Saturday, November 6, 2010

Two Years: Oscar Grant III, Oakland and the Elusive Justice System

This morning, I got up to look at the headlines. I wanted to find out what mainstream media was saying about the protesting in Oakland over the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle, the cop who shot unarmed, handcuffed Oscar Grant III in a BART Transit station a couple of years ago. Mehserle received two years, although based on some red tape and a bunch of random laws, he could've only gotten four years max, anyway. So guess what I found this morning when I began my search? That's right. Not a damn thing. The browser is automatically set to go to RoadRunner, some search engine that provides daily headlines. The protest was nowhere to be seen there.

Not that I really expected to be. It's not surprising that media has been very light on the coverage of the protesting (last night's from all credible accounts was generally peaceful) and rioting over this trial. If media is a propaganda machine, it doesn't make sense to report on things that might incite the average American to get up and make some noise over the continued injustices in this country.

Protests and movements, if frequent enough, lead to revolution. Why do you think those people over in France are always in the streets?

Over here, the idea of protest is typically limited to an online petition sent by some organization like Save Darfur or After all, can't have the revolution interrupting the next episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians or Dancing with the Stars, now can we?

So, the media under-reports the rare instances of American's peacefully assembling to address injustices. Especially injustices that involve the shooting of an unarmed black man. Especially protests that are not limited by race (note the picture above, which features people of all nationalities). None of the protests in Oakland, which have been occurring fairly regularly over the past two years or so, are properly reported. Apparently, Oakland, home of the perhaps one of the most revolutionary movements to emerge out of the U.S. in the past five decades--- the Black Panther Party--- has people there that still have some fight left in them.

Anyways, continuing in my search for information, I headed over to another site.  This is what I found on CNN. I had to scroll down to the middle of the list of headlines that are in the sidebar of the page.

Oakland police chief: Protesters 'tearing up' the city
 Authorities in Oakland, California, said unruly marchers were "tearing up the city" as they protested a two-year sentence for a former transit police officer convicted for killing an unarmed man.
They were throwing rocks, bottles and trash, and ripping up fences late Friday, Police Chief Anthony Batts said.
That's how the story begins. Now, from the accounts that I read on Twitter (yes, I still get on to see what folks are talking about) namely, my personal hero, Davey D, the protesters were peaceful. The police, however, were not. They ended up arresting between 100-150 people. According to Davey D, the people were shouting not to resist the police.  This is what he had to say about it on his blog, HipHopandPolitics:

Tonight Oakland Police showed us what Marshall Law was all about as they conducted mass arrests in East Oakland around 6th and East 17th. All in all over 150 people were arrested and likely to be taken to North County or Santa Rita for the weekend.
This all began when about 500 marchers left downtown where city hall is located and attempted to march to the Fruitvale BART station where Oscar Grant was murdered. OPD had devised a boxed in strategy which was described as a scrimmage line. With the use of helicopters, dozens of patrol cars and undercover cops spread throughout the crowd, police in a series of manuevers tried to corral marchers into a block and immobilize them.
So who is telling the truth about what went down? Some journalist who is reporting from Los Angeles (where the case was moved) or the man who is actually there? Why wouldn't CNN have had reporters based in Oakland reporting what was happening? Poor journalism? Laziness? Apathy? I'm thinking the latter two.

I headed over to the Oakland Tribune to get what would hopefully be a more accurate account of events. Their headline immediately told an entirely different story. Of course it was the top story for them--but beyond that, here's what it said:
Peaceful rally ends in 152 arrests

A day of peaceful protests over the sentencing of BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle ended in an angry march that led to a confrontation between protesters and police and 152 arrests. One officer had his holster ripped from his gun belt and another was hit by a car; his condition was unknown Friday evening.
But the scale of violence and destruction that marked previous protests did not manifest itself Friday night, although City Hall closed early as did several stores near 14th Street and Broadway.
This is significant, because the average reader, the average person who is generally unconcerned/unconnected with the entire Oscar Grant III saga isn't going to head over to an Oakland-based publication to get a more accurate, thorough account of events. They will read CNN's lazy, uninformed headline, maybe the first two graphs of the story and call it a day. Propaganda at its best. Further, the CNN story didn't even make mention of the inflammatory, degrading remarks the judge, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry, made, chastising Oakland citizens for writing to the court, demanding that Mehserle receive a higher sentence.

I don't expect much more reporting to be done on this case. It, like the rest of the countless cases concerning unarmed black men and the police will subside. Their names will only come up when the next black man is murdered...then they will inevitably slip from our lips again.

So what to do? Two years. Two years for murdering someone. My cousin is doing 30 years for armed robberies, in which no one was killed, no lives taken. Two years. Michael Vick did that much time for killing some damn dogs-- mean dogs at that.

"Treat me like an animal, but love them Pits..." --Killer Mike, "I Gotcha"

Two-years. I almost feel like a hypocrite for just sitting here, typing. Internet activism, Tweeting injustices isn't working. So what to do? It seems as though no matter we do, the cycle continues.

Case and point: here's a story that I wrote, ironically, two-years ago after the Sean Bell verdict. I interviewed members of the hip-hop community, including Killer Mike, Gorilla Zoe,, Edward Garnes and more.

50 Shots: The Community Speaks on Police Terrorism

Edward Garnes:  “Systematic change takes constant attack. What happens is we get complacent and comfortable. We put the heat on every couple of years, then we fade away. And cops and system know that black folks will have momentary enlightenment and go back to business as usual."
Two years. Something has to give. I just don't know what. Maybe two years from now, someone will have a clue.

1 comment:

Dom said...

Powerful stuff again, sister.