Oscar Grant, young father and peacemaker, executed by BART police
by Davey D
Oscar Grant, 22, murdered in cold blood by BART
police just two hours into the new year, was the
loving father of a 4-year-old daughter, a fact he
told the police just as he was shot. He worked as
a butcher at Farmer Joe’s Marketplace.
By now everyone has seen the horrific videos of
an Oakland BART police officer shooting an
unarmed Black man, Oscar Grant, while he lay face
down on the ground and was fully cooperating. The
man who was killed execution style was the father
of a 4-year-old girl and was considered a
peacemaker. In fact moments before he was shot he
was pleading with his friends who were all cuffed
up to calm down and be cooperative with police.
Grant was seen begging the police officers, who
had pulled tasers out and pointed them at the
heads of his friends, not to shoot.
For reasons unknown to us, the police officer
pushed Grant to the ground. One officer kneeled
on his neck while the other officer pulled out a
gun and shot him point blank in the back. The
bullet went through his back, hit the ground and
bounced back up and pierced his lung, killing him.
The police then ran around and terrified
witnesses by taking away their cell phones and
video cameras for “evidence.” The video, which
was shot by a witness named Karina Vargas and has
been seen by everyone on KTVU, was also going to
be confiscated, except her train started moving
as police attempted to snatch away her camera.
The cops obviously did not see the other video
cameras buzzing away.
What went down this New Year’s morning is a very
disturbing sight and it has the entire city of
Oakland on edge. Adding insult to injury is the
refusal of BART police to acknowledge any
wrongdoing. Police Chief Gary Gee says the tapes
are inconclusive and he has thus far refused to
even release the name of the police officer who is
now on paid leave.
We have also come to find out that the young men
along with Oscar Grant were snatched off the
train by BART police who did not know whether or
not these young men were involved in any sort of
altercation. In short, it could’ve been any one
of us pulled off the train that night.
Following is an interview broadcast Tuesday, Jan.
6, on Hard Knock Radio on KPFA 94.1 FM:
Davey D: I was listening to a number of speeches
and old news clips that went all the way back to
the murder of Bobby Hutton here in the city of
Oakland and was remembering the harassment and
the beat-down that Tupac Shakur got and going
through just this long list of Black males who
have been killed unceremoniously by the police
department right here in the city all the way up
to last year or the year before when everybody
was down on protesting for the Jena 6 - and Gary
King, 20 years old, was shot and killed in the
back by an Oakland officer right here on 54th and
Martin Luther King.
And this is just something that is ongoing and I
guess the challenge before us in the aftermath of
the execution of Oscar Grant, 22-year old father
who was a peacemaker trying to get everybody to
calm down - his friends, the police - who was
seen on videotape around the world not
struggling, cooperating, who was seen on
videotape around the world, his face on the
ground, his hands behind his back, as an officer
shot him point blank, killing him.
And then that officer who our tax dollars are
supposed to make sure that he protects and serves
didn’t even have the courage to hold a press
conference and say this is who I am and say his
name. The last I heard he hadn’t even been
interviewed. And then shame on the other officers
around the Bay Area that saw this thing.
At a press conference Sunday called by John
Burris, the family’s attorney, Oscar Grant’s
mother, Wanda Johnson, and his daughter’s mother,
Sophina Mesa, comforted each other. –
Photo: Dan Honda, Oakland Tribune
And we have people protesting all around the
country and people upset, including our guests
that we are going to talk to. You didn’t see any
of them (other police officers) having a press
conference to say, “Wow, we are appalled at the
behavior of one of our own.” It’s something to think about.
In the studio this afternoon we have Evan Shamar,
one of the individuals who was outraged enough to
get a number of people to go down to the BART
headquarters to protest what was going on, and on
the phone line with us is another activist in the
community, Dereca Blackman from Leadership
Excellence. First of all welcome to the show.
Evan, I want to start off with you. What went
through your mind as a young Black male when you
saw this and where have things gone since you’ve
seen this videotape and gotten word of what went down?
Evan: Just to premise my thoughts, no horror film
can ever compare to the images which we saw. I
want to start off by saying, a young developing
human life was deemed insignificant by the ones
sworn to protect and serve, to uphold justice,
and the police wonder why they’re forced to carry
around the stigma that we correspond with corruption.
They perpetuated this stigma to our reality and
now we are left with Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old
father - he’s just a memory now - and we’re
supposed to swallow the fact that it may have
been an accident. Well, I’m here to tell
everybody, on behalf of everybody’s outrage, that
we’re not going to swallow it; we’re not going to
take it. This is not going to stop. We don’t want
to see this officer put on administrative leave,
we don’t want to see this officer terminated or
fired, we will not stop until we see this police
officer put on trial in an American courtroom for
first degree murder.
Davey: That’s real talk right there. You know,
talk about the type of exchanges that took place
when you all went down to headquarters.
Evan: You know, we went down there; we were very
peaceful. We had a small amount of people at
first; then after a while people joined in and
supported our efforts. The police were actually
the most combative ones there if you really want
to get down to it.
Davey: Combative in what way?
