Jan 7, 2009 - 3:29 AM
2008 was a year of hope and despair. For the majority of Americans, the victory of Barack Obama symbolized change and the realization of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream. On the other hand, our economic downtown put many in a rough spot. The year saw increased unemployment, record home foreclosures, stock market plummets and big business burnouts. We were ready to put ’08 behind us and look forward to a new beginning—hopefully a year of peace, prosperity and change.
Yet, amidst the New Year’s Eve revelry, something awful, disgusting and incredibly fucked up happened in Oakland: Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old unarmed man was shot and killed by a BART police officer. While there is no official statement from the offending officer even a week after the incident, videos captured by witnesses show a young man lined up against a wall with others after a fight on a BART train. While the others were handcuffed, Grant was not. The grainy footage shows him put his hands up in surrender, not posing a threat or resisting the arrest. Moments later, the police pin him to the ground. He laid face-down and flat on his stomach with two police officers kneeling on top of him when a shot was fired into his back.
See the full KTVU report here: http://www.ktvu.com/video/18409133/index.html
According to reports, the bullet went through his lower back and ricocheted into his lung area, killing him almost instantly and leaving his 4-year-old daughter another fatherless child in the East Bay. With no official statement, speculation has arose as to what might have happened, the most preposterous being that the officer might have mistaken his gun for a taser—a mistake no officer, especially one described as a two-year veteran, should ever make.
Intentional or not, the footage shows an unjust public execution. Forget about the $25 million dollar lawsuit against BART. If the officers are not charged with a crime—murder is murder after all—this will be like the Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo cases all over again. In both instances, justice was not served and the officers were acquitted. Fortunately (that is, if there is anything fortunate in an act of murder), the cameras were rolling during Grant's death. There is no contesting that lethal force was unwarranted. In one of the videos, you can even hear the witnesses' shock after the shot was fired (the shot is fired 2:55 into the video):
This is the kind of action that sets us back decades. In the Bay Area and amongst young inner city minorities nationwide, and perhaps worldwide, the police are not seen as heroes. Kids wear "Stop Snitchin'" shirts, shout "fuck the police" and get nervous when they see cops. It's incidents like this that further instills the belief that they are and always will be on the opposite side of the law.
It's been a week since the shooting and still no official word from the investigation. Will the police protect their own as they have in the past and offer excuses for the use of lethal force? Or will finally see some justice served in 2009? We're waiting.
Zoneil Maharaj is the editor-in-chief of Oh Dang!