Justice 4 Oscar Grant (We Take a Look Back)pt1: Meeting w/the DA-Rally at Fruitvale

Today (July 1 2010) closing arguments began in the Oscar Grant trial. Its been a long time coming and a remarkable feat that we even got this far. The community spent a good 18 months organizing, struggling and resolving important issues around this case.

It was remarkable that folks came together in spite having different approaches and takes on how to go about doing things. There were church goers, militant folks, older, younger etc.  Lots of conversations, tense moments, but collective action at the end of the day…

Below are several videos that show what took place the day of the first rally for Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Bart on Jan 7th 2009.  It’s important to understand the full backdrop. First, people were still on a high that we had elected our first Black President Barack Obama. Many were excitedly gearing up to the inauguration. There was alot of hope and anticipation that a new day was coming…

For folks in Oakland, the murder of Oscar Grant at the hands of white officers including one (Tony Pirone) who called him a bitch ass nigger moments before he was shot, was a huge wake up call that we were not in a post racial society and on many levels it would be business as usual. The fact that Grant’s murder took place in front of hundreds of people, many who recorded this on cell phones spoke volumes. It was brazen. It was unthinkable and it was taken as  symbolic of the resentment and anger many percieved white folks having because of us having a Black President.  That was the talk early on in january of 2009.

Second thing to keep in mind.. 7 days had gone by and there had not been an announcement , press conference or any public statement from Mayor Ron Dellums or the District Attorney Tom Orloff about what many had started calling an execution. BART had a spokesperson speak to this, but no one from their board that oversaw the agency had come forth. In the meantime, residents were seeing this video being played over and over again which each day a new and clearer video surfacing.

This thing about the videos was important because one of the most troubling aspects of the shooting were BART police jumping on trains snatching people’s cell phones saying they were needed for evidence. To this day there’s no telling what was kept, erased altered etc..Again many were upset about the police taking cell phones which recorded this murder and there was no action taken agaisnt the police.

January 7th 2009 was the date of  Oscar Grant’s funeral. That morning, close to 100 clergy, activists and elected officials in Oakland’s Black community came to the steps of the Alameda County courthouse and held a press conference to announce their intention to secure a meeting with District Attormey Tom Orloff who up to that point had dismissed their requests both invidually and collectively. Peep the videos as they speak for themselves and provide a sense of what was going on at that time. All this went down before the riots/ rebellion that would take place later that evening..

This video shows a few of the many remarks that took place on the courthouse steps prior to the 100 Black Leaders entering the building to see District Attorney Tom Orloff.


This video shows what went down once people crowded into the lobby and asked to see the district Attorney. Keep in mind, folks including elected officials had been trying to meet with Orloff a day or two after Grant got shot. On the 7th day they said enough is enough and folks headed on down to his office.


After an hour of haggling District Attorney Tom Orloff finally agreed to meet with the group but would not allow press into the meeting.  He also said No recordings. For the first 15 minutes he was pretty dismissive of people’s concerns.. I pulled out my camera when he told one of the elders that he had no intention to go out and inform the community why he had not pressed charges. He said that job was on us as community leaders. I pulled out my camera at that point.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biU2Eza9p50

Below is a video of the start of the rally at Fruitvale BART on Jan 7th 2009. It was the same day that 100 Black Leaders were initially rebuffed by Thomas Orloff the DA who even after finally meeting did not offer to press charges on Johannes Mehserle the officer who killed Oscar Grant…

The rally at Fruivale BART took place later that afternoon and was put together by a newly formed group called CAPE Coalition against Police Executions..It was also the day of Oscar Grant’s funeral and many people were returning from there to the rally. Folks were very emotional.

What you’re seeing are excerpts from that rally… At the end of the video you see one of the more visible, outspoken and militant  figures during many of Oscar Grant protests.  His name is Mandingo Hayes he’s an activist who was later accused of being a police informant and a former pimp after a February 8  2003 Oakland Tribune article surfaced.  It’s a claim he has denied. You can see that article both online or in this California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice PDF on pg 13 where they have a report about how police informants are being used.

In the clip he is shown encouraging folks to leave the rally and go down to BART headquarters. His push was in direct conflict with what CAPE organizers wanted.. The back story to this was Hayes and his people were already at Fruitvale BART when rally organizers arrived. He had set up camp, was standing on top of the turnstyles and had pretty much shut down the station.. He wasn’t feeling the ‘peace and prayer’ vibe the organizers were putting out and let it be known. He kept calling for folks to take action..

Rally organizers tried to work out a compromise as they wanted to keep things more peaceful..

Eventually Hayes got back on the mic and made his call for folks to leave.. He and a crowd of about 50-100 people broke off and went downtown .. the rest is history.. It was the precurosr to what many call the Oakland Rebellion..