Evan: In the sense that they were trying to tell
us to disburse, that we couldn’t be there when we
even had a permit to be there. They were using
physical force part of the time. I was actually a
victim of one of the police officer’s physical force.
Davey: What did he do, put his billy club on you or … ?
Evan: One of the police officers actually … I got
approached by a group of three officers and of
course I was intimidated given the circumstances
of what had happened. Three of them walked up to
me and told me, “Sir, you’re going to have to get
out of here” and one reached for his billy club
and then reached for something. I don’t know what
he was reaching for. The other one just took his
forearm and positioned it as though it was a
weapon and basically rushed me and threw me into
somewhat of a bush. Now I didn’t fall but he rushed me.
Davey: Wow, and this is happening during the protest?
Evan: This is at the protest that we had
organized that took place the day before yesterday.
Davey: Dereca Blackman, you’ve been an activist
from Detroit all the way up here to the Bay. This
movie we’ve seen so many times, what do you think
we should do? The community that is outraged,
what steps do you think they should start taking
to move beyond the usual things that we’ve done
in the past, which has been protesting and asking
for some sort of redress from the mayor and
government officials. That seems to not have
changed, at least in our lifetimes. What do you think
needs to happen next?
Dereca: Thanks again, Davey, for taking a lead on
this issue and making sure that everybody has
good information and thanks to Evan for putting
together the rally for tomorrow. I think a lot of
times when we talk about rallies and protests,
people get frustrated because they don’t see it
as part of a long-term solution. These are
short-term solutions and they’re not going to
solve long-term problems.
I think part of the issue is that long-term
solutions require a variety of approaches and
they require consistency. And we as a people have
to look not just at what’s happening with this
particular case, we need to look at what’s been a
process that has continued to happen. And when
you had John Burris (attorney for Oscar Grant’s
family) on the other day, he was talking about
some of the laws that have been passed that have
facilitated this problem.
So we’re raising questions right now about police
confiscating people’s cell phones for taking
picture and videos of what was happening. What’s
the legality behind that and how do we prompt
ACLU and others to make a comment to those kinds
of things happening.
What’s happening with the police officers’ union
such that they’ve been able to pass measures and
laws that allow them to not be interviewed so
that they have time to get their story together?
So now all of a sudden we’re hearing that he
thought he was reaching for his taser. But they
had days to get that story together as opposed to
being interviewed on the spot about what happened.
So these are some of the things that we have to
push back against. And we have to be vigilant. I
think that this is a unique moment in history
because all of us, whether it was through the
election of Ron Dellums as mayor of Oakland or
whether the election of Barack Obama as president
of the United States came with a level of hope
that we might have some integrity as individuals
who would hold people accountable when things
like this happen.
This is the moment. I think the legacy of Mayor
Dellums in this city is right here on the line
right now because if he doesn’t have the
integrity to confront this issue - and it’s not
necessarily about what he has the power to
control. He has influence as a statesman and a
local and national leader to make this issue of
police accountability and police brutality
relevant and important and discussed locally and
nationally. He can make that happen.
And likewise, we need to take this issue all the
way to the inauguration festivities and make sure
police brutality becomes a part of the national
agenda. I was mad about Abner Louima. I was mad
about Amadou Diallo. I was sad at Gary King. I
was sad at Sean Bell. Now I’m just tired, now I’m
just fed up and we have to move with certainty -
not just on short-term solutions but on long-term
vigilance - to watch, monitor and maintain as
laws are passed to facilitate the taking away of our rights.
Davey: That’s the voice of Dereca Blackman. Let
me ask you, Evan, first of all before I get to my
question, if you can let everybody know what is
going on tomorrow, so if anybody who is listening
if you could take down a piece of paper and
pencil and write down this information so you can
join the protests that are going on tomorrow. A
lot of people have been wanting to know how they can plug in.
Evan: All right, so tomorrow we have a protest
that’s going to take place from 3 to 7pm. We’d
like everybody to get there at 3:00 at the
Fruitvale BART Station where the victim was
executed by the BART police officer. That takes
place at 3 p.m. at Fruitvale BART and we will be
set up in front of the vigil that has been set up
by the friends and family. We ask that everybody
come out with ambition, with vigor and with a voice.
Davey: Bring your cell phones and video cameras
since the police made it a point to try …. Well,
they took a number of cell phones is the reports
we’re getting that might be under the auspices of
having evidence. We would like everybody who
comes out to the protest to be a citizen journalist …
Dereca: We just got a message, Davey, that some
folks were down at Fruitvale today just to check
things out and the police asked them if they had
permits. So we already have an issue escalating
right now that they are already blocking our
rights to organize and peacefully protest. And we
will be peaceful tomorrow and we want to make it
clear that we do have a right to peacefully
protest and we’re already having a strategy
session around this issue of permits. We will rally tomorrow.
Evan: I actually sat down with, I was in City
Hall yesterday and today for about three hours
and I was trying to get this rally permitted. And
they didn’t blatantly reject it but they gave me the run-around.
