Oakland – November 6, 2010 – The Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant (ONYX Organizing Committee, The New Years Movement, The General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant) condemns the activity of the Oakland Police Department leading up to, during and following the rally held on November 5th, 2010 in response to the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle for the murder of Oscar Grant, III.
While the city publicly claimed it had learned lessons from July 8th and would not militarize downtown Oakland or create a climate of fear and intimidation on November 5th, they privately constructed an all-out military strategy to intimidate and control the people.
Police agencies from at least nine different counties, along with Homeland Security, the FBI, CIA and DOJ descended upon Oakland. As people gathered to peacefully assemble, they had to wade through rows of police just to get to the City Hall Plaza. This in itself set a tone of anger for the people as they had just learned that Johannes Mehserle would only serve about 7 months in prison for the cold-blooded murder of Oscar Grant.
Following almost five hours of peaceful protesting, about 300 people decided to march to the Fruitvale BART Station (the location of the murder of Grant on January 1, 2009). Instead of facilitating the march in a productive and peaceful manner, the police chose to immediately respond with tactical and strategic repression of the people’s will and rights. The encroachment of the police on to the marchers further fueled the flame of an ignited community and led to an unnecessary confrontation on the streets of Oakland.
Shortly after the march started, about 200 protestors were cornered on the block of East 17th Street and 6th Avenue. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) attempted to contact city officials and negotiate with the police to release the people with no arrests. And even though word came that Police Chief Batts had agreed to give an order to release the crowd, moments later the arrests began. Police officers refused to talk to representatives from the NLG and indeed were hostile. Negotiating with these representatives from the rally could have further diffused activity on the streets of Oakland, but the police were intent on creating a situation that would then allow them to demonize the people and remove the focus from the unjust, unfair and outright farce of a sentence received by Johannes Mehserle.
Additionally, Chief Batts has been quoted as saying that the police expected protestors to march to Defermery Park but organizers were told explicitly that roads to the park would be blocked by police barricades. They in effect set the stage for their repressive activity to make a point to any other community members intent on making their voices heard in dissent to the system.
The Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant stands in solidarity with the people arrested on November 5th and we stand firm in our belief that the people have a right to assemble, a right to demonstrate, a right to march and a right to take a stand against a system that continuously oppresses, brutalizes and murders them.
We demand the immediate release of all those arrested on November 5th and that all charges are dismissed.