Revolution #169, June 28, 2009

Update in Battle for Justice for Oscar Grant

Charges Dropped Against Revolution Club Member David

On June 4 an Alameda County judge announced that Johannes Mehserle would stand trial for murder. Mehserle is the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) cop who shot 22 year old Oscar Grant point blank in the back in front of hundreds of BART riders, a murder that some of them recorded on video and released to the media. The fact that Mehserle has been charged is a rare occurrence, only the 7th time a cop in the U.S. will be tried for an on-the-job murder in at least 15 years.

Eleven days later, on June 15, the Alameda County District Attorney’s office announced that it was dropping all the charges against David, a member of the Revolution Club.  Dozens of supporters waiting in the halls outside the courtroom broke into cheers and applause and poured outside to hold a rally. This is a significant victory and something to celebrate as people continue the struggle to fight for justice for Oscar Grant.

David was charged with a felony after an outpouring of hundreds that took place on the night of January 7–—the Oakland rebellion which occurred after the police murder of Oscar Grant.  As we reported last week, police murder happens every day. But THIS was a murder that many people protested in many different ways. First, at least five of the people on the packed train on New Year’s Eve saw the police cursing and shoving Oscar Grant and his friends and pulled out their cameras or cell phones to record the brutality. Three videos, surfacing one after another, played on TV and went viral on the Internet. People in Oakland and around the world began to demand justice for Oscar Grant. A memorial was set up outside the station where he was killed. Oscar’s family spoke out at his funeral, where hundreds were in attendance. The politicians and preachers urged calm. But on January 7 Johannes Mehserle quit the BART police, and had still not even been arrested. And on that night there was a rebellion involving hundreds of people in downtown Oakland that lasted into the night. Decades of pent-up anger at police brutality and outright murder, like the killing of Oscar—exploded onto the streets in righteous rebellion.” (Police Murder Sparks Rebellion in Oakland: People Demand Justice for Oscar Grant!, Revolution, January 18, 2009)

Over the next several days, there were smaller protests in downtown Oakland, and more arrests. There were walkouts at Oakland High and other schools, and an evening protest in downtown San Francisco, where there were more arrests. Amidst not only the aftershocks and echoes of the rebellion, but the unleashing of broad mass protests including people from different walks of life for justice for Oscar Grant, Johannes Mehserle was finally arrested in Nevada where he had fled, and he was initially charged with murder.

As the Revolution Club said in a flyer calling for people to demand that the charges be dropped against David, “These same authorities and system, which continually carry out these violent outrages against oppressed people, are particularly singling out someone who brought to those involved in the righteous rebellion a clear understanding of the cause of these outrages—the system itself, and the way in which its oppressive nature is enforced, through brutality and murder—and the fact that the solution lies in building a revolutionary movement with the final goal of fully sweeping away this monstrous system.”

At each hearing for David the juvenile “justice” facility was filled with the unusual sight of a wide spectrum of people who came there to support David, determined that he not be punished for speaking out. Three other people, adults, still face felony charges from the January 7 rebellion.

The next court date for Oscar Grant’s killer is scheduled for July 24 when Mehserle’s attorney will argue a motion in one last try to dismiss the charges. On September 11 a hearing on a possible change of venue will be held. Mehserle’s attorney, a long-time attorney for police and a former cop himself, has argued from the beginning that Mehserle cannot get a “fair” trial and should be moved outside of not only Oakland, but all of Alameda County–—which includes 14 cities and a diverse population. It should be noted that changes of venue all played a role in the acquittals in state court trials of police for the murder of Amadou Diallo (moved from New York to Albany).

There is a need for resistance and vigilance as the case against Johannes Mehserle continues to trial which is currently set for October 13.

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