Oscar Grant’s Family and Supporters Respond…
This is the number one trending story in the country, if not the world, right now; this is according to stats on Google News. Some have declared on Twitter that the LeBron James’ soap opera could wait, and what the hell was wrong with people’s priorities?
Wanda Johnson, Grant’s mother, said, “The system has let us down, but God will never, ever let us down.”
“As a family and as a nation of African American people, we will continue to fight for our rights in this society,” she said.
“My son was murdered. He was murdered. He was murdered,” she said. “… My son was murdered, and the law has not held that officer accountable the way he should have been held accountable.”
“Do not give up. Do not give up. God will never let us down. And I will trust in him until I die.”
Cephus Johnson, Grant’s uncle, said he felt “great disappointment” when he heard the verdict.
“We knew from the beginning that we was at war with the system,” he said. “African Americans have been taking a look at this case in hopes that we could see the system work on behalf of us.… We as the family have been slapped in the face by this system.”
“It is my belief and the family’s belief that Mehserle committed murder. It is the community’s belief … that Mehserle committed murder. How the jury saw this and came to this decision is not understandable to me and the family…. We believe that his battle is not over,” Johnson said.
There is a higher “moral justice” that Mehserle must answer to, Johnson said.
A crowd of 100 people gathered near Oakland City Hall when the verdict was read. Loud groans were heard.
Alameda County Dist. Atty. Nancy E. O’Malley said she was “disappointed” and “frustrated” by the verdict.
However, “the jury clearly did not find that his was an accident,” O’Malley said during a post-verdict news conference in the lobby of the Alameda County Courthouse. “What this jury found was that when Mehserle committed the crime, he was acting with criminal negligence and acted recklessly, and he intentionally pulled out his weapon and not his Taser.”
“They rejected that he was going for a Taser and found he used that gun in a negligent and criminally reckless manner,” she said, “…. in the course of committing a crime.”
“The jury also found true that Johannes Mehserle used his gun, and that finding itself indicates to us that the jury completely rejected the Mehserle claim that he had actually been grabbing his Taser,” she said. “We believe that Johannes Mehserle was guilty of the crime of murder…. The jury found otherwise. But it was important to note that this jury did not relieve Johannes Mehserle of of his criminal liability.”
Um, yeah. Yadda, yadda, yadda. They got the guy off, period. This was followed by the usual exhortation not to resort to violence. Yeah, but other than trials that tend to buttress the cops’ stories and let them off with official and legal sanction, the authorities never suggest any other sane alternatives or redress of outrages and injustice that gets something substantially changed in policies.
- One thing that should change, and I am taking it from Hizzoner Willie Brown, former mayor of San Francisco, is that BART cops shouldn’t be armed with guns. Of course, BART reps jumped all over on Brown for his so-called presumption, but because of this case, he was never more right.
- Cops should have master’s degrees in the social sciences and even psychology, not these piddling bachelor degrees in law enforcement that come from these tech college mills. A guy who is really serious about serving their community–all of the community–should realize that there is more to policing than using a nightstick, a Taser and a gun on someone.
- Cops should know the difference between the fantasy of cop shows and movies and the reality of what is happening now. Instead of pumping themselves up with adrenaline, perhaps cops should invest in stress reduction, deep breathing exercises, or study new tactics about how to take in a suspect or to diffuse a potentially explosive situation. Because all those cell phone videos, from different vantage points and from different people, didn’t back these idiot cops’ stories up at all, regardless of what you may have read or heard from the mainstream media.
One more thing. Yall keep using those cell phones with the video cameras on board, you hear? Don’t even be afraid of a cop swinging at you because you are recording an incident. You have every right, every right, to record what is happening to you or your friends, family or a stranger of color.
About four-to-five hundred people gathered at the Oakland City Hall. The city remains calm, though tense. No arrests have been made although although a small group tried throwing rocks and incendiaries. The crowd has been corralled in a two-block area at this writing.
The New York Times weighed in with an observation by one Oaktowner that echoes what I’ve always thought:
But for some, the very fact of a conviction of a police officer — a member of the Bay Area Rapid Transit police, not the Oakland force — was some solace. Black residents in Oakland, who make up a large portion of the population, have long had an uneasy relationship with the city’s police, whose past episodes of brutality and malfeasance have led to a long period of oversight by independent monitors and a federal judge.
“We’ve been suffering police brutality for generations,” said Lesley Phillips, a longtime Oakland resident. “We want it to end.”
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement urging Californians to remain calm and not resort to violence. Schwarzenegger said he had informed Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums the state was well prepared to assist in maintaining order.
The jury had a choice between murder and lesser charges of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. The jury found that Mehserle didn’t mean to kill Grant, but that his behavior was still so negligent that it was criminal.
Involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence of two to four years. The finding on use of a gun could be used to add as much as 10 years to a prison sentence. The next hearing was set for Aug. 6.
The jury left the courthouse under very, very tight security.
I’m sure they’ll sleep well tonight. And then they’ll show up on Nightline or NBC Dateline or 60 Minutes and give their sorry-assed reasons why they came to the verdict. I’d particularly like to hear what the Latina women had to say. Will they ever say that they saw Wanda Johnson stand up in grief, pain and revulsion in the courtroom and face them? (I know Johnson probably wanted to curse them and their families and ancestors loudly and strongly through several puke-faced generations, but I also know that she was too big for that.) Oh hell, no they won’t. Or they’ll say that she was being histrionic or hysterical or some such, the cows. The scared sheep. Or they won’t even mention Johnson, but they’ll mention Mehserle’s white mama or his wife or they’ll say that they feel sorry for them. Watch. Not a word for Wanda, or for Oscar, or for the little daughter he left behind.
Like James Baldwin said in The Price of the Ticket, there are days, and there are days, and Universe, this is one of them.