Activists upset over authorities' handling of the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year's Day plan to convene an "independent public tribunal" this week to investigate the incident.
Handling the tribunal is the ponderously titled Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights By Any Means Necessary. (BAMN for short.) Yvette Felarca, Northern California director for BAMN, says the inquiry is necessary because BART and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office -- the latter of which is currently prosecuting Mehserle for homicide -- are engaged in a cover-up.
The group's first hearing will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4 at the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland. If you're expecting anything close to a standard criminal-justice proceeding, think again. For one thing, the venerated American tradition of due process afforded to the accused will be out the window from day one, as Felarca explained in a telephone interview.
"Our agenda is pretty clear," she said. "Mehserle is a murderer and we want him convicted." Think of it, if you will, as guilty until proven more so. "We want to make this a chance for the community to be able to analyze the facts of the case so we can be confident that the conclusions we do draw are supported," Felarca said. "And we're confident they will be."
Mehserle, who is white, shot and killed Grant, an unarmed 22-year-old black man, on a BART station platform. The incident was captured on video and has stirred public outrage, including riots on the streets of Oakland on Jan. 7.
Felarca said the tribunal will review those videos, and feature testimony from those who knew Grant about his character. She said it's still not clear whether actual eyewitnesses to the shooting will speak at the tribunal, since their comments may be restricted by their participation in Mehserle's real trial.
Photo | anyjazz65