The Police State of Oakland…More Sights & Sounds from Oscar Grant Verdict Protests

Yesterday I sent out some links that showed the make up of the crowd and what was happening as things unfolded in the aftermath of the Oscar Grant verdict . Sadly my camera is broken so I couldn’t flip things around so while I pulled my footage I sent links to other sites . What prompted me sending out the links was reading some comments about how ‘WE’ meaning Black folks ‘tear up our hood’…

I think the people who said it were well-intentioned, but sadly they parroting an age-old stereotype … First the ‘hoods’ where we live in Oakland..are all in tact. No buildings were burnt down, windows broken or anything like that.. West, East, The Dubs, Northpole, 800s, 900s, Fruitvale etc.. are all in tact.. If we wanna uplift the stereotype.. then lemme make it plain..the check cashing spots, Churches Chicken and all the liquor stores are alive and well in the hood. It was important to note that so people would stop assuming the entire hood was acting up

The second point was noting the diversity of people. The day of the verdict there was no majority of anyone group of people hanging downtown expressing outrage. It was multi-generational, multi-ethnic.. It was everyone. It was important to note this because while Grant being a Black man shot by a white officer was an all too familiar narrative, the response and outrage from day one came from all sectors.

In Oakland our Latino brothers and sisters experience police terrorism both from OPD and increased ICE Raids.. In the Dubs and Chinatown, many Southeast Asians are dealing both with ICE  and police oppression.  Many young folks including whites dealing with the massive student strikes have gotten to known the police state and how brutal it can be.. Still many people out here have parents or they themselves have come from lands where oppression was so dire that having a politic around police terrorism was unavoidable. Hence when Oscar Grant was shot and killed in front of a diverse crowd on the BART train that night, many immediately saw themselves as a possible victim and not Grant being another thuggish Black man which is how the mainstream media attempted to spin it early on…

-Davey D-

Shout out to Oakland film maker Oriana Bolden who captured not just the vibrancy of Oakland, but also how the police were the night of the verdict.. What she caught is breath taking.. Check out her page where she has other protests captured…

Here’s what she wrote to the footage below..

Community response to U.S. systemic racism as evidenced by the murder of Oscar Grant, then reinforced by the Mehserle verdict.

This is the first round of going through my footage. I will try to update with clearer shots of police activities and some of the activities that happened after police began arresting peaceful citizens.

The response to the verdict

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Killer Cop Johannes Mehserle Writes an Apology Letter-Is it a Sincere or Calculated Gesture?

So Johannes Mehserle wrote a letter of apology for killing Oscar Grant.. Is it the start of him trying to redeem himself? Is he truly remorseful or is this a perfectly timed gesture designed to get public sympathy and help lessen his sentence by making him appear a bit more humane in the eyes of the judge..The Grant family thinks its too little too late.. Most of us agree..

Yesterday during our Hard Knock Radio show, former Green Party vice presidential candidate Rosa Clemente noted that if Mehserle was really sorry, how about pleading guilty and serving time for the crime he committed.  I would add to that suggestion and say that Mehserle if he was really sorry would testify against his lying partners Tony Pirone and Marysol Dominici.

This man had plenty of time to apologize and yet he waited to the 11th hour when he’s about to be sentenced to apologize.. Sounds like straight bullshit to most of us.. But since he’s in the introspective apologetic mood, lets see if he’ll extend that apology to all the people who witnessed his actions and were traumaticized further when his lying partner rushed onto the BART train snatching cell phones from people who filmed the incident.

Will Mehserle apologize to Kenneth Carrethers the 41 year old Black man he beat 6 weeks prior to killing Grant? An apology with no action to help heal are just hallow words

-Davey D-

Killer cop Johannes Mehersele wrote a letter of apology..Is that enough to heal wonds?

SAN FRANCISCO — The former San Francisco Bay area police officer convicted of killing an unarmed black man in an Oakland train station wrote a letter apologizing to the victim’s family, saying he’ll forever “live, breathe, sleep and not sleep” with memories of the “terrible event,” according to a copy released by his lawyer Friday.

Johannes Mehserle said in the handwritten letter that he “never intended” to shoot 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who died of a gunshot wound to the back after being pulled off a Bay Area Rapid Transit train on New Year’s Day 2009.

The emotional letter is dated July 4, four days before a Los Angeles jury convicted him of involuntary manslaughter.

“For now, and forever I will live, breathe, sleep, and not sleep with the memory of Mr. Grant screaming “You shot me” and putting my hands on the bullet wound thinking the pressure would help while I kept telling him “You’ll be okay!” Mehserle said in the letter, released by attorney Michael Rains.

Thursday’s verdict outraged Grant’s family and touched off violent protest in Oakland, where the case has enflamed racial tensions.

Mehserle, 28, testified during his trial that he struggled with Grant and saw him digging in his pocket as officers responded to reports of a fight at a train station.

Fearing Grant may have a weapon, Mehserle said he decided to shock Grant with his Taser but pulled his .40-caliber handgun instead. Grant was shot as he lay face-down.

The jury found that Mehserle didn’t mean to kill Grant, but that his behavior was still so negligent that it was criminal.

Mehserle’s letter made no mention of his intention to pull a Taser. He also said he had wanted to communicate with Grant’s family in the days after the shooting but was prevented by death threats to him and his family and friends.

“I have and will continue to live everyday of my life knowing that Mr. Grant should not have been shot,” he wrote. “It saddens me knowing that my actions cost Mr. Grant his life, no words express how truly sorry I am.”

original article:

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Searching for Justice as Oakland Streets Turn Lawless

Searching for Justice as Oakland Streets Turn Lawless

by Jesse Strauss

check out yesterday’s radio show to get a blow by blow account of what happened on the streets of Oakland the night of the verdict

As the Oakland community begins to understand the meaning of Johannes Mehserle’s involuntary manslaughter verdict, the streets exploded angrily last night.

