Today, while I was dealing with the tedious details of daily life like deadlines and health insurance, something big was going down in the streets.
This afternoon, a large crowd peacefully protested the shooting of Oscar Grant, the unarmed 22-year-old, by a BART police officer. I think that’s beautiful that people are getting organized — the shooting of an unarmed man is a completely legitimate cause for outrage. In fact, I think it is a cause for concern for any citizen, regardless of your politics: those charged with protecting the citizenry have to be competent, aware of basic rights, and they have to be accountable to us, the citizens. That is not asking too much.
No one should be shot in his back while lying on the ground. Period.
Regardless of race, past criminal activity, the time of night, your attitude, the part of Oakland you’re in.
Given that, it’s outrageous that BART Police has been so slow to take action. They did not release the officer’s name for several days, and today, the officer, Johannes Mehserle, resigned, effectively dodging the responsibility of answering questions from BART internal affairs investigators. Wait — a week has passed and you haven’t questioned the guy that pulled the trigger!?!?
I can’t comprehend how one person could fatally shoot another human being — and still be walking around free, without having to answer investigators’ questions. What is the hold up? When will they formally charge him? Why aren’t they worried about him hopping the borders, like that corrupt Oakland Rider who has yet to see his day in court (though those that did were acquitted)?
The right to bear arms is founded on the ideas that (1) abuse of power should come as no surprise, and (2) that Americans have a right to resist injustice. In the same vein, our laws against murder or manslaughter can’t only apply to civilians only. I know it’s complicated, but cops have to be brought to justice too. Could BART Police do a worse job of this already? It’s possible that this investigation will lead to a formal charge and prosecution, but honestly, there’s few indications so far. Is it any wonder that people are outraged and frustrated?
The peaceful march in the afternoon turned into a sensational news-worthy riot tonight, with significant BART closures, property damage, and footage of chaos and fiery cop cars. I was worried that the investigation would drag out until the public lost interest, but now I’m afraid the public will lose sight of the issue at hand.
I can’t condone the violent faction of protestors’ poor choice of targets — it sucks that they smashed mom and pop shops and damaged property belonging to average citizens. On the other hand, protest is fundamental to a democratic life; it’s a like a heartbeat showing that people do give a shit, and that not all of us are standing in a fog in Home Depot.
A lot of people can’t sympathize with protestors when they interrupt their commute or take illogical actions. But I can’t help but wonder, what if a popular white kid from Walnut Creek was shot in the back by a cop, and a week went by with no signs of justice? Would the grieving family’s action of recourse be seen as an outlandish money-making scheme? Would mayors be urging calm then? Would local message boards commenters suggest that the investigation, however slow, is good enough? To get the New York Times’ attention, would the shooting be enough of an outrage, or would it take a messy, violent uprising?
Enough. The District Attorney needs to charge Mehserle already. And Mayor Dellums needs to do something besides shake hands with people at Safeway and warn about budget shortfalls. FIX IT. The accused has been dodging his responsibility with the president of the police union at his side. BART won’t handle it, and if this goes on, and maybe a boycott is in order.