We continue looking back in the days after Oscar Grant’s death. This is more footage from the Rally at Fruitvale, just before the the riots/rebellions that took place in downtown that evening… Here you hear you see and hear controversial figure Mandingo Hayes hyping the crowd talking about he’s ready for action.. We also speak with rapper Deuce Eclipse.


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Coundown to the Oscar Grant Vedict/ Why Are Police beating Our Kids?

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Breaking News Update Wed June 30 2010:

Judge has taken 1st degree murder off the table. Jury will choose from 2nd degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter… Closing arguments will start tomorrow…Mehserle’s lawyer wanted jury to choose either murder 1 or acquital. Many speculated getting murder1 would be difficult.

As the historic Oscar Grant trial comes to a close in Los Angeles we wanted to share a crucial update as to what is going on in the trial. For those who are unaware, for the first time in the history of the state of California, a police officer (Johannes Mehserle) was brought to trail and charged with murder after shooting and killing someone while on duty.

An unarmed, completely subdued Grant was shot in the back as he lay face down on New Year’s morning ’09 in front of hundreds of people on a BART subway station in Oakland. Mehserle claims he thought he reached for his taser instead of his gun. It’s a story the community wasn’t and has never brought especially when it was revealed that Mehserle was heard shouting “I thought he had a gun’.

If he had a gun, then why reach for your taser?

The community became even more enraged when it was discovered that moments before Grant was killed, Mehserle’s  partner Tony Pirone who was recently fired had called Grant a ‘bitch ass nigger’ before he was shot.

The community was even more enraged when it was discovered that Mehserle just six weeks earlier in an unprovoked attacked had severely beaten a 41-year-old Black man named Kenneth Carrethers after he was overheard complaining about how inefficient the police were at stopping crime…

We caught up with Minister of Information-JR who is the associate editor of the SF Bayview and heads up the Block Report Radio. He’s been down in LA covering the trial even after he and several other Black men under 40 were kicked out of court for a variety of un-related reasons. In our podcast JR explains why this has been going on in what many are saying is a highly biased court.

Expert witness Greg Meyers said there was no excessive use of force during the Rodney King trail. Of course he is defending Johannes Mehserle

In this interview JR talks about some of the ‘expert’ witness that have come forward in defense of Mehserle including a former LA police captain Greg Meyer who claimed that Grant when shot was resisting arrest. It’s an outlandish conclusion considering Grant was shown completely restrained with the larger Mehserle sitting on his back. however one should not be surprised, considering it was Meyer who sat on the witness stand during the Rodney King trail and claimed there was no excessive use of force.  I guess the estimated 30 thousand dollars paid to Meyer didn’t hurt when giving his testimony.

We also spoke to JR about the media blackout on the case especially in the LA area and offer up some reasons why this is happening.

In the latest update another expert witness is claiming that Mehserle was so stressed out that he became temporarily blind which is why he shot Grant. What’s taking place at this trial is unbelievable.

Today June 30th the judge will be meeting with lawyers to discuss what the options are for jurors. Mehserle’s high-priced lawyer Michael Rain is pushing for an all or nothing ruling. In short either convict him of murder or acquit him. The prosecutor wants the jury to have options so Mehserle doesn’t walk.

Sadly the judge on the trial Robert Perry has history of siding with the police as was evidence during the infamous Rampart Scandal in LA when he let the cops off the hook.

Also as we speak Oakland police have been planting seeds of fear in the community by warning people of impending riots. Last night KRON 4 reported that as much as 21 thousand national guards are on alert and ready to move in on Oakland. All off vacationing officers have been called back into the city with police as far away as Oregon ready to join in.

Why Are Police Beating Our Kids-What Should We be Doing?

In pt 2 of our podcast we sat down with community activist and former Seattle mayoral candidate Wyking Allah and  Paradise Gray of X-Clan and One Hood out in Pittsburgh to talk about the recent rash of police brutality incidents where children as young as 7 have been the victims.

Wyking does an excellent job putting things in historical context and offering solid solution for communities to follow. He noted that much of what he suggested were key tenets on his platform for mayor.

Paradise Gray updates us on two key cases in Pittsburgh. One involves the beatings that took place last fall when officers stormed the University of Pittsburgh campaus looking for anarchists. Unsuspecting students were tear-gased, beaten and arrested. There was major investigation with the police being found in the wrong.. The other incident involves honor student Jordan Miles who was beaten and had his dread locks ripped out his head by a rogue group of martial art expert police dubbed the ‘Jump Out Boys‘.

Gray also speaks about the incident of Pamela Lawton who had a police officer stick his gun in the face of her crying 7 year old after she was pulled over for a traffic violation.

Like Wyking, Paradise lays out a number of solutions for us and our communities to follow.

