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Fruitvale Bart Station Protest: The Rally

Thursday, January 8, 2009

All photos by Daniel Garcia.

This will be my first post in a short series on the shooting, protest, and riots, over the execution of Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale Bart Station in Oakland, CA.  Here is a short brief on how KTVU news described the incident:

[Grant] appearing to cooperate with officers…Moments later two officers can be seen moving Grant from a seated position against the wall and then onto the floor.  Officers position Grant face first on the floor with one officer near his head, a second near his back, and a third officer standing near by.  There appeared to be a brief struggle, then a two year veteran Bart officer stands, draws his weapon, and fires.

These were the last moments of 22-year-old Oscar Grant III, a peacemaker, a son, a father.  Yet to the police he was none of these things, to them, he was just another Black male.  And because he was just another Black male his four-year-old daughter will grow up without a father and more than likely will have very little memory of him to hold onto as she matures in her years: no happy father’s days, no piggy back rides, and no father-daughter dance at her wedding.

The rally was attended by (my estimates) over 500 people and possibly up to 600.  The interesting thing about this rally was it was not dominated by “activist” and “organizer veterans.”  There were quite a few people I talked to for whom this was their first major political rally, there were also quite a few families and children, the crowd was majority people of color, had a lot of high school and college youth, and even had some acquaintances of mine I thought I’d never see at a rally.

As I arrived at the rally at 3:30 pm there was about 200 to 300 people there at the time with many media vans and reporters as well as cop cars lined up all over the Bart station.  The speaking area was pretty crowded and I couldn’t see the speaker (from the ANSWER Coalition) but I was able to jot down what he was saying:

This cop was doing his job, let me tell you.  Because the police are trained to do one thing.  To keep poor people in check!

This was greated with large applause.  Next up the Deputy Chief of Staff to mayor Ron Dellums Leslie Littleton was introduced to a loud resounding chorus of boos, hisses, and jeers; many folks were upset that the mayor took nearly a full week to actually craft a statement.  Emotionally chocked up Littleton read off a press statement from the mayor:

Our entire community grieves at teh lose of Oscar Grant the third-

Booooo! The crowd shot back.  Their anger was to a boiling point.  “Where’s the mayor!” Shouted a person.  “Bullshit!” Shouted another.  Littleton tried to speak over the noise but to no avail.  As she tried to explain why the mayor couldn’t make it to the protest she was meet with an even more hostile response and a louder chorus of boos.  “Fuck the mayor!” “Fire the [Bart Police] chief!” “Cover up!”

When she got off the mic a man came up and said:

We reject your apology!

Applause resounded from the crowd of now up to 500 or so people.

Oscar Grant was executed!  He was executed!  Oscar Grant the third is dead!

After him a woman came up and thanked Littleton for her statement and went on to say:

We are disappointed [the mayor] took so long to form a statement…but he is an agent of change.  We need justice for our people everywhere.  It is not enough for us to come out here and yell!  We need to organize and continue to act a month from now.

After a few more speakers in a format that seemed to be letting anyone speak if they felt the  needed to a man said:

We will not stop until this man [the Bart police officer] is put on trial for second degree murder!

The crowed shouted and cheered.

After him minister Keith Muhammad of the Nation of Islam spoke:

It gives me a great honor to you…A salam a lakim.

“Walakim a salam.” Many in the crowd answered back.  The minister continued:

How many of you have been those halls?  For stealing a pack of ciggaerets we could get 8 to 25 years to life because of the the three strikes laws.  When our young brothers were dragged off a Bart train and put and laid down on the ground.  What crime did they commit?  The officer of the low quite his job after he should have been fired.  There is nothing in the law to protect innocent civilians from law enforcement…We will no longer sit down and take this while officials and law officers make back room deals [pertaining to one’s court case].  Cause that’s what it’s about.  The prison industrial complex.”

He went on to talk about how the government builds more and more prisons yet doesn’t put enough money in the school system and the health care system.  He ended with this:

I want you to repeat this with me.  I am!  Oscar Grant! I am!  Oscar Grant!

Later on young woman spoke:

What they did is what they’ve been doing to Black people for hundreds of years since we’ve been coming to this country…There is more Black men in jail than there are in college and we need to change that right now!  The police need to stop coming into our community and brutalizing us!

After a few more speakers another man stated:

This city, 40 years ago, was known for something.  The Black Panther Party of Self-Defense!  We were known for liberation and this was taken away from us over the years recently.  We need to build a people’s movement in this city and in this country…We can not settle for resigination or for the disarming of Bart police…We need to restructure the system…Oakland 40 years ago was known for something and it will be known for something today!

As I look around at this crowd here, I am confident!   I am confident!  I am confident we will win this one and it will be the first victory of many!”

The rapted crowd erupted in applause and began to cheer.

After him more people spoke, hitting upon the same themese of organizing in one’s community and fighting back against this system instead of merely reforming it.  Soon after some folks began to disperse while others began to march toward the Lake Merrit Bart station to the west as the sun set down.

  1. Friday, January 9, 2009 5:13 am

    A “SINGLE VOICE PROJECT” is the official name of the petition sponsored by: The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP)


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    William Thomas
    National Community Outreach Facilitator
    The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons
    P.O. Box 156423
    San Francisco, California 94115


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