Mehserle is the former BART cop who killed Oscar Grant on New Year’s morning, 2009. As Grant was lying face down on a BART platform, Mehserle stood up, grabbed his firearm, aimed down, and shot Grant. Mehserle’s next action was to handcuff the wounded 22 year old father before calling for any kind of medical assistance. Oscar Grant was killed that morning, but the Oakland community will never forget his name.

Yesterday at 4pm, an LA courthouse announced the jury’s verdict, that Mehserle killed Grant with “criminal negligence”, receiving the charge of involuntary manslaughter. From what I understand at the time of this writing, the verdict could mean that Oscar Grant’s killer will serve anywhere from two to fourteen years in jail.

It’s clear, though, that the Oakland community does not consider the conviction strong enough. Speaker after speaker at the 6pm rally in downtown Oakland told the crowd of at least a thousand that they were disappointed with the verdict. Many folks spoke out about their feelings in different ways, but no one seemed comfortable with what had happened.

At the same time, no one seemed uncomfortable by the huge amount of support given by the larger Bay Area. What many sources have called “outside agitators”, many people in the streets last night recognized as community support.

While we think about the mainstream narrative of “outsiders”, it seems important to keep in mind that Oscar Grant himself lived in Hayward, and Mehserle was not an Oakland cop, but a BART officer, which meant his jurisdiction spanned across a range of cities throughout the Bay Area. Oakland simply and justifiably is at the center of this action.

The inside agitators, which are mostly Oaklanders (although I did see some people from Berkeley, Hayward and Vallejo), clearly played a strong role in the community response to the verdict. As the formal rally came to a close at 8pm as organizers were ordered to shut it down by the city, it became clear that the police forces, whether Oakland cops, California Highway Patrol, or others from nearby cities, were excited and ready to use their new training and equipment on the people who came out to voice their opinions.

Once the rally ended, at least two people had already been arrested, but it was fully unclear to any of us witnessing the events what prompted those arrests. Only a few minutes later, I was told that a block away a Footlocker’s windows were broken and its contents ransacked by community members. When I arrived there, I watched some young people grab shoes in the store and run out before two others blocked the entrance, telling others that justice for Oscar Grant does not look like what we were seeing.

But what does justice look like?

As I walked away from Footlocker, I saw freshly sprayed graffiti covering windows and businesses with statements like “Justice 4 Oscar Grant” and “Off The Pigs”. Continuing down the street, I saw protesters running in any direction they could find to avoid confrontations with police, who were slowly marching up Broadway Avenue in Downtown Oakland.

Then the shattering started. Much of the next few hours became a blur. I watched numerous windows at the downtown Oakland Sears fall to the ground as someone lit small fireworks nearby. Sirens echoed in every direction and police announced that the gatherings were illegal and we would be arrested and possibly “removed by force which could cause serious bodily injury”. Minutes later, the wind carried a draft of pepper spray toward me as I walked by three large flaming dumpsters in the middle of Telegraph Avenue.

In the midst of all the action I searched for some kind of organization—some kind of unified goal or idea of justice. The community is angry, and there is no correct platform to address that anger. For those who are sure that Mehserle should be charged with a crime stronger than involuntary manslaughter, the legal approach did not work.

While leadership and organization seemed to have flown out the window, it did seem that the rebellions were much more calculated than those just after Grant’s murder, as most of the broken windows were concentrated at corporate giants like Footlocker and Starbucks. The strongest piece of organization I witnessed in Oakland’s streets last night were the groups of people preventing attacks on local businesses.

The police came in as a close second. They didn’t seem to know how to deal with what was going on, but they would march in formation down a street, only to watch new trash cans light up and windows shatter another block down. While they may have been organized within their small army, officers had no idea how to deal with the realities of last night. In fact, it became clear to me that they made Oakland’s streets very unsafe.

As I walked from Telegraph to Broadway on Grand Avenue, first watching a Starbucks window broken and then that of a sushi restaurant, I realized the night was getting out of hand for everyone. Trying to stay connected with some sort of normality and step away from the crazy streets, I called a friend. As soon as my conversation was over I looked down at my phone to hang up. Then a hand came out of nowhere, perhaps over my shoulder, and grabbed the phone. I tried to hold onto it until I was startled and disoriented by a fist slamming into my eye and I let the phone disappear as blood began dripping from just above my left eyelid.

But where were the police to respond to a robbery and assault in the middle of a major intersection in downtown Oakland? They were clearly not making it safe for me to be in that space, and it is still unclear who or what they made it safe for. The person or people who have the phone and gave me a black eye and some possible medical bills were not crazy and violent Oaklanders that need to be policed to help or save people like me. These were people who took advantage of a lawless space that our law enforcement officers created themselves.

The night started with people moving and becoming angry (or angrier) because police declared a peaceful gathering in the street to be illegal. Windows were broken because people were angry and moving quickly down the streets with nowhere to voice their anger safely.

Hours later, I’m lying in bed with a black eye and a gash above my eyelid. I can only imagine how my night would have ended if the police hadn’t declared the peaceful gathering illegal and created a sense of lawlessness in Oakland’s streets.

This is not justice for Oscar Grant. But what is? From the Grant’s murder to those of us who were endangered by police last night, law enforcement needs to be held accountable to the communities they serve. That at least seems like a good starting point.


Born and raised in Oakland, Jesse Strauss is a producer for Flashpoints ( on Pacifica Radio. His articles have been published on Truthout, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, Consortium News, and other sources. Reach him at jstrauss (at)

check out yesterday’s radio show to get a blow by blow account of what happened on the streets of Oakland the night of the verdict

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