“The fact that justice is blind
is a thing to which we blacks are wise,
her bandage hides two festering sores
that once perhaps were eyes.”
- Aimé Césaire
is a thing to which we blacks are wise,
her bandage hides two festering sores
that once perhaps were eyes.”
- Aimé Césaire
I don't know Johannes "Johnny" Mehserle, the 27 year old San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) cop who shot dead 22 year old Oscar Grant in the back on New Year's Day at the Fruitville Station. Grant lay face down and pleading "please, please don't Tase me."
Instead, Mehserle, accompanied by other cops including one who had his knee on the victim, straddled Grant while standing, pulled out his gun and shot him in the back.
The bullet pierced Oscar Grant's lung, exited his body, then ricocheted from the floor and back into his body, killing him almost instantly.
One video I saw no longer on YouTube, clearly showed that Grant was handcuffed at the time. Other reports say something more bizarre and unbelievable - that he was handcuffed after he was shot.
Speculation has been that it was an accident and he thought he was pulling out his Taser.
That film and the others I've seen looks like unpremeditated murder to me, much like violent domestic abuse cases and feuds between neighbors where someone snaps under stress, and on an impulse, kills.
In the eyes of the law, this is 2nd degree murder.
Oscar Grant had some history of prior arrests. He was allegedly involved an argument or simple, stupid fight between two groups of unarmed young men on the subway. However, even though he may or may not have been "an angel" by his history as defined by this culture, he was not resisting arrest.
There was no reason for him to be Tasered, much shot execution-style while complacently lying down and probably already handcuffed.
I'll focus of this story more after the next two.
As much of the world celebrated New Years Eve with fireworks and parties, at midnight on January 1st, twenty-two year old Adolph Grimes happily arrived to his grandmother's home in New Orleans after driving five hours from Houston, where he relocated after Hurricane Katrina.
This CNN article says that around 3 AM,
"Grimes had just walked out of the house and was in a car waiting for his cousin, according to family members, when nine plainclothes officers -- part of an undercover narcotics task force driving around New Orleans on New Year's Eve -- surrounded Grimes' vehicle... The Orleans Parish coroner said Grimes was shot 14 times, including 12 times in the back... Shots rang out; New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley said Grimes shot at police first.
The Grimes family disagrees, saying police executed a loved one as he ran for his life.
"It was like someone was a murderer, and they finally caught him," said Grimes' mother, Patricia. "I ain't ever seen anything like this. And the worst part about it was I had to wait for the 5 o'clock news to find out my son was murdered."
Damn. How cold is that?
And I don't know about you, but the average man, and particularly a black man, who is suddenly surrounded by nine armed men of any race and not dressed as officers might think his life was in serious danger.
Also if I recall, it's legal for Texas residents to carry a gun, so he probably did have one to protect himself from criminals. He wasn't one of those, as he no prior arrest history.
So, did he fire a shot first, as the police said, and if so, was it like a warning shot - since none of them were injured - in hopes this mob of white men would back off?
Or had one or more of them fired at him first, since two of the bullet wounds were in front side of body while the other 12 bullets were in his back from him running from them.
Adolph Grimes, like Oscar Grant, left behind a fiance and 17 month old baby.
Then there's the fresh case involving the son of Bobby Tolan, a former famous baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals and won a World Series title in the late 1960s.
His son, Robbie Tolan, is 23 years old and new in his baseball career. On New Years Eve, he and his cousin arrived home from a fast food place, unarmed and minding their own business.
This MSNBC article says the police had a report of a stolen SUV in the area. This is how the jackass wearing a badge handled it:
As they walked up the driveway to their home, Anthony Cooper said an unidentified man emerged from the darkness with a flashlight and a gun pointed at them.
"We did not know it was a police officer," said Cooper. "He said, 'Stop. Stop.' And we were like, 'Why? Who are you?'"
The officers ordered both men to lie down on the ground. Tolan's parents heard the commotion and came outside. Police will only say an "altercation" took place. Tolan's family say it involved his mother.
"The cop pushed her against the wall," said Tolan's uncle, Mike Morris.
Relatives say Tolan started to lean up from the ground to ask the officer what he was doing to his mother.
