Saturday, July 10, 2010

An Injustice for an Injustice?

Some of you may remember a video and a post from shortly after New Year’s 2009.  The murder of Oscar Grant.

Except technically, I’m wrong for calling it ‘murder’.  The jury on the trial of that officer in the video that you see shooting Oscar Grant in the back while Oscar Grant is lying face down on the platform and then, after Oscar Grant is bleeding to death, puting handcuffs on the dying man – the jury in that officer’s trial came back with a verdict yesterday.  A verdict of involuntary manslaughter. 

Those twelve people decided that not only was this not murder, the officer did not intend to hurt Oscar Grant.  Somebody, please watch that video and tell me if you believe the officer didn’t intend to hurt Oscar Grant.   But then a video didn’t matter in the Rodney King trial either. 

Anyway, I could go on about how ridiculous I find that verdict, and why, but I won’t.  I’m not the only one that was angered by this.  Lots of people were, and they took to the streets in Oakland last night to protest.  There’s a beautiful set of pictures of the event on Thomas Hawk’s Flickr Stream

It paints a fitting portrait of the police in light of what happened to Oscar Grant.  The police from all over the area converge on downtown Oakland for the “Oakland Riots.”  The Oakland Riots, considered riots because they were named such by the media before the trial even ended, named in expectation.

Riot Cop and Assault Riffle, Oakland Riots, 2010 da Thomas Hawk.You can see the clearly angry and upset, but restrained, crowds with their signs, making their speeches, demanding the justice they didn’t get.  You can also see the police, in full riot How Many More Black Men Have 2 Die, Oakland Riots, 2010 da Thomas Hawk.gear, looking like something out of a 1960s picture of the South, utterly stupid in their mis-match of armor.  Assault rifles in hand, assault rifles against cardboard protest signs.

Riot Police Hold Line at 15th and Broadway, Oakland Riots, 2010 da Thomas Hawk.

And then, there’s these guys:

Looter Holds Pair of Shoes, Oakland Riots, 2010 da Thomas Hawk.

who decided that the injustice of the verdict was a permission slip to steal sneakers.  And this is what really pisses me off.  (There are several other pictures of the Foot Locker looting on the Flickr Stream.)

One, how does a bad jury verdict in a murder trial justify stealing shoes?  Ok, maybe in the OJ trial if you were stealing some OJ shoes or something so he didn’t get the royalties.  But stealing shoes because a BART officer got off easy?  They’re not BART shoes; there’s no little  See full size image logo on the side; they don’t get you on the train for free.  How about just jumping the toll gate at BART instead?

Two, why are you busting stuff in your own neighborhood?  It’s your neighborhood!  You’re mad?  Justice wasn’t done?  You wanna break something?  At least go break the officer’s windows so your angry, aggressive, illegal behavior makes some bit of sense!

The protesters were of all ages and races, all styles of dress, from suits and ties to hippie gear.  The looters, at least in the pictures, almost completely 20-30 year old black men in ghetto-styled clothes.  This is not a good look for the black community!  (and I’m not talking about the clothes; those look fine.)  I’m not going to begin to discuss the amount of stereotypes this perpetuates; I get to sad.

This looting of the Foot Locker, this alone almost* justifies the presence of the full-riot gear police in Oakland.  And to some people, as sad as this is, it may even help justify what that officer did to Oscar Grant.  The black community deserves better than that.  Oakland deserves better than that.  Oscar Grant deserves better than that.




[All photos, except the BART logo, by Thomas Hawk, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license and available at]


*Thomas Hawk gives a good 1st person account of the event, which includes descriptions of when the crowds did turn violent later in the evening and broke windows on other area businesses.  Although I still don’t think assault rifles are ever appropriate against unarmed people, Hawk’s account does show that some riot protection and the heavy police presence were eventually necessary.

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