Davey: Let me ask you this: Here you are a young
man in the city who is organizing people. You
seem bright and you seem to be the type of
individual that folks in power say we need more
of. You know, you’re not somebody who is adding
to the crime rate and the statistics or any of these things.
Have you heard from the city officials? Did Mayor
Dellums look and see, “Hey, that’s somebody who
was like me when I was a young man, trying to
fight the power, so to speak”? Did you get any
phone calls or encouraging conversations? Have
people reached out to you to say we want to support you?
Evan: I haven’t. In fact, I’ve just been getting
what I consider just discouraging information.
I’ve actually gone down to the Mayor’s office
where I was escorted out for bringing up the
execution of Oscar Grant. They acted as though
they didn’t want to speak about it.
I mean they’re not even trying to say ANYthing
about what took place. This is just egregious and
they’re not even saying anything. I mean we’re
supposed to swallow that they’re sorry, that the
officer may have gone for his taser? This officer
went to something called a police academy, (had)
extensive training that trained him on how to
handle himself in a stressful situation, and now
he’s trying to say that it was an accident?
You’re trained so that accidents don’t happen. We
can’t let accidents cost human beings their
lives. This man Oscar Grant was a father of a
4-year-old child and now that child doesn’t have
a father to sleep with her at night. This is just
ridiculous and we will not sit back and let this
type of action by the ones who are sworn to
protect and serve slide. We will just not sit
back and let this happen. We will be on the front line.
Dereca said it best when she said this is the
moment. Dereca, you are absolutely right. This IS
the moment. We are on the front lines and it is
time to stand our ground. We will not go quietly
into the night. We are going to stand up for what
is right and we will get justice for Oscar Grant.
Davey: That’s very sobering remarks. I want to
thank you for coming in and sharing this with us.
Dereca, any last comments that you would like to
make to give people marching orders, some things
to consider? We ask people to bring cell phones,
to make phone calls to their local
representatives, congressmen, assemblymen, mayor,
whoever, and invite them to this rally and show
up themselves and make sure that, as the old
saying goes, the whole world is watching.
Dereca: Absolutely, so I think there are a number
of things that people can do: We want to stay on
top of our prosecutor; we want to make sure that
this case is fully prosecuted. We want to
continue to contact BART and talk to them about
having an interview with this officer right away.
We want to make sure that there’s a civilian
review board. There will be a number of
strategies that will be talked about at the rally tomorrow.
But I also want to say that this is not the only
rally. This case has been picked up on the
national media; it was on the front page of the
CNN website. And I just got word that Harry
Belafonte is going to be coming for another rally
next week, so this is the first rally but there
will be another one next Wednesday at a place to be determined.
So this is not just a rally, people. This is a
movement that we’re asking you to come out, sign
up and be a part of this. You can be a part of
this in an ongoing way. We’re starting in Oakland
but we’re taking this all the way to the White House.
Davey: We appreciate that. Evan Shamar, I would
like you to make the connection to the very real
tragedies that are taking place right now halfway
around the world in a place called Gaza, in the
Middle East. And we have a lot of our comrades
and fellow activists and friends and allies that
have been protesting since the days before
Christmas for almost the same type of executions
that seem to be routinely taking place (here).
Many innocent people are losing their lives on
behalf of our tax dollars. Do you make the
connection to the types of conversations that are
going on overseas with what is taking place all
too often with us and the police in cities like Oakland?
Evan: Absolutely, I like to refer to what’s going
on overseas as just a blatant all-out massacre
compared to what we have here that I consider to
be a genocidal crockpot. What’s taking place here
is it’s a slow-cook. We’re being eradicated slowly, one by one.
But what’s going on in Gaza is just disgusting. I
can’t even really speak on it because I’ll get so
…. It’s something that instills a certain level
of disgust in me. I can’t talk about it all the
time. But I definitely can make the correlation
between the two. As I said, what we have is here
is a genocidal crockpot and what’s going on in
Gaza right now is a pure massacre.
And we’re actually going to be out on Saturday as
well at the Civic Center protesting what’s going
on over there because the bottom line is these
are human beings. The human experience is a
beautiful experience, and we can’t just deem it
insignificant for no reason. I mean, I was
talking to my buddies a few days ago about how
many human beings have lived on planet Earth.
There’ve been 120 billion human beings who have lived on planet Earth.
Let everybody have their turn. It’s our turn to
have this experience. Don’t deem it insignificant
- for your greed, for your corruption. Let us
live. Let us live our lives. What’s going on in
Gaza, what’s going on in Oakland, what’s going on
all over the world, we have to put our foot down.
We have to put our fists in the air in unity and
say, “No more!” We won’t take this. It’s not a
Black thing. It’s not a white thing. It’s not a
yellow thing. We need to come together and stand
up for what is right. And together we can do this.
Email Davey D at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit
daveyd.com. Listen to Davey on Hard Knock Radio
Monday-Friday at 4 p.m. on KPFA 94.1 FM or kpfa.org.
http://www.sfbayview.com/2009/oscar-grant-young-father-and-peacemaker-executed-by-bart-police/See also read:
BART cop who killed Oscar Grant mistake gun for Taser? by Junya.