That's when the family says Tolan was shot in the chest, the bullet piercing his lung and then lodging in his liver.
"He was the victim of the worst case and worst kind of racial profiling," said community activist Quannel X.
The Bellaire Police Department has called the shooting "tragic" and put the officer involved in the incident on administrative leave.
Robbie Tolan got a bullet lodged in his liver for simply looking up and asking "What are doing to my mother?"
The trigger-happy white cop who shot him "is a ten year veteran with an excellent record", according to the Bellaire, TX Assistant Police Chief, who looked tired but utterly comfortable with his conclusion in this video, where he also stated, "As far as any allegations of racial profiling, I'd say that's probably not going to float."
How in the hell does he know racism wasn't involved? Or won't "float"? And does he really know what's in the heart of his staff?
Eye witnesses said that cop shoved Tolan's mother around and then wrote his version "there was an altercation". Yeah, sounds like he started it too... and does he have a history of shoving white folks who ask questions when their family members are thrown on the ground in their driveway?
This kind of injustice happens all the time in black communities. Every hour of every day. So why should the public believe this cop led a squeaky clean career? Chances are, citizen complaints were never made out of fear of retaliation or hopelessness that nothing would come of it, or were made but dismissed by other like-minded bosses ever-ready to dismiss the possibility of racism.
This would account for so many "clean records" of cops caught on video, like the Oscar Grant case, or in high profile cases like Robbie Tolan. There was no video and he didn't die, so you can bet the bank we had never heard about it if his dad hadn't once been a famous baseball player. It would have just been another abusive white cop and the family's word against the theirs, and totally ignored by the media.
My gut reaction when viewing the Grant videos a few days ago was "Racism! Bastard! Look at that! All of them! Haters swarming around him like predators out for blood! How could they?!"
I still frankly feel that way.
And when I learned of the other two cases over the weekend, I thought:
"Racist bastards. They're probably Obama haters and can't stand it that a black man won the Presidency. This could be the collective aftershock and blowback I feared months ago because Fox News and fixed news and the McCain campaign stirred as much of the white population into a hate frenzy as possible."
The pitfall of thinking this about those specific cases is they're factless-based assumptions. A good assumption will have some evidence that could point to the truth.
However, not a thing I've read about those cases indicate those white cops had or were placing any Obama-related hostilities on the public, whom they are supposed to protect and use the least violent means necessary when making arrests.
What I can do, however, is consider a growing trend of white male police aggression toward black males, and ask, "In this decade, what could have triggered it?"
Stick with me, and I'll give you much to think about.
We have history, and we have recent history of an increase in anti-black hate crimes from the Presidential Election.
I trace the genesis of the recent problem to Hillary Clinton, with her race-specific appeal to "white, working white, voters" to vote for her, her refusal to drop out of the primaries, and for no reason whatsoever brought up how Robert Kennedy was assassinated in the month of June (1968). She did that on three different occasions before the media took note of it in this interview.
It's like MSNBC Keith Olberman said, and I'm paraphrasing: She was hanging around and hoping someone would get the hint and take him out for her.
She also lied back then that she didn't know if he was a Muslim or not. Hell, if I knew Barack's religion, I know she knew.
Because Hillary used an old Southern-style racist campaign strategy that appeals to fears and bigotry, I have never felt comfortable when Barack selected her to be Head of State, but maybe his motto is keep your friends close to you but your enemies closer.
Then there was Mike Huckabee, who cracked a bad, dangerous joke after hearing a noise while giving a speech to the NRA, saying, "That was Barack Obama, he tripped off a chair, he's getting ready to speak and someone aimed a gun at him and he dove for the floor."
Obama wasn't even there, but I wondered when I saw that video if Huckabee's heart wished for something like that to happen, just as I wondered about Hillary's heart. Huckabee, by the way, was 'rewarded' with his own show at Fox News several months after that.
Also on Fox News, commentator Liz Trotta, after mixing up the names Osama [bin Laden] with Obama, said, "We'd knock off both, if we could," and then laughed at her own gaffe.
No outrage was expressed by her colleague, who didn't miss a beat in chuckling with her and continued the interview.
