Youth extend solidarity with rebellion, FIST demands justice for Oscar Grant

The following statement was issued by the militant youth organization Fight Imperialism, Stand Together:

When the jury in the trial of Johannes Mehserle, the former Bay Area Rapid Transit cop who shot and killed Oscar Grant III, rendered a verdict of guilty of involuntary manslaughter, many were undoubtedly angry but few were actually surprised.

From the very beginning, days after the shooting on Jan. 1, 2009, BART and the administration of the city of Oakland appeared to be trying to sweep the killing of another unarmed Black man under the rug. But the shot still rings in the ears of those who have seen the video or were there in person when Mehserle squeezed the trigger.

BART officials initially refused to release the cop’s name. Mehserle refused to submit to an interview and the officials never forced him to. After the video aired on television the whole city became aware of what others at the Fruitvale station had witnessed that early morning on New Year’s Day.

The next day, the day of the funeral of this 22-year-old father of a young daughter, a rebellion broke out in response to BART’s and the city’s negligence. It was an act of militant resistance by people who had become fed up with the killings of people of color, primarily Black people in the Bay Area, by police.

This action put pressure on the cops and ultimately led to Mehserle, who had become a fugitive, being arrested in Nevada and extradited back to California, where he was charged with murder.

Another rebellion was touched off just hours after Mehserle’s slap-on-the-wrist verdict was rendered by a jury that didn’t include one Black person. The city administration ordered hundreds of cops in full riot gear out on the streets, making Oakland appear even more as an occupied city.

Yet the city administration has been able to confuse some in the progressive movement by characterizing the participants as “outsiders” and condemning the acts of those who rebelled, casting them in the same light as the cops who arrested dozens of people.

Some of those arrested had not even participated in the rebellion, including elderly people and well-known attorney Walter Riley, father of hip-hop artist Boots Riley of The Coup, among others.

The Grant family and others in the Black community have the right to be cautious and the family merely wants justice, for Mehserle to be charged and convicted as the murderer that he is.

The oppressed Black community in Oakland, which deals with regular police occupation and daily violence from cops, certainly doesn’t need another excuse for cops to brutalize the community. The rebellion, however, was an expression of anger predicated on an unjust verdict and an unjust process, one that saw Mehserle and his defense counsel granted favorable motion after favorable motion, starting with the change of venue from Alameda to Los Angeles County.

A just response

The rebellion was not pre-written or “destined” to happen, but a just and commensurate response, entirely avoidable if justice had been dispensed, if the proceedings had been fair in the eyes of the Grant family and the community, which they were not.

Rebellions happen in unjust societies, where injustice is systemic, as it is in the U.S. The system here is based on profit, from whence exploitation and oppression come. Racism, sexism and homophobia are part of the capitalist culture and necessary weapons used by the wealthy to forestall the unity of the majority.

Therefore, rebellions as an act are right, and the moral and other authority rests with those who rebel, not the administrators of the cities, states and the federal government, nor their police or other agents used to control and maintain the status quo.

The judges, Alameda Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson and Judge Robert Perry in Los Angeles, the city of Oakland, BART officials and other administrators and state officials bear the responsibility for the rebellion, just as they do for letting the circumstances exist wherein a cop gets off with a light sentence that will most likely see him walk out of prison in two years.

The rebellion that occurred, viewed in light of the years of police harassment and killings and the slap-on-the-wrist conviction of Mehserle, was understandable and justified. If it were not for the rebellion on Jan. 7, 2009, Mehserle may never even have been arrested.

For the media and state authorities to focus on broken windows, shoes liberated from a store, overturned police cars or burned dumpsters is to blame the victims instead of the victimizers; it’s like blaming the abused one for blackening the eye of her or his abuser.

The abuse has only continued after the verdict. The heavy police presence in Oakland includes numerous acts of brutality committed by police, as well as denying freedom of movement, and bullying and harassing protestors and people just walking down the streets. All this has stoked the anger of Oakland residents.

Nearly 80 people were arrested and many of the injured were denied medical treatment, were ridiculed by cops and subjected to taunts and more physical abuse.

Fight Imperialism, Stand Together believes that all the charges against the arrested should be dropped immediately and that they be compensated for their incarceration and injuries; Johannes Mehserle should be retried in Alameda County; and the Oakland police and any police agencies that took part in the actions of Jan. 7, 2009, and this July 8 should be investigated.

Justice for Oscar Grant!

All power to the people!

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