(Block Report Radio) Weathering the Storm: an Insiders Look at the Justice for Oscar Grant Movement a Month Later: January 23, 09 marked another seminal point in the Justice for Oscar Grant III and victims of police terrorism movement, when the Prisoners of Conscience Committee organized a “Town Bizness – Town Hall Meeting”, at the Legendary Block Dot in West Oakland. It was the first time that the community had a chance to vent and speak freely about what happened to Oscar Grant, their feelings on the Oakland Rebellions, as well as their feelings about the movement to get justice for police terrorism victims in general.
The P.O.C.C. had a few chosen speakers to address the people like Don Wiggins, the cousin of Oscar Grant, Jack Bryson, the father Oscar Grant's friends who were handcuffed on the BART platform when he was shot, Antoine “Soda Pop” Goff, a victim of police terrorism who served 13 years with his codefendant John Tennison on a crime that he did not commit, P.O.C.C. Chairman Fred Hampton Jr, a international organizer and former political prisoner, who came all the way from Chicago, along with one of his comrades to be a part of this town-hall discussion, and Willie Ratcliffe, the publisher of the SF Bay View Newspaper. They spoke for about 7 minutes a piece, then the floor was handed over to the community to voice their concerns.
The very diverse group of people in the room consisted of people from all different age ranges, nationalities, and cultures; there were parents with their children in attendance, students, activists, former members of the Black Panther Party, business owners, protesters who were arrested in the rebellions, and journalists just to profile a few of the people that were in attendance.
The event started off with a working set of demands that were put forward to the community to ratify. Those demands are: 1. We demand that all police involved in the execution of Oscar Grant be arrested, convicted, and jailed. 2. We demand that the state drop all charges against everybody arrested in the Oakland Rebellions. 3. We demand that the city of Oakland, County of Alameda, and BART pay for all damages done to property during the Oakland rebellions, because city, county, and BART officials (i.e. The mayor, the D.A., the BART police chief) neglecting to respond to the murder of Oscar Grant caused the rebellions, so they should assume full financial responsibility. 4. We demand the firing or resignation of Alameda County D.A. Tom Orloff, who has never indicted a police officer for any crime in his over 20 years experience as the District Attorney. 5. We demand that BART police be disarmed. 6. We demand that the family is financially compensated, for a loss that can not be truly paid for.
This was an important move because many of the groups that are on the ground organizing around this issue say that “their demands” are the people's demands and “their goals” as the people's goals, but they have never had an open forum to discuss with the people, what the people think in general, or about the demands specifically. The P.O.C.C. refuses to be guilty of trying to pimp the situation, and use the emotional outcry of our community as leverage or a stepping stone to be recognized by the establishment or grant foundations as “responsible leaders”. The P.O.C.C.'s actions and track record speaks to our sincerity in the human rights struggle.
The P.O.C.C. is committed to planning one of these “Town Bizness” forums once a month at the Black Dot in West Oakland, so that the people will have a forum to discuss what is going on, as well as to get updated on organizing efforts. The next Town Bizness Townhall Meeting will be announced on the Blockreportradio.com website. The first Town Bizness Townhall Meeting, will be aired on KPFA's “Full Circle” in the coming weeks and on www.blockreportradio.com.
The Smothering of the Oscar Grant Movement
Since my last article, “The Smothering of the Oscar Grant Movement”, it has gotten back to me that some have tried to write off my objective criticisms of the Coalition Against Police Executions' (C.A.P.E.) organizing as “hating”, but I want to make it clear that in a real political movement, as we are engaged in now, like what happened in South Africa with the PAC and ANC leading the fight against apartheid, or what is now happening in Haiti with Lavalas fighting for democratic rule without imperialist intervention, through out history constructive criticism was/is a necessary tool that is needed to guide principled struggle. The only time when someone would see this kind of criticism as “hating” is when they are not sincere with something to hide, because constructive criticism is to teach and build sincere forces in our movement not tear them down. If any party, that I have criticized feels like I did it unfairly, lets have a public objective debate about it, on paper or in the community.
Our Cameras and Cell Phones
Right before sitting down to write this article, I called the Oakland Police Department to inquire about the whereabouts of my camera, which was stolen from me by the OPD without warrant on January 7th, in the streets of downtown Oakland while I was on assignment documenting the rebellions. I was bailed out of Santa Rita County Jail the night after the rebellions, but my camera was not in my property bag, in which the jail gives you back all of your personal belongings that were on your person when you were arrested. The OPD said they were holding my camera for “evidence”. But the reality is they do not, and did not, have a search warrant to look at the photos or footage on confiscated cameras and cell phones. The officer who picked up the phone at the Oakland Police Department (510-238-3915) told me that I would have to sign a waiver to allow the police to download what is on my camera if I want it back now, or I would have to wait until they obtain search warrants to search the cameras and cell phones that they illegally took. I am not waiving nothing, so I guess the thieving police are going to hold my professional camera, in indefinite detention. They can care less that my camera is one of the most important journalistic tools that I use to make an income to feed my family.
The Resignation of the Police Chief and the New Tape
Within recent days, Oakland police Chief Wayne Tucker has resigned and a new tape showing a Bart police officer punching a restrained Oscar Grant right before Bart police officer Mehserle executed him adds fuel to an already explosive situation. Also take into account that the Oakland Police are neck deep in at least two other scandals, that being the murder of Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey which many in the community believe that they are secretly more involved in than they want to admit, and the other scandal is where a number of officers and sergeants were caught falsifying reports among other things, similar to what happened in the Oakland Riders case. Now it is visible for the average citizen to see, the Grant case is not a case of “a few rogue cops”, it is a case of Black life being devalued systematically in Amerikkka, and the occupying army being able to do whatever they want in Black communities nationwide. So no matter if its the old police chief or a new police chief, if the system still exists, it will continue to be the same game with different names.
Mehserle and Oakland 100 Court Dates and the Lack of Support
There are a number of court cases that are connected to the police execution of Oscar Grant III including the bail hearing of Johannes Mehserle, the BART police trigger man who executed Oscar, which is Friday, January 30th at 2pm as well as a number of protesters who were arrested in the Oakland Rebellions on Jan. 7th and 14th are going to court on Feb. 6th and 9th, at 661 Washington St. in downtown Oakland at 9am. On the 6th the hearing concerning those who were charged with felonies is in courtroom 112, and on the 9th those charged with misdemeanors are in courtroom 107.
We need the community's support in packing the courtroom to make sure that Oscar Grant's executioner Johannes Mehserle does not get bail. Reportedly at the last hearing there were close to 20 officers who supported Mehserle at the hearing, and only like 3 protesters. We can not let the court and city officials think that it is okay to free one of Oscar's killers, without their being major problems.
And on a similar note, we have to back up the courageous Oakland 100 protesters who took to the streets when they saw city officials not responding to the murder of Oscar Grant, and the cover-up unfolding. It is the community's responsibility to unify with the people who caught cases, even if we don't prescribe to their kind of protesting, and pressure the D.A. to drop all of the charges against them. Let us never forget, it was the Oakland Rebellions in downtown Oakland that put this case in the international news, not one of the “peaceful” rallies. There were peaceful protests for police terrorisms victims Gary King, Gus Rugley, Idriss Stelley, and Laronte Studdesville, but without the rebellions their cases stayed in the local media for a quick second, the Oakland Rebellions has the national mainstream media talking about Oscar Grant daily, and he was murdered almost a month ago, which is virtually unheard of.