Hell, if they talk like that in public, I shudder to think how they speak and think amongst themselves.
Worse, these public "jokes and gaffes" about the assassination of a candidate running for President was unprecedented.
In late May, I did a post on those three incidents, pointing out it was trend of planting seeds in the minds of the American public that talking like this about the black candidate was okay.
Then along came John McCain and Sarah Palin. My oh my, weren't their rallies like hate fests? I'd have been scared shitless to attend one. They got so bad that even the mainstream media did a double take at their fans, who freely used the word nigger, and some who yelled out kill him and he's a terrorist!
Miles away and watching cable news, I could smell that Nazi-like odor of hate permeating through the crowds along with much of the nation and the world.
McCain had to reign in his race-based fear campaign, but it was too late. The loonies were really coming out of the closet.
Most memorable were the two dimwitted neo-Nazi's who planned to execute dozens of innocent blacks before proceeding to snuff out Obama, and the homely, pathetic McCain volunteer who carved the letter B on her face and blamed a non-existent black male assailant who allegedly robbed her, then mutilated her when he saw her McCain bumper stickers.
Fox News ran that story day and night - until it was confirmed it was a lie, and then dropped it like a hot potato. Hell, it was just getting good then.
The haters at the fixed news tv and radio shows, sites and blogs didn't want the truth, or consider how lies like that make it dangerous for black people to live in peace and safety - from random violence by whites, to vigilante mobs and more than plausibly, from a small but significant number of men who have no business working in law enforcement.
I haven't seen stats on in this, but in my area, the police began stopping more black men than usual as a McCain victory looked impossible. That's the from Eyeball On The Street crowd - the locals I know, including me and my own two kids - who have seen more blacks pulled over than in previous years.
In October 2008, when it became clear to most that Barack Obama would be the next President, gun and ammo sales were better than ever; so much so that gun stores couldn't keep enough in stock.
What caused this?
The lie that Barack Obama would take away everyone's gun rights?
No, that was fixed news propaganda to hide the real reason.
If that were true, men of all races would be stocking up in the same proportion as they always have. Instead, purchases from blacks, Latinos and Asians remained consistent, but the spike in sales was caused by white men. [Note, when I find the best link to that specific story I read in November, I'll put it here.]
Given the timing and the millions of discussions on the 'net and in the press, I'd venture a guess that most of these guys were and are scared of change.
Thus, how could this not include the few, scary and scared or outright hateful, racist white men who carry a badge and a gun?
Their mindset makes it inevitable that more cases of police brutality and unpremeditated or even premeditated murders will occur in the first few months that Barack is office.
I've heard the question, "What's the big deal or difference? It's just a tiny few cases, and black males get killed every day, nearly always by each other."
In this great country, there are laws designed to protect all citizens so that we may live in peace and safety. When the police and courts abuse their power, the powerless and those who love humanity and the Constitution lose trust in the system, and sometimes respect for the law. The attitude becomes, "They're doing the same shit we do and getting away with it. Eff 'em. I'm gonna do my own thing too."
And how the powers that be have gotten away with violence, thievery and corruption since 9/11 and brutal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and right up to the greed that caused the collapse of housing and credit markets, the demise of Wall Street, and supporting the walling off of Gaza, semi-starving Palestinian citizens late last year leading to blowback, and now supporting the current bombing of Gaza back into the Stone Age.
Tell me how the thugs in charge are any different from the teen and young adult thugs on our streets? Both groups want what they want and justify taking it by any means necessary with no regard to the victims they leave behind.
The young take their cues from their leaders, and our leaders have been miserable examples for them to follow. The message has been clear: human life is not valued.
Combined with being frequent targets of racial profiling, racism, the kind of unemployment levels that whites are seeing for the first time since 1945, or simply watching the rampant racism in the news last year related to the election process, is their no wonder that so many blacks are doing so badly? Or that a lifestyle of intense pleasure-seeking aka hedonism, which may or may not include using hard drugs, is their escape from unhappiness?
I give enormous credit to the many whites who are sick of the generations of racism and injustice and want no part of it.
Ever heard of the Hatfield's and the McCoy's? They were two hillbilly families who had feud. It lasted for generations, and only ended because the young'uns got sick and tired of this poison that harmed their families.
