Former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, convicted of involuntary manslaughter for shooting unarmed Oakland resident Oscar Grant to death, will be released from prison on Monday having served less than a year in prison.
Organizers have established that protests will take place at 3:00 at the Fruitvale BART where Grant was killed and at 5:30 at 14th and Broadway in downtown Oakland. BART has warned police agencies and passengers that service interruptions are possible tomorrow.
Oscar Grant has a small child and Johannes Mehserle’s first child was born the day after the crime. Many families have been rent by what happened New Year’s morning of 2009. But in the larger picture we must address the issues that create an atmosphere where this kind of thing could easily happen again.
It isn’t about Mehserle or Grant as much as a flawed environment. The race issues are left out of the conversation in public, but they are a huge part of the word on the street. The issues here are systemic.
10 Things to Consider
1. BART, the State and Officer Mehserle immediately agreed that the officer terminated his service literally the morning of the crime, speaking to no one – negating culpability for higher-ups and ultimately resulting in a lack of culpability for BART itself. In this case Mehserle ran to Nevada across state lines before his arrest to kill time in those first days of 2009.
This negotiation between Mehserle’s defense and the state in his absence prevented the state or BART from having to respond for the murder. It took place between the private attorney of Mehserle and the State. Did Mehserle’s representation ask: “What are you going to do to protect my client, your employee, if he does this for you? if he quits voluntarily?”
Is it the case that once his attorney agreed Mehserle would resign, the institutions at large then agreed to protect the officer as much as possible? How exactly? Mehserle’s defense is being paid for by a statewide fund for police officers. The BART police union pays into the fund. From when was the Union involved?
2. Moving the trial out of the neighborhood.
In what must be considered a pattern now [Rodney King the case was moved out of South Central, Amadou Diallo the case went from the Bronx to Albany] the state moved the trial to a supposedly neutral location that is in fact far better for the officer in question. Again what keeps coming up is that the officers in all these cases do not live where they are policing. They come from suburbs to cities to police.
3. The state introduced excuses and the mental state of the Officer to the public far more than that of the victim and did this through the channels of the state’s collusion with the media.
The local cops and the local tv stations and newspapers collude morally, ethically and racially to create the illusion of a balanced coverage, but which subtly turns the public opinion toward an acquittal. It’s all designed to create the atmosphere that we, the people, want the state to be so empowered and that we believe, ‘well, a few eggs have to be cracked to make a safety omelette for the rest of us.’
4. the state’s process creates a jury that favors the cop to the victim. Our jury selection process is suspect and should be revisited.
5. the state allows, and even encourages, immaterial historical evidence from the VICTIM’s past into the case, but resists the same in the case of the cop.
Again, a pattern here – Patrick Dorismond in NYC 2000. The idea is to paint the victim as a criminal and the cop as an unfortunate agent for good caught in an impossibly difficult to understand spot. So ANYthing in the victim’s past no matter how irrelevant is dredged up – sometimes illegally as Giuliani did in the case of Dorismond.
6. during the trials of these cops, the same colluding press created an atmosphere of INSECURITY concerning any outcome that doesn’t condemn the cop. Riots are inevitable. This emphasizes the need for good security and basically demands acquittal in the public mind.
10. perhaps most shockingly, the judge unilaterally threw out the handgun charge of which Mehserle was convicted.
It is important to note in this case that a jury of 12 found Mehserle guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter AND uniquely, the handgun charge. The handgun charge was a serious element here which could have led to policy changes such as the removal of lethal weapons like guns from BART cops. (they have Tasers and nightsticks and so on). Instead it was thrown out unilaterally by the judge – which seems illegal to many. This was a profoundly wrong judgement. It’s too expensive for the family to pursue that on appeal, but it certainly ought to be the civic sector’s responsibility to make such a charge stick and to pursue such weird decision-making.
I, for one, believe we should disarm BART police. Let local PDs be called when a gun is necessary, make it a felony to carry a gun on BART and put excessive cameras in the system. We need to de-escalate the violence and the weaponry on our streets.
UPDATE: Indybay has done some interesting reporting on the actions of the police at protests concerning this issue. check it out here.