Revolution #189, January 17, 2010

Protests at LA Court Appearance for Killer of Oscar Grant


LA Students: "We Are All Oscar Grant..."

Students in a club at Locke High School in Watts staged an inspiring rally in the senior quad at their lunch hour. They had made signs and stood together chanting, "No Justice, No Peace, Don’t Trust the Police." At first only about a dozen students stood together chanting. Then one student organizer got on the bullhorn. He said, "We are all Oscar Grant. I am, you are, we all are. What happened to him could happen to you or any one of us. We need unity. Enough is enough. ... This isn’t the first time someone has been killed by cops and it won’t be the last unless we get together to stop it. This is about humanity. This is our struggle." More students grabbed signs. Another student got on the bullhorn and also called on people to stand with them and join in. She said, "You always talk about how your friends were beat by police, or your cousin was shot. Well this is your opportunity. It’s time to take a stand." At the end many were standing together, their chant: "Stop police brutality, stand up for humanity."

On Friday, January 8, a significant protest was held at the county courthouse in downtown Los Angeles at the first LA court date for Johannes Mehserle—the cop who shot Oscar Grant in the back, killing him on New Year’s Eve 2009 in Oakland.

Starting at 7 a.m., people began to gather until there were more than 150 who showed up for a protest and press conference. After the case was moved to Los Angeles, activists including the October 22nd Coalition against Police Brutality, Repression & the Criminalization of a Generation brought together different groups and individuals and formed the L.A. Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant. They spread the word through flyers, Facebook and email. Students from different schools, including UCLA and high school students from the FREE LA High School, came.

At UCLA, 40 or 50 students signed a banner, "UCLA students say: ‘We are all Oscar Grant. The whole damn system is guilty," and eight students from UCLA went to the demo and carried the banner.

A woman and her son drove in from the San Fernando Valley—they wanted to be there to show their outrage about the murder and oppose any attempt by the system to bury this case by moving it from Oakland to LA. About two dozen activists came from the San Francisco Bay Area, in addition to many members of Oscar Grant’s family who went inside to attend the hearing.

A highlight of the rally was a solidarity statement from Keisha Brunston, whose nephew was shot 80 times by police, and the mother of Carlos Rivera, who was also killed by cops. Many of the speakers noted that Mehserle would not have been going to trial on murder charges if not for the resistance, including the rebellions by people in Oakland.

People chanted "Justice for Oscar Grant," "We are all Oscar Grant," and "The Whole Damn System is Guilty." People coming from their own court dates joined the rally and listened to the statements, taking up fliers and telling their own stories of abuse at the hands of the police.

Inside the courtroom the judge ruled on three issues: continuing the gag order forbidding the attorneys from making public statements about the case, turning down TV station KTVU’s request for allowing cameras in the courtroom, and requiring the continued presence of Mehserle at every court date. In his rulings Judge Robert Perry talked about the "violence" of the protests in Oakland, warning that he had the power to put the case off for years, if he thought it was warranted.

The next court date will be February 19, when the defense will argue a motion to recuse the district attorney and a motion to reduce the bail amount. The trial is expected to last two weeks and to begin in mid-May.

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