The Murder of Oscar Grant, the Mehserle Trial and African People’s Solidarity Day

Anyone who was born prior to yesterday knows that on January 1st of this year, young Oscar Grant was shot and killed in full view of the public and multiple videocameras shown for the world to see by former BART cop Johannes Mehserle in collaboration with a gang of other BART police officers.

As the Mehserle defense attempts to make their case to win a change of venue, citing “racial polarization,” threats of violence and other “arguments,” we must remember that African people and victims of police violence in this country have historically not been given a fair trial. 

In fact, the state apparatus protects itself.  It is a rare occurrence to even have a police officer stand trial for the “use of deadly force.” History shows that police are systematically acquitted of murder.  The courts, crime labs and prison system all work together to ensure that police departments are rarely held accountable for their crimes. Case in point, the Oakland Riders, four cops accused of brutally beating suspects in West Oakland, falsifying police reports and planting evidence were acquitted time and time again.

Most recently, eleven Oakland officers were fired for falsifying search warrants that they utilized to raid peoples’ homes in East Oakland. This is the same police department whose internal affairs chief was exposed as having killed Jerry Amaro III, after having kicked him to death in 2000. For nine years, this information was covered up by the Oakland Police Department. 

It should be as conspicuously clear to anyone who is paying attention that the police are a brutal presence in the African and other oppressed communities and that they lie to cover up their crimes. The mainstream media, for the most part, will only expose their crimes after the proverbial cat’s body has completely jumped out of the bag. On a daily basis, the media works to justify the presence of the police in the black community, which is kept impoverished and under seige by the U.S. government imposed drug economy that in turn is used to justify more police. 

At this time in history, in spite of a black president, one million African people are locked down in prisons under this “war on drugs.”  In California, even though African people make up just 5% of the population, they represent 50% of those incarcerated in the one of the largest prison systems in the world. 

While the city of Oakland spends nearly half of its general budget on this war, one in five households live on $5,000 or less per year and virtually none on economic development. Even their other budget that is supposedly earmarked for economic development is spent on police related services and gentrification efforts, buying banners and planters to superficially make a neighborhood look friendlier for shoppers using Community and Economic Development Agency monies that are supposed to go to alleviate the poverty in Oakland. 

The actions of Lovelle Mixon in Oakland, California on March 21st took place within this context. Mixon, having recently been released from prison in the fall of 2008, faced an unprecedented economic downturn. He was living in a city in which the public slaughter of Oscar Grant was captured on numerous phone and video cameras for the entire world to see.

We will never know exactly what was in the mind of Lovelle Mixon on that afternoon when he was pulled over on a “routine traffic stop,” but we do know that the events of the day took place within a political context of police terror, repression and violence against the African community.

Recent revelations in the media also point to the coverup of lies that took place about exactly what happened in the apartment building where the Oakland SWAT team raid took place, resulting in the deaths of the third and fourth officers, so much that an independent panel will be called in for the investigation.

We may never find out what exactly happened in the apartment where SWAT officers Erv Romans and Daniel Sakai and Lovelle Mixon were killed; however, we do know that that the same entities that reported the reported the police version of events also reported the state crime lab results that pinned a rape of a child on Mixon. This was a rape that, if it did happen, was not reported to the school that stands within a mile of the area where they say it occurred. These were lab results that came out after Mixon was killed.

Time and time again, we see the war on the African community being carried out with the full support of the public and in conjunction with the media slander of an entire community. When Jody “Mack” Woodfox was killed by Oakland Police Officer Jimenez in July of 2008, there was no outcry from the public. Woodfox was killed by multiple shots to his backside while running away from the police.   Oakland police officer Hector Jimenez is also responsible for the shooting death of 20 year old Andrew Moppin, on New Year’s Eve, 2007. 

When Jose Luis Buenrostro was killed in mid day just a block away from his house, the media reported the police version that the 16 year old had hidden a sawed off in his pajamas. They also came out with subsequent articles that insinuated that the Oakland Aviation High School student was somehow affiliated with a gang, assigning a low price to his life. 

When 71 year old Casper Banjo, a pillar in the Black Arts Movement had an epileptic seizure and was surrounded and shot right in front of house near Eastmont Mall, there was dead silence on the part of the general public and media. So far there have been no consequences for any of these deaths. 

It is time for those of us who say that we are about social justice to fully understand the role of the state, the organized system of violence that arises in society when there exists haves and have nots, colonized and colonized, oppressor and oppressed. 

For too long, white progressives, who may come out for a big march against the U.S. war in Iraq have stood silently where the African community faces this police terror, in the name of safety, in the name of diversity, with the celebration of a black president and in our name.

No longer can we afford to stand silently by while young people like Lovelle Mixon face no future. The African community has been the hardest hit by the economic collapse. No longer can we seek the means for our own survival – whether it be eco-friendly, DIY, gay friendly or in some other way alternative – if it does not include the complete and total transformation of a system based on genocide and slavery. 

The problems that African people face – in the U.S., on the continent, and around the world – are our problems to face, embrace and address. Let’s support the African Village Survival Initiative and its collective response to the economic crisis. Let’s say yes to collective and community gardening, rainwater harvesting, solar and wind energy, economic self-reliance, but it has to be under the umbrella of African self-determination, not within a system that robs self-reliance from the peoples of Africa and all over the world.
These problems can’t be solved by a struggle against racism, which are simply the ideas in peoples’ heads but are being solved by an anti-colonial struggle led by African and other oppressed peoples for liberation and justice in the tradition of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party.

Come out to African People’s Solidarity Day on Tuesday, October 20th from 6 to 9:30pm at the Humanist Hall at 390 – 27th St. to hear for yourself about the African Socialist International, the African Village Survival Initiative and the Black is Back Coalition challenging the U.S. colonial war here and abroad. $10-25 sliding scale but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
To register, go to For more info, email or call 510-625-1106

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