Few causes have had the momentum of the outcry for justice that followed the killing of Oscar Grant. The unarmed, 22-year-old black man was shot to death by then-BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle (who is white) on a station platform on New Year's Day of this year. Riots in the streets of Oakland followed Grant's death, and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office took the unusual step of charging Mehserle with first-degree murder.
Nevertheless, the behavior of the most vocal of the many people upset by Grant's death and what it revealed about BART policing didn't encourage the public to take them seriously. This group -- an unlikely alliance
of white hipsters, black Muslims, pro-Palestinian activists, and others -- distinguished themselves by promising massive protests that failed to materialize and planning their own "tribunal" to try Mehserle outside the court system.
We haven't heard from these folks, who are now calling themselves the Community Council, in months. But apparently they're still around -- and still bent on raising a ruckus, even as the public accounting for what took place on New Year's Day moves forward. In a press release sent out early this morning, the Community Council announced plans to "interrupt" today's BART board meeting to "demand action" in response to Grant's death.
Late this morning, we caught up by phone with BART spokesman Jim Allison, who told us the protest didn't run according to script.
"The key question is the verb -- 'interrupt' -- and I would say no," Allison replied dryly, when asked about the Community Council's planned disruption of today's BART meeting. Instead, he said, some five to 10 people addressed the BART board during public comment, some demanding the resignation or firing of BART Police Chief Gary Gee and General Manager Dorothy Dugger.
No one disputes the tragedy of Grant's death, and most now believe -- particularly in light of a recently released, highly critical report on the incident from the law firm Meyers Nave -- that the ineptitude of BART police was at least partly responsible. But this particular group of protesters' demands are looking ever more superfluous in light of the ongoing criminal prosecution of Grant's killer and Gee's recent announcement that he will resign, opening BART law-enforcement to new leadership.
Some in activist quarters don't like to admit it, but there are times when the system works.
Photo | anyjazz65