So it may be with the Oscar Grant case, shot dead while not resisting arrest.
A massive protest with some property destruction began on January 7th. The protest to end the symbolic feud between the races via police brutality, which turned into a riot could have been avoided if the Mayor hadn't screwed up so badly, according to this eye witness:
"We got to Civic Center, completely surrounded by riot police, buzzed by 4 helicopters with bright white lights shone in our faces. Someone yelled that the mayor wanted to speak. That we should all go sit down in the amphitheatre.
Someone else said, "sit down? you want us to go sit down?" We didn't. But we did gather around Dellums, as he stood on the steps of City Hall and spoke very quietly into a bullhorn. Some people were yelling and joking and making noise, other people yelled, "let the man speak! Let him speak!" Most people were quiet. Still, we couldn't hear 90% of what he said.
He held a lot of power in that moment. I felt that people were proud that he was there, walking the streets with us. All he needed to say to this Peaceful gathering of people was, "I hear you. There will be a transparent investigation. I will help fight for justice."
People would have listened.
Instead, he said a few condescending words:
"We have to talk to each other with respect... We are civilized people, we are a civilized community. I know you're upset because of something you think you saw," to which people responded, "We know what we saw! You saw it too!"
And then he turned around, walked into City Hall, and left us alone with angry, scary cops. I thought I could feel the crowd panic."
Let me pause here to talk about leadership. This is where it almost always shoots itself in the foot and perpetuates the problem of any kind of injustice.
The official leader insults the intelligence of those who know what they saw by insinuating that somehow their eyes are lying. No one likes to be played for a fool, or brainwashed.
Done enough times to enough people under the perfect circumstances where the 'new generation' is sick of the injustice that poisoned their previous generations, revolutions are born.
"Someone said, "now we're in for it." People stood stunned for a minute, and then some ran down 17th. I heard some smashing glass. I heard someone say, "here it goes."
And so it did.
"Some more people ran towards the noise, and the rest of us looked at each other and walked over there. The riot cops followed us in formation. We stood in the middle of Frank Ogawa plaza and some of us talked, most just stood quietly. I didn't see any other glass breaking/mayhem. Then someone said loudly, "Tear Gas" "Tear Gas" so we all walked quickly away.
Someone yelled, "they'll rush us after they throw the gas."
Then I saw a man pick up a very big wooden sign and throw it at a car. I decided to leave. I walked down 17th towards Broadway. Then I heard a noise and turned around. I saw about 30 people running straight at me. So, I started running too. I stepped on something and twisted my knee, so then I was hobbling. A couple people ran by me, but most people stopped running about then.
When I turned around, I saw a couple teenagers jumping on a car and smashing the glass. I walked up Broadway towards the Paramount. I'd turn around periodically and see people running or walking down 17th across Broadway.
I sat down at the bus stop to wait for the bus, and about 5 minutes later saw the armored car drive by. It's like a cross between a Hummer and a Tank and the Batmobile from Batman Begins. 6-8 cops were hanging off the outside of it.
Then I went home: about 1/2 a mile away in a totally different world. My beautiful tree-lined street was quiet, with no one out. Yeah, I live in the suburbs. No, I didn't grow up here. But a man was shot point blank in the back, and that's something every race, every gender, all socio-economic groups, all neighborhoods should be outraged by. We need comprehensive systemic change."
I couldn't agree more.
I also think that young man who wrote this was lucky his skin color was white, not brown. Otherwise I can't help but wonder if he'd have been rounded up with the other over 100 rioters earlier, or while sitting at that bus stop, waiting to retreat to the safety of his home.
Meanwhile, Oscar Grant's willing or accidental killer, Johannes Mehserle has retreated in safety too.
The last report is he's using the "Taser defense", claiming he thought he was holding his taser, not his gun.
BART appears to be trying to drum up sympathy for him by saying Mehserlie and his family have had death threats. Wouldn't surprise me if this is true.
They're also doing damage control.
"We must learn from our mistakes and we must make sure this never happens again," Director Carole Ward Allen told the crowd. "I want to hear everything you have to say. You have every right to hold us accountable."
