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by Anna Kunkin for LA Indymedia
Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010 at 6:26 AM
The first hearing of the Mehserle murder trial in Southern California took place on Friday January 8, 2010. The 7am gathering and press conference in front of the L.A. Superior Court Building was in many ways a meet-and-greet between the newly formed LA Coalition For Justice for Oscar Grant and representatives from Oakland.
The Oakland coalition originally formed itself out of a spontaneous rebellion when Mehserle, a BART police officer, shot Oscar Grant in the back execution style last New Year’s day. The coalition and the Oakland community insured, through a relentless effort, that the cop would be tried for murder and not a lesser charge. When the trial was moved to Los Angeles after the Mehserle defense argued that he couldn’t obtain a fair trail in Alameda County, the Los Angeles community banded together in a show of strength to show solidarity with the Oakland coalition and the family of Oscar Grant in order to guarantee a conviction of the police officer.
The scheduled Press Conference started on-time at 8am, and while much respect and honor was shown the many Oakland representatives, by affording them time in front of the cameras, the LA coalition, a diverse group of people and organizations, understanding fully the importance of this, the first murder trial of a police officer in the history of California, stressed the point that moving the trial out of Alameda County and bringing it to Los Angeles, will in no way take the pressure off. That the people of Los Angeles are just as committed to making sure this cop is tried and convicted for murder as are their Northern California sisters and brothers.
In fact for many, this trial is a perfect forum to illustrate how the system has never protected the rights of people of color, but instead has worked against all so-called minorities; and for that reason, is an opportunity to bring people together, build alliances, and demand change.
As this was the first hearing of this important trial in Los Angeles, all the network cameras and corporate media were present. Although there was no real expectation that these same media would present any kind of a true sense of the urgency and importance of this historical moment, the speakers nevertheless told a story of historical repression and of a lack of justice. They told a story of a young man cooperating completely with the police on the BART platform, and how he heard the words “bitch ass nigger”, the last words he would ever hear, as he took a mortal shot in the back while he lay face down on the ground. They told how the police then, instead of attending to this youth, were more concerned with confiscating cameras from onlookers and destroying evidence. But not all. And because people came forward and presented videos and photos taken with digital-cameras and cell-phones, absolute proof of a murder committed, the people of Oakland didn’t wait for permits, but spontaneously took to the streets, thereby creating a movement which has forced this trial and this historical moment; an opportunity to face the world; and united, to demand justice; justice for Oscar Grant, for his family, and hopefully universal awareness and change.
After the hearing, attorney John Burris made a short statement to report on the proceedings. He informed the waiting group that the next hearing will be on February 19th, when a trial date will be decided, probably sometime in the spring, and that the judge is firm in his decision to not allow cameras in the courtroom. Burris expressed his opinion that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry has a reputation for being fair, and that he expects the trial to be handled in a just manner.
Although he was accompanied by Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson and other family members, only Oscar Grant’s uncle, Cephus Johnson, or "uncle Bobby" chose to speak, expressing the families happiness and enthusiasm with the response from the Los Angeles community, and it’s hope for further communication and support building in the future.
The next meeting of the Los Angeles Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant will be held at 5pm on Sunday, January 17th at the Chuco's Youth Justice Center: Located at 1137 E. Redondo Blvd, Inglewood, CA 90302. Contact phone # is 323- 235-4243. All are invited.
For information and background on the case, the most thorough and comprehensive source up till now can be found on the San Francisco Bay Area Indymedia site, (Indybay) at http://www.indybay.org/oscargrant.
Since the trial has been moved to Los Angeles and has been handed to us, we need people to be present at meetings and during the court proceedings to report for LA Indymedia and Indybay. Remember: We cannot count on the corporate media to do a fair and just reporting of this important case and we need people to step up to make sure this story gets told fully and accurately.
Since nobody outside of the corporate media is being paid to cover the story most people won’t be able to be present at every opportunity. Therefore, it is important that individuals become media activists and take responsibility to write up report-backs every step of the way. You don’t have to be a “professional writer”….just tell your story as you see it, being mindful of accuracy. You can post directly at la.indymedia.org.
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