Families of Stolen Lives at Fruitvale Station Screening

April 10, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader

April 7 was a rare rainy and cool evening in Los Angeles. But there was the a lot of warmth inside the campus theater at University of Southern California in Los Angeles, as about 60 of us joined several families of Stolen Lives, including “Uncle Bobby” (aka Cephus Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant) for a special screening of Fruitvale Stationa film that’s an endearing, humanizing portrait of Oscar Grant’s life and death. Oscar was a 22-year-old Black youth murdered by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) cops in Oakland on New Year’s day 2010. It was an emotional and inspiring.

"Uncle Bobby" flew down from the SF Bay Area for this occasion. It was initiated and hosted by Professor Rafael Angulo of the School of Social Welfare at the University of Southern California. Both are actively promoting the Call for no business as usual on A14 to fight against police brutality and murder.

One USC professor brought her whole seminar class to the screening. Besides a couple of USC professors and a couple of dozen USC students, there were residents of LA’s Skid Row and South Central LA, activists with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) and A14, and members of the Revolution Club LA and Revolution Books LA. Some had come from the march and rally protesting “death by cop” earlier that day. (See "LA: Hundreds March in 'Death by Cop' Protest")

In his welcome remarks, Professor Angulo said it wasn’t going to be a nice little film night but had everything to do with what’s going to happen next week, referring to the call for #ShutdownA14. As the movie rolled, you could hear many in the audience crying audibly during the film. Some of the Stolen Lives family members were crying and holding each other tightly during the scenes of Oscar being brutalized and murdered by the cops.

When the film ended, Professor Angulo introduced the families members and invited them to tell their heartbreaking story of losing their loved ones, which they did with a lot of grace and courage. “Uncle Bobby” said he usually does not watch the movie all the way through. This night he did, and had to take a few moments to gather himself and collect his thoughts.

The sister of Michael Lee Nida II described how he was unarmed and gunned down by Downey cops on October 22, 2011 as he was crossing the street after buying a pack of cigarettes. His mother later spoke to how this experience opened her eyes as to what Black and Latino people go through, and how it challenged her trust in cops coming from her white conservative background living in a suburb of Los Angeles.

Over half the audience signed up to be a part of April 14th and almost 2,000 palm cards and several hundred posters were taken by those who came.

October 22, 2014Family members of Ignacio Ochoa, at October 22, 2014 protest. Photo: Special to revcom.us

Tears flowed even more heavily as18-year-old Victor Ochoa, the son of Ignacio Ochoa, recounted how his dad was murdered by Compton police in 2012. He spoke of how much Oscar Grant reminded him of his own loving relationship with his dad who was trying to find work to support his family, and how his dad was gunned down while riding a bicycle, wearing earphones and unable to hear or understand the English commands of the pigs riding up behind him. When a neighbor came on the scene and asked what’s happened, the cop said “nothing, it’s just a Mexican.” Victor ended simply with “it must stop.”

“Uncle Bobby” spoke movingly of his love for Oscar. He connected the need for continued mass and massive resistance and A14 to how the militant protest in Oakland after Oscar’s murder was the only reason the pig Mehserle, who killed Oscar, even ended up getting arrested, convicted and going to jail for 11 months, for the first time in California history. He said the judge in the case asked the family to make the protestors go away and how he is glad the family never did that, giving jury instructions in such a way to minimize Mehserle’s jail time, and declaring at one point to the family that “we just gave you a Black president” as in what else do you want!

He spoke about how every 28 hours, a Black person is killed by cops, security guards, or vigilantes in the US, but when we add up all the ones that are unreported, and the Latino and other lives stolen, it may well be way more, like one every 8 hours! This was before we all learned of the police murder of Walter Scott.

There were several thoughtful questions from the audience, including about whether police murder of Black people is systematic and what it will take to really end it. Someone from SMIN spoke to the brave uprising in Ferguson after the police killing of Michael Brown, and the mass protests nationally after the non indictment of that cop and the cop who murdered Eric Garner, why there is a crossroad right now confronting all people of conscience to get back in the streets, re-seize the initiative, and that this murder must stop and to ACT ON THIS A14, including shutting down USC and the surrounding area.

Dozens of people signed up to be contacted, and many left with an armful of their A14 organizing kit, of stacks of palm cards and posters for shut it down A14 convergence and the Stolen Lives poster – as they viewed the giant banner of the latter in the hallway coming out of the theater. One professor said he wanted to put the Stolen Lives poster “in strategic places” on the campus, and some of the students were weighing options on how to shut shit down on A14 at USC and beyond, coming off of an emotional but inspiring evening to join together to stop this horror in our society of murders by police.

The profound impact of the film and the families speaking out was clear – the moral authority and certitude of “this must stop” resonated with the diverse audience. This needs to be multiplied many fold as we get into this weekend with the call for Stolen Lives days in the neighborhoods. I hope many more Stolen Lives families will seize on this moment to speak and compel people to ACT.


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