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Oakland criminalized by its own mayor, after slap-on-the-wrist verdict for a killer cop

Posted on July 15, 2010 by Flashpoints

by Dennis Bernstein

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums had a chance to shine last Thursday, after the verdict was announced in the murder trial of transit cop Johannes Mehserle for the Jan. 1, 2009, killing of a 22-year-old unarmed Black man named Oscar Grant.

Grant was shot in the back at close range while lying face down with his hands behind his back on a BART platform. Mehserle claimed he pulled the wrong gun and meant to stun Grant with a Taser. The killing was filmed on several cell phones and witnessed by a train car full of witnesses. The killer cop was convicted in a Los Angeles court of involuntary manslaughter on July 8.

The fact that Mehserle, who is white – with a history of violent behavior against Black and Brown people – could be sentenced to as little as two years in jail or even given probation did not sit well with the Grant family or their thousands of supporters who have vowed over the last 18 months never to forget Oscar Grant.

Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, spoke out at a hastily assembled press conference in front of the Los Angles courthouse after the verdict was announced. “My son was murdered, he was murdered, he was murdered,” Johnson said repeatedly. “And the law has not held the officer accountable the way that he should be held accountable.”

“We as a family have been slapped in the face by a system that has denied us true justice,” Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson said.

The FBI has since launched a federal civil rights probe into the case to determine whether Mehserle violated Grant’s civil rights by snuffing out his life. The sentencing, originally set for early August, has been postponed until November.

After the verdict was announced, Dellums asked the people of Oakland to “show the nation” that Oakland can respond respectfully and peacefully to the verdict. Dellums said on the street Thursday night, “I don’t want anyone hurt. I don’t want anyone jailed. I don’t want the police to hurt anyone.”

But apparently Dellums and a thousand cops from around the state were not going to treat the people of Oakland peacefully or with respect. Rather, Oaklanders were about to get another dose of unbridled police power.


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