"Whether it was a tragic accident or something else is a question that the investigations hopefully will answer," said board President Thomas Blalock.
Hell, if I didn't know what the story was about, I wouldn't have clue he was talking about the high probability this was a unpremeditated act of murder.
I ain't the jury, but if I were on it, after seeing all four available videos, I don't know how I could get my brain to contradict what my eyes saw.
This gets to language and the mistakes of leaders and their embracing Orwellian double speak.
Afraid to spell out the unspeakable act that could have happened, they use different words to dilute or cloud what could have happened, and further create suspicion and more anger.
Those BART officials didn't learn from the mistake of the Mayor, or from current Bush Administration that you cannot fool all the people all of the time.
Even the San Francisco Chronicle news article jumped on the bandwagon of protecting BART by titling that story, BART Directors Apologize To Slain Man's Family.
The words apology or apologize appear nowhere in it except the paper's interpretation of what was said and written into the title - for folks who don't read beyond the first paragraph.
Those are the ones who might be fooled. As I hinted at earlier, you can fool all of of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but never all of the people all of the time.
SF Gate newspaper should know better, but the don't. They appear too invested in maintaining the social hierarchy and keeping the unwashed masses quiet.
This same giant newspaper ran a story today titled, BART Cop Recalled As Gentle Giant As A Kid.
Even ABC news did their bit with this video news story titled, Rights of Officers Who Are Accused Of Crimes. They also continued the myth of BART's formal apology.
One audience member, a community member, hit the nail when she said in confrontation,"You need to watch the tapes of your faces in the hearing, because your faces don't look sensitive."
I agree. Some of those azzholes had smirks.
My message to the old guard, head-in-the-sand mainstream media:
Gimme a friggin' break. Run an article or broadcast news story about how Oscar Grant's baby daughter will grow up without a father, who may have been a gentle kid himself before he learned that the deck was stacked against him because he had brown skin, and had his short life end brutally like a deer trapped by hunters.
I don't know the now ex-officer who did the bloody deed. I suspect it was unpremeditated homicide because of the stress.
HOWEVER, even though people do snap under stress, why is it that you never, ever read about a 'stressed' black cop 'accidentally' shooting and killing a white guy he's trying to talk to or arrest?
This begs the question: are a higher number of white cops afraid and/or hostile toward black men, get 'stressed' more easily and as a result, are more Taser or trigger-happy? And is this a result of their own hidden racism which they may or may not acknowledge to themselves?
Johnny Mehserle quit his job on Wednesday, January 7th, and BART no longer can make him talk. His attorney has said little about the case. He's hiding out and safe. Because of four videos showing his crime, he'll probably do time, but at the same time, I won't be surprised if he gets off with a suspended sentence and probation - which is what you might expect for a minor marijuana possession charge.
Oscar Grant was buried on the same day, may he all the victims rest in peace, and their loved ones left behind find strength.
Meanwhile I ask, why, why, why?
In tears, I ask why, but I know the answer: it lies in the quote at the beginning of this article.
Update/Addendum, Friday 1/16/2009:
The riots and protests sent a powerful message that justice could not ignore. On 1/14, Johannes Meserlie, the now ex-BART cop, was arrested on a fugitive warrant in Nevada, and charged with the murder of Oscar Grant. He is being held without bail.
I can't hep but wonder if he's also an Obama hater - not because of policies but because of his race, and his resentment mushroomed and compromised his duty to equaly protect and respect all citizens.
Even if it's only a few nasty, racist cops out of a hundred, those numbers add up, especially when they are protected by the system. It turns out that Meserle had another victim report brutality at his hands. Read that link if you want to know details. Here's a brief excerpt:
"Ken Carrethers told ABC7 News in San Francisco that he was arrested after complaining to another passenger that his car had been broken into twice in the parking lot and the transit police did nothing because "they're standing around with their hands in their pockets."
To make a long story short, Meserlie overheard him, took it personal, allegedly got in his face and said, "I think you're drunk" (he wasn't), to justify abusing him and then falsely arrested him.
Carrethers, told CNN, "Had someone listened to me at the time when I first began trying to get help, there just might have been a chance that Oscar Grant might still be alive."