Johannes Mehserle, a white BART cop, murdered Oscar Grant, an unarmed 22-year old black man, in front of hundreds of witnesses, and now he has officially gotten away with it. Mehserle has only been sentenced to two years in jail. He will only have to serve as little as seven months because the 292 days he has been in jail until now count towards his sentence.
This is outrageous. Football player, Michael Vick, was sentenced to two years for dog fighting. Some states have a two-year sentence for marijuana possession. Mehserle got two years for murdering Oscar Grant. This was the smallest amount of jail time the judge could have given him. This is a slap in the face. It sends the message that Oscar Grant’s life wasn’t worth anything.
We have a right to be angry! We have a right to be outraged! This sentence is insulting and it’s unjust – but it is not surprising. Thousands of young men have lost their lives to police officers who were never even charged, let alone convicted or sentenced to time in prison. This trial has done nothing but reinforce the fact that cops can commit murder and get away with it.
This case has been an outrage from the start. On New Year’s Day, January 2009, BART cops arrived at Fruitvale BART, and pulled Oscar Grant and some friends off the train for allegedly fighting. After a little while, officer Pirone, Mehserle’s partner, elbowed Oscar Grant in the face. Later Mehserle and Pirone, together weighing over 500 pounds, slammed Oscar Grant down so hard they fractured his jaw and severely bruised the side of his face. As they both kneeled on top of him, in full control of him, Mehserle pulled out his gun and shot Grant in the back. Later Mehserle claimed he was reaching for his taser, which is ridiculous because he had already pulled out his taser two different times that night. But even if he was reaching for his taser, he still had no reason to even do that. After Grant was shot, he laid there in hand cuffs, bleeding to death.
Once this happened, and video footage was released all over the internet, there was no response from the politicians or law enforcement. Neither city officials nor BART said a word about the shooting for an entire week. Mehserle wasn’t even brought in for questioning until two weeks later. As Mehserle left the state, the city officials just sat there in silence, showing once again that cops are allowed to get away with murder.
It wasn’t until people began to organize and take to the streets and demonstrate their outrage that there was ever any response. Mehserle may not have even been questioned if there weren’t hundreds of people protesting.
And now, after the sentencing was announced, people expressed their outrage again. Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Oakland, along with members of Oscar Grant’s family and friends, and shared their anger and disappointment – but not surprise.
For the most part, the media ignored the unjust sentencing and the protest against it and chose to focus on what happened after the rally instead, when a few people smashed some car and shop windows. It doesn’t make any sense to smash up the property of ordinary people. And its unfortunate for anyone this happened to. But focusing on a few smashed windows just hides the real violence and injustice that happened.
One more cop getting away with murder cannot happen without a response. We cannot just shut up and accept this kind of brutality. We cannot just accept the violence of this system in silence. We have a responsibility to make it clear that we will not tolerate cops killing people and getting away with it.