So there was some violence after all in the street protest in Oakland over the transit cop involuntary manslaughter sentencing. Some cars and I believe other property was damaged and a policeman had his gun and holster ripped off of him (the culprit was immediately subdued) and I think I heard at least one cop was injured. As many as 100 people were arrested after police told a crowd marching toward the Fruitvale transit station (site of a deadly New Year’s incident in 2009) to disperse and they refused.
Unfortunately, the violence only serves to perpetuate the idea that urban ghetto residents are just plain violent and hard to handle.
The anger of residents, actions of outside agitators notwithstanding, is understandable. Law abiding citizens, who no doubt make up the majority of local residents, need to get with their city leaders and police and work things out. Ironically, Jerry Brown, California’s governor-elect, is a former mayor of Oakland — he was not able to change things.
I tried to get this update in here earlier today, but I had computer problems and paying work to do. But here it is.
So far I have not read of any major disturbances or any at all, actually, since the sentence was handed down Friday of the white transit officer who fatally shot an un-armed black man almost two years ago as he was pinning him down on a train station platform in Oakland, Ca. It’s not quite nightfall on Friday as I am actually writing this, though. (My blog service dates this blog a day later when it gets late in the day my time.)
Now as of 7:45 p.m. Friday night I hear an AM radio report and see a report in the Oakland Tribune online that some 200 protestors are being boxed in by Oakland police and there now seems to be some reports of confrontations, but no real or major violence yet — some arrests being made, they say. People are in there and can’t get out, it is reported.
At first glance and especially if you did not know or remember the details of the incident, the fact that the now former officer was only sentenced to two years with credit for time served, meaning that he has less than a year to go (I understand) it would seem an unjust sentence — two years for what surely appears at first glance as murder.
But the officer, one Johannes Mehserle, 28, was actually convicted of involuntary manslaughter — not murder. Part of his defense was that in confusion he thought he had grabbed for his taser gun, but unfortunately grabbed his service revolver. He also said he thought the victim, one Oscar Grant, 22, was armed.
This is not court and this is not a straight news report, so I can insert here that poor Mr. Grant had somewhat of a record of trouble with the law even though he had also been employed as a fast food worker and in the butcher business, as well.
It was also claimed that he had resisted arrest — although of course there is dispute over that.
The incident was the result of reports of fighting on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train after New Year’s partying.
Unless the former transit cop is just a terrible person who was racist and got away with murder, which somehow I doubt, the incident is a major tragedy for all involved.
At the least I would hope that Mr. Mehserle is never again allowed to work in law enforcement or security or any job that includes carrying a weapon.
I understand there is a pending, and separate, federal civil rights case against him. Somehow I don’t think that is right. I never understand how someone can be found innocent of a crime — in the is case willful homicide, but then found guilty of basically the same crime but under a different set of laws. If it was a mistake, he did not willfully deprive Grant of his civil rights. It was a mistake, a negligent one perhaps, but a mistake.
It’s kind of like O.J. Simpson being acquitted on murder in criminal court but responsible for wrongful death in a civil court — to me that makes a mockery of justice — but that’s just me.
BART’s cops need better training than they must have been getting and perhaps BART needs to up its standards for its security officers.
But at the time I heard more than one, usually older, black person say that young people (all people really) need to realize that resisting law officers is dangerous — cooperation is in one’s own self interest.
Just as importantly it is in the public’s interest that people comply with law enforcement so that it can do its job in protecting the people it serves, which is all of us.