US: Police killing of Oscar Grant

Another victim of the system

Oscar Grant, a 22 year-old African-American man, was fatally shot by transit police in Oakland on New Year’s Day in front of dozens of witnesses and cameras. Disbelief, horror, and outrage are sweeping the US, as videos of the incident circulate over the internet.

There can be no denying or covering up this tragic and deadly case of police brutality. A number of videos corroborate the same horrific crime. It starts with police harassing and brutalizing a group of African-American men. But then, seemingly for no reason, a police officer draws his gun and shoots Grant point blank in the back. Grant was not resisting.

A local news show in Oakland was the first to publicly show one of the many cell phone videos that captured the murder. Within a couple days, over 500,000 people had watched that very clip on YouTube.

In the videos, Grant appears to be begging for his life before being shot. Witnesses say he pleaded with police, “I have a four-year-old daughter.”

In one of the videos, you can hear onlookers protest and yell for police to stop long before the shooting. All those who have come forward with videos are lending support to a $25 million lawsuit against BART police filed by Grant’s family.

The public outrage over the killing of Grant has forced the resignation of the officer who coldly pulled the trigger, but, scandalously, no charges have been filed. Some rioting broke out in Oakland after a public protest on 7 January. More protests are likely as the investigation and legal process, which many understandably distrust, unfolds.

Anger at the police goes much deeper than this atrocity carried out on the transit platform. Police harassment in communities is a persistent problem. Even the Justice Department in a 2007 report admitted that cases of police brutality have been on the rise since 2001.

We must fight for justice for Oscar Grant and his family, and we urgently need to build a movement that challenges the police harassment and brutality we see every day. As one sign held by a protester in Oakland put it: “Oscar Grant: Murdered! The Whole Damn System is Guilty.” (AP, 1/9/09)

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January 2009