Today (July 1 2010) closing arguments began in the Oscar Grant trial. Its been a long time coming and a remarkable feat that we even got this far. The community spent a good 18 months organizing, struggling and resolving important issues around this case.
It was remarkable that folks came together in spite having different approaches and takes on how to go about doing things. There were church goers, militant folks, older, younger etc. Lots of conversations, tense moments, but collective action at the end of the day…
Below are several videos that show what took place the day of the first rally for Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Bart on Jan 7th 2009. It’s important to understand the full backdrop. First, people were still on a high that we had elected our first Black President Barack Obama. Many were excitedly gearing up to the inauguration. There was alot of hope and anticipation that a new day was coming…
For folks in Oakland, the murder of Oscar Grant at the hands of white officers including one (Tony Pirone) who called him a bitch ass nigger moments before he was shot, was a huge wake up call that we were not in a post racial society and on many levels it would be business as usual. The fact that Grant’s murder took place in front of hundreds of people, many who recorded this on cell phones spoke volumes. It was brazen. It was unthinkable and it was taken as symbolic of the resentment and anger many percieved white folks having because of us having a Black President. That was the talk early on in january of 2009.
Second thing to keep in mind.. 7 days had gone by and there had not been an announcement , press conference or any public statement from Mayor Ron Dellums or the District Attorney Tom Orloff about what many had started calling an execution. BART had a spokesperson speak to this, but no one from their board that oversaw the agency had come forth. In the meantime, residents were seeing this video being played over and over again which each day a new and clearer video surfacing.
This thing about the videos was important because one of the most troubling aspects of the shooting were BART police jumping on trains snatching people’s cell phones saying they were needed for evidence. To this day there’s no telling what was kept, erased altered etc..Again many were upset about the police taking cell phones which recorded this murder and there was no action taken agaisnt the police.
January 7th 2009 was the date of Oscar Grant’s funeral. That morning, close to 100 clergy, activists and elected officials in Oakland’s Black community came to the steps of the Alameda County courthouse and held a press conference to announce their intention to secure a meeting with District Attormey Tom Orloff who up to that point had dismissed their requests both invidually and collectively. Peep the videos as they speak for themselves and provide a sense of what was going on at that time. All this went down before the riots/ rebellion that would take place later that evening..
This video shows a few of the many remarks that took place on the courthouse steps prior to the 100 Black Leaders entering the building to see District Attorney Tom Orloff.
This video shows what went down once people crowded into the lobby and asked to see the district Attorney. Keep in mind, folks including elected officials had been trying to meet with Orloff a day or two after Grant got shot. On the 7th day they said enough is enough and folks headed on down to his office.
After an hour of haggling District Attorney Tom Orloff finally agreed to meet with the group but would not allow press into the meeting. He also said No recordings. For the first 15 minutes he was pretty dismissive of people’s concerns.. I pulled out my camera when he told one of the elders that he had no intention to go out and inform the community why he had not pressed charges. He said that job was on us as community leaders. I pulled out my camera at that point.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biU2Eza9p50
Below is a video of the start of the rally at Fruitvale BART on Jan 7th 2009. It was the same day that 100 Black Leaders were initially rebuffed by Thomas Orloff the DA who even after finally meeting did not offer to press charges on Johannes Mehserle the officer who killed Oscar Grant…
The rally at Fruivale BART took place later that afternoon and was put together by a newly formed group called CAPE Coalition against Police Executions..It was also the day of Oscar Grant’s funeral and many people were returning from there to the rally. Folks were very emotional.
What you’re seeing are excerpts from that rally… At the end of the video you see one of the more visible, outspoken and militant figures during many of Oscar Grant protests. His name is Mandingo Hayes he’s an activist who was later accused of being a police informant and a former pimp after a February 8 2003 Oakland Tribune article surfaced. It’s a claim he has denied. You can see that article both online or in this California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice PDF on pg 13 where they have a report about how police informants are being used.
In the clip he is shown encouraging folks to leave the rally and go down to BART headquarters. His push was in direct conflict with what CAPE organizers wanted.. The back story to this was Hayes and his people were already at Fruitvale BART when rally organizers arrived. He had set up camp, was standing on top of the turnstyles and had pretty much shut down the station.. He wasn’t feeling the ‘peace and prayer’ vibe the organizers were putting out and let it be known. He kept calling for folks to take action..
Rally organizers tried to work out a compromise as they wanted to keep things more peaceful..
Eventually Hayes got back on the mic and made his call for folks to leave.. He and a crowd of about 50-100 people broke off and went downtown .. the rest is history.. It was the precurosr to what many call the Oakland Rebellion..
We continue looking back in the days after Oscar Grant’s death. This is more footage from the Rally at Fruitvale, just before the the riots/rebellions that took place in downtown that evening… Here you hear you see and hear controversial figure Mandingo Hayes hyping the crowd talking about he’s ready for action.. We also speak with rapper Deuce Eclipse.