Police Try to Intimidate Oakland Oscar Grant Marchers Last Friday
by Davey D
Last Friday February 6th, Bay Area folks came together at Oakland City Hall and did the March for Stolen Lives-meaning that they honored all those people who have been gunned down and terrorized by the police. The case surrounding Oscar Grant, the unarmed Black man who shot point blank while he lay on the ground not resisting, was the main focus especially since Johannes Mershely, the punk BART officer who killed him on New Years morning was due to post bail that afternoon.
A number of family members who had loved ones killed by police came out to speak and show support. The march was supposed to have gone from City Hall to the Oakland Police station, 7 blocks away and back. This had been negotiated close to a month ago. Unfortunately at the last minute OPD decided to pull the plug and deny the people their right to march. Between 300-400 police showed up to contain a demonstration that had 150-200 people at most. The show of force was definitely over the top. In fact it seemed to either be an elaborate hustle for officers to get paid overtime while the city is bleeding financially or it was a great excuse to get a lot of officers trained for real life crowd control situations. It certainly seemed like the large contingent of police were going through drills. They even had a number of people filming the entire event.
Initially marchers were prevented from leaving City hall Plaza by an army of cops dressed in riot gear, bully clubs drawn. The marchers went in the opposite direction determined to go where the police weren't. A large battalion of police followed them while another group of officers showed up from around the corner to meet them. At first it looked like there was going to be a huge confrontation, but then someone had the decency to let the marchers walk on the side walk down Clay street which was a block over from Broadway which runs through the heart of downtown and was the original route. The large police army then walked the streets and made sure marchers stayed on the sidewalk..
These first two video give you an idea of what was being spoken about by people who organized as well as the challenges faced by the police. I will post up more videos later.
In the meantime the people of Oakland are gearing up for a big fight to stop a Draconian curfew law the city wants to put in place which many feel will result in more Oscar Grants. Other folks along with Color of Change will be heading over to the Alameda County district attorney's office to make demands.Below are links to the videos:
Here's another story about Friday's march
February 6 "March of Stolen Lives" Braves Massive Police Intimidation
Huge police presence and an all out program of intimidation calls to mind the violence of deep south law enforcement during the 1960s Civil Rights struggle "You know they used to lynch us. Now they're just shooting us down. Just shooting us down like it's the thing to do. And its not just here. It's everywhere." -- Patricia Johnson, sister of Anita Gay who was killed last year by Berkeley police.
OAKLAND - On February 6, about 200 people gathered at the main intersection of the city to demand Enough is Enough. No More Stolen Lives! They came to protest what they see is an epidemic of police brutality, with the murder of Oscar Grant only the latest example. As they gathered the crowd learned that Johannes Mehserle, the BART officer who was captured on video shooting Grant in the back, had been released on bail. The Oakland Police Department was deployed in a huge force, and the civic plaza was completely surrounded by rows of heavily armed police and metal barricades. People in the march expressed outrage that at the same time Mehserle was able to go free on bail, the victims of police brutality were not permitted to march down Broadway, on the sidewalk but instead were forced to march to the Police Station on a side street.
Ten families who have had loved ones killed by law enforcement spoke at the rally. They included Rashidah Grinage, whose son and husband had been killed in her home by Oakland police who to this day have not been held accountable for those murders. Statements from the March:
Sonya Wahnee, the mother of Andrew Moppin, a 20-year-old Native American stood side by side with Robin Glenn, the aunt of 27-year-old Jody Woodfox. Both men were killed by the same Oakland cop six months apart. Both men were unarmed. Sonya Wahnee said: "We are proud native people. Last year he [Andrew] was killed, murdered, on a dark street, shot in the back eight times. We got to go on raising his two babies without their mother or their father. It's been hard for us. This is his sister. She wants to know why her brother was killed. Why was Hector Jimenez put back to do it again?"
Robin Glenn: "We want to know why he was put back on the streets so my nephew was killed six months later by the same officer who killed her son? My nephew had three children. They want to know why too. Why aren't they going to be able to see their father. We want justice done TODAY. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!"
David Santos, of the Bay Area Revolution Club, the organization which had initiated the protest, spoke to the need for revolution, "You have these mouthpieces in the media and elsewhere saying that the problem is these 'rowdy' youth. Well tell me this was it these youth who kidnapped millions of Africans and used them as slaves to build this nation's unmatched wealth? Was it these 'thugs' who unleashed a wave of terror by KKK lynch mobs to rape, hang and burn alive Black people all while not even allowing them to drink out of the same water fountains as whites? Was it these 'hoodlums', who, after granting formal rights to Blacks used the police to carry on this 'American tradition' of white supremacy and lynch mob terror? No it was not! All throughout this period, from slavery to the KKK, from lynch mobs to the police and prisons, there was a system that benefited from everything I have just laid out."
Enormous Police Presence From Start to Finish
The marchers, spirited, and angry, chanted and proceed in a disciplined way back from the Oakland Police Department, finally marching on Broadway. Police flanked the march in tight formation and swooped in menacingly whenever someone stepped on the street, Kathleen Espinosa, mother of SFPD murder victim Asa Sullivan described the scene, "If anyone stepped off the sidewalk, which was easy to do if the walk area got narrow, the whole group of people were pushed back onto the sidewalk by the police. Mind you, there were many women and some children in our group." Family members and others held the pictures of the victims of police killings high.
Moppin Family Member Detained on "Mistaken Identity"
But as the protest was ending groups of police made forays into the crowd, grabbing one youth then releasing him under pressure from the chanting crowd. And as the Moppin family prepared to take public transportation home from the protest a young relative of Andrew's was swooped down on by a group of cops and held in a police van. The police told him he looked like someone who had jumped on a police car in a previous protest. After holding him for 10 minutes they released him, warning him not to protest any more as they might mistake him for that person again.
Which Side is the City On?
The police action throughout the afternoon, as well as the collusion of City Hall which refused to issue a march permit, was a blatant attempt to shut down protest and silence free speech. This sickening display of naked state violence - aimed at physically preventing people from joining the rally and march and intimidating and terrorizing those who did come -- came after a week of battles with the city to even get a sound and march permit - despite having no legal grounds for the denial - prompting protests from the ACLU and Amnesty International. This battle continued throughout the rally and right up to the moment the march left Frank Ogawa Plaza, with march organizers and their attorneys going toe to toe with the police and city officials. Relatives of victims of police murder are forced by the system to endure a lifetime of indescribable agony, and then the police and the City of Oakland attempted to prevent them from even voicing their outrage and grief for a few hours.
On that very evening, following the release of Mehserle, Mayor Ron Dellums declared. "In challenging violence, we must not engage in violence," "In challenging injustice, let us not engage in unjust acts." By issuing this statement Dellums chose to condemn the people fighting for justice - not the killer cop Mehserle - nor the justice system that sprung him out on bail - even after he fled the state to avoid prosecution. In the face of all this, people along the march took up the chant, "The Whole System is Guilty." It took courage for the families to brave a sea of cops to speak out against the systemic and systematic epidemic of police violence. The experience was both cathartic and strengthening for the families and other protesters. Organizers expressed their determination to carry this fight forward with the statement: Enough is Enough - No More Stolen Lives - The Whole Damn System is Guilty!Return to Davey D's Hip Hop Corner