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White Cop Calls Oscar Grant a ‘Bitch Ass Nigger’ -Moments Before He was Shot



Oscargrantgreen-225(06-28) 17:20 PDT — Overlooked in the court hearing that ended in former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle being ordered tried for murder in the slaying of Oscar Grant was testimony about another officer’s explosive outburst just 30 seconds before Grant was shot.

One of the videos made by riders at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland early New Year’s Day caught Officer Tony Pirone standing over the prone Grant and yelling, “Bitch-ass n-.”

Pirone and his attorney say he was parroting an epithet that Grant first hurled at him – though Grant’s voice is not audible on the tape.

The sound-enhanced tape shows Pirone delivering a shoulder chop to Grant and bringing him to the ground. Pirone can be heard saying twice, “Bitch-ass n-, right?”

Prosecutors showed the tape in court on the last day of Mehserle’s preliminary hearing, but the headlines went to the judge’s decree hours later that there was enough evidence to send Mehserle to trial for murder.

Under questioning from Mehserle’s attorney Michael Rains, Pirone insisted it was Grant who had first “called me a bitch-ass n-.”

Asked if he had repeated the slur to Grant, Pirone testified: “I don’t remember, but it very well may have happened.”

“Is that something you would have initiated on your own, calling him names?” Rains asked.

“No, I don’t talk like that,” Pirone said.

Oakland attorney John Burris, who is representing Grant’s family in a lawsuit against BART, called Pirone’s words “shocking and disturbing.”

“Pirone was out of control,” Burris said, “assaulting Oscar Grant and taunting him with racial slurs, and none of the other officers seemed to put him in check.”

Pirone’s attorney, William Rapoport, dismissed Burris’ assertion – reiterating that Pirone, who is white, was simply reacting in surprise to being called the “N” word himself.

Mehserle, who is white, was not accused by prosecutors or Grant’s family of a racial motive in the shooting of Grant, a 22-year-old African American whom BART officers pulled off a train after receiving reports of an onboard fight.

A spokesman for the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training in Sacramento declined to weigh in on whether Pirone’s comments would be cause for discipline or even firing, citing an internal BART probe of the shooting.

Peter Keane, a Golden Gate University law professor and former San Francisco police commissioner, said that determining whether Pirone’s comments were grounds for discipline depends on whether he was intending to use a racial epithet or just echoing Grant in a “sense of incredulity.”

But without Grant’s voice on the tape, Keane said, “the burden of proof moves heavily to Pirone.”

The race is on: State Attorney General Jerry Brown bests San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom by 20 points in a new, two-way poll for next year’s Democratic gubernatorial contest.

The poll by JMM Research of 525 Democratic and decline-to-state voters is the first snapshot since Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced last week that he wasn’t running.

With Villaraigosa in the lineup, the numbers read:

— Brown, 33 percent.

— Newsom, 20 percent.

— Villaraigosa, 17 percent.

Take the L.A. mayor out, and it’s:

— Brown, 46 percent.

— Newsom, 26 percent.

Brown does best with the voters over 40, who tend to turn out in bigger numbers on election day. Newsom thrives with the younger crowd, which he hopes to turn out big time, a la Barack Obama.

 Geographically, Brown beats Newsom everywhere but the Bay Area.

Whichever candidate they support, the one thing Democrats overwhelmingly agree on is the sad state of the state, with 73 percent saying California is headed in the wrong direction.

Budget bingo: Publicly, San Francisco’s budget battle is being pitched as a fight with Mayor Gavin Newsom, cops and firefighters on one side, and the Board of Supervisors and advocates of social programs on the other.

But behind the scenes, the fight is also between two major labor groups: the Service Employees International Union, which represents most of the city’s health and social workers, and the police and fire unions.

Service worker unions have helped elect a number of the supervisors. The police and firefighter unions are big backers of the mayor, and opposed many of the supervisors.

The first round went to the service workers when the supervisors voted to cut $82.9 million from the police, fire and sheriff’s departments and use it for health and social services.

But now, it’s dawning on everyone that the city will probably need even more money to keep everyone happy, which means going to the ballot in November with some kind of tax hike. And any kind of tax hike is going to need police and firefighter support to pass.

Which may explain why the service and firefighters unions have been meeting on the QT in the hopes of working out a compromise.

And if they do – City Hall will follow.

Banmiller bows: After taking a good, hard look at the numbers, business newscaster Brian Banmiller has decided to stay out of the race to replace outgoing East Bay Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher.

 “They weren’t kidding around when they redistricted the 10th,” the Republican said of the district, which includes portions of Solano and Contra Costa counties. “They said they were going to make it safe for Democrats, and it is.”

EXTRA! Catch our blog at www.sfgate.com/matierandross.

Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Phil can be seen on the KPIX morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call (415) 777-8815, or e-mail matierandross@sfchronicle.com.

source: http://www.sfgate.com/columnists/matierandross/

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