concluded that this legacy of African Americans being murdered by cops was nothing new.

The rally officially ended shortly after 8pm. Many of those left milled around, some moved to an adjacent intersection. Police presence was incredibly large with all streets leading from the intersections cordoned off by police from various jurisdictions--CHP, Hayward, Berkeley, Fremont, Alameda, Oakland, to name a few that I heard of. Reports from people driving on the freeways between 4pm and 5pm were that large convoys of police cars, including armored vehicles of some sorts, went whizzing past everyone, lights blazing. Some of these reportedly had 20 or more vehicles in a group.

Some bottles and cans were thrown towards a line of police. This sent many in the crowd running away, jittery from the pre-verdict, riot-that-will-be-Oakland hype I wrote to you about last week. Some windows were broken, which soon had more in the crowd leaving the area. Police at that point were putting on gas masks and letting people leave the cordoned-off section of downtown but not enter.

At one point about 20 CHP cars came screeching into the area, lights and sirens blazing.The CHP had criss-crossed their side windows with duct tape, presumably to prevent them from being broken.

The crowd by now was getting down to 150 or so, I would estimate. Many wore bandanas over their faces, or Oscar Grant masks.

... At this point I took my boys and myself out of the area. The noose was being tightened and I didn’t have bail money for all of us :)

This Just In:

Taping side windows does not protect windshields!

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