Thursday, January 08, 2009

On: Oscar Grant

So, while I was on a short "vacation" the story about Oscar Grant's New Years Day shooting broke all over the place. To say I'm taken aback by the whole thing is an understatement. I take BART to school and back from Oakland into San Francisco. I've rarely interacted with BART cops, who until this incident I thought acted somewhat as glorified security guards.

I watched the videos over and over again, watched videos of news coverage, families crying, BART trying to say as little as possible, people trying to suggest the cops gun just "went off". And then the riot footage.

The McDonald's around the corner from my apartment was vandalized, windows broken. I watched as people walked down the same street as I do every day to school just smashing the windows of cars as they went. Cars set aflame.

One witness of the riot saw his own car go up in flames.

"It's a little ironic. I was writing a story about the injustice of the young man's death," said Ken Epstein, assistant editor of the weekly Oakland Post.

Suddenly, Epstein saw 150 demonstrators smashing cars in the street below his office. "Flames were shooting up in the air, six or seven feet. My car was engulfed."

There's not a lot I feel like I can say that hasn't already been said. And said better, by Slyvia, Black Amazon, Holly, bfp, Samhita, La Macha, Melissa, Margari, and Renee.

I know this may not be a popular position (in fact it is directly rejected by Melissa's post) but after viewing what happened from all the camera angles I could find, I do think this was an accident. The look on the Mehserle's face, the way the other cops jumped back, the way he looked up at the man standing in front of him and then back down, all speak to stunned disbelief. One "expert" suggested that he believed Mehserle thought he was reaching for his taser gun. That level of force would have been unwarranted enough, but what happened is a fucking tragedy. And someone needs to be held responsible for it. Because that is what is supposed to happen when someones' mistake costs someone else their life.

And when that was all I knew, all I could feel about this case was grief for all involved.

And then he resigned. Mehserle's resignation, "shortly before he was supposed to meet with investigators" (1) means "he does not have to answer questions about the shooting from BART internal affairs investigators. He has previously declined to talk to separate investigators from BART and the district attorney's office, who will decide whether he should be charged with a crime" (2).

Even assuming it was an accident, what the fuck do you think the result of refusing to answer questions and help in the investigation is going to do to this city?

The more I think about it, the angrier I get. Whatever happened on that platform, this man would rather watch Oakland go up in flames then take responsibility for his actions, or weaken his lawyer's case. That speaks fucking volumes.

Today there was a bit of window breaking again downtown, again at the BART station I go to. There was also a meeting with BART earlier in the day.

Rita Jones, a 53-year-old Oakland schoolteacher, said she had taught her children as her parents had taught her to trust the police.

"I told them, 'Go to the police when you have a problem,'" she said. "But now I'm a grandmother, and some of my grandchildren are boys. And I cannot in my heart tell them the same."

Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks presented written demands that BART create a citizens review board to monitor BART police, request that the California attorney general investigate the shooting, and identify and investigate all officers present at the shooting that night for possible misconduct.

She also asked that BART improve public communications about the shooting investigation and conduct hearings to explain BART policies on police hiring, training, use of force, diversity, de-escalation and other issues.

I don't know what else to say, it all seems empty.