Oscar Grant Rally in Santa Cruz Against Injustice and Police Murder

In the early hours of January 1, 2009, Oscar Grant III was murdered by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, shot in the back as he lay face-down on the Fruitvale BART platform with BART officer Tony Pirone’s knee in his shoulder.

On July 8, 2010, Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but acquitted on the more serious charges of second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. The jury included eight women and four men. A white police officer killed a black man, yet no African-Americans served on the jury. The killing took place in Oakland, but the trail was moved out of Alameda County to Los Angeles.

It was announced that Mehserle will be sentenced on August 6th**. However, other reports suggest that sentencing may take place later, perhaps in September. Judge Robert Perry now has the discretion in sentencing to decide how to apply the findings of the jury.

** 65 years ago, on August 6th, 1945, the U.S. Military dropped a nuclear bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, on August 9th, the U.S. detonated a nuclear explosion over Nagasaki.

On July 9, 2010, a demonstration was held on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz against police murder and the unjust verdict in the trial of Johanes Mehserle. The demonstration, called for the night before, took place from 12pm until about 2:30. It brought out about two dozen demonstrators throughout that time who held signs and engaged pedestrians.

Even though the demonstration was only called for the night before, and there were no flyers around town, there was an absurd number of Santa Cruz police officers constantly surrounding the protest, as well as non-stop surveillance and zoom lens photography from the top of a building.

At the end of the demonstration, I saw SCPD spokesperson Zach Friend chatting with a half dozen officers in front of Urban Outfitters. I inquired about the large police presence. Friend replied in a flippant manner suggesting that maybe it was because there were protests in Oakland, and maybe because there were some flyers found around Santa Cruz in regards to Oscar Grant, and maybe it was because there was property destruction in Santa Cruz on May 1st.

Friend affirmed that a number of officers surrounding the demonstration were receiving overtime pay, but didn’t know how many. He found it funny to point out to me that one of the officers standing there was “sipping on a latte.”

I asked Friend about the two plain-clothed men on top of the building taking photos. He said that they were not police officers and that he did not know who they were. He suggested, however, that they might be property owners whose building was damaged on May 1st.

I speculate that it is more likely the two men on the roof who engaged in non-stop surveillance and zoom lens photography are FBI agents, rather than vigilante property owners.

For analysis of the verdict, protests in Oakland and around the U.S., and ongoing coverage of the Justice for Oscar Grant movement, see:

Mehserle Found Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter

Justice for Oscar Grant

Crossposted at Indybay.org.