Oakland waits: Will there be justice, will there be peace?
“I am Oscar Grant.” Actually, I am not Oscar Grant. I am a 50-year-old white woman, perhaps the least likely target of BART police brutality. And yet I am still debating what to do when the verdict comes down, perhaps today. I want to show my solidarity. I want to march peacefully with my community. I want Oscar’s little girl, Tatiana, and his mother, Wanda, to see faces of every age and color in the crowd. I want a verdict of voluntary manslaughter, at the very least. I want peace, I want justice. But if there is no justice, there will be no peace. And what even constitutes justice in a community where a young woman remembers being terrorized at 16 by the Oakland Riders?
On Friday afternoon I rode the BART home from San Francisco to the Fruitvale station in Oakland, the scene of the crime, a few blocks from my house. It was becoming apparent there would be no verdict that day but the tension was still palpable. A man on the train was lamenting his decision to park his car at Fruitvale that day. Even though I’d seen TV footage of the merchants of downtown Oakland boarding up their windows, or plastering them with posters of Oscar (or both), it was still a shock to discover the Fruitvale BART station sheathed in plywood.
The weekend was quiet yet ominous, filled with pleas for calm from religious organizations and city leaders (if you can call Ron Dellums a leader these days). Without a verdict and without cameras in the courtroom, all the news has to cover is the runup to the riot. There is a veritable tent city of responders set up near downtown Oakland, with plans in place to call out the National Guard if necessary. OPD just purchased an LRAD – the new sonic weapon for crowd control. The police chief keeps saying that they will be there to protect our right to peaceful assembly (if not our eardrums).
I spent the weekend reading about Oscar Grant in the alternative media as a means of counteracting the stereotypical “what can you expect from Oakland but violence” drumbeat coming from the MSM. I didn’t live here in 2009 when Oscar was killed and I needed to be reminded that without the uprising from the community, Mehserle may never have been charged at all. I needed to read this poem about Oscar, written by San Francisco poet Dee Allen. Dee read at a party I attended a couple of weeks ago so I was able to hear his voice in my head. His words made me weep. I expect to be crying again, if not today, then soon. Tears of joy or tears of sorrow, one or the other.
In the meantime, Oakland waits.