#Occupy Oakland: Justice May Never Get Here
The first FDL diary I wrote about Occupy Oakland, back in November, was called “Justice Is Not Here Yet.” The title was based on a quote from longtime, prominent Oaklander Dorothy King to City Councilwoman Desley Brooks. Desley asked her old friend Dorothy why she needed to continue to camp in Oscar Grant Plaza; after all, she had made her point by simply being there. Dorothy responded by saying: “Justice is not here yet.”
I fear that justice may never find its way to Oakland. Almost every diary I have written since is about the latest injustice in our unfair city. Unfortunately, this diary is no different.
Photo by vision63
The Oakland Police Department Shoots Itself in the Foot. Literally.
Early on the morning of Sunday, May 5, 2012, Oakland police officer Miguel Masso shot and killed Alan Dewayne Blueford, an 18-year-old African American man, in East Oakland. Initial police reports (dutifully reported as true facts by MSM stenographers) indicated that officers on patrol came upon three young men, one of whom they believed was armed with a concealed weapon. The suspect fled, was pursued by one officer, and a shootout ensued. The suspect shot the officer and the officer returned fire, shooting the suspect three times. Both the officer and the suspect were rushed to Highland Hospital. The officer had non-life-threatening injuries to his lower extremities; the suspect was pronounced dead at the hospital. In the next day or two, the suspect was identified as Alan Blueford, who was on juvenile probation for burglary. So, to summarize: notorious East Oakland neighborhood; armed thug; heroic cop who barely escapes with his life. Game, set, match.
Except that’s not what happened. Not at all. The truth has begun to trickle out like Alan Blueford’s blood as he lay wounded and dying on the street for four hours. The gun allegedly found at the scene and allegedly belonging to Alan and reported as being as few as five feet away from Alan’s body or as many as 30 feet away from it—had never been fired. Officer Masso (whose name has not been officially released) shot himself in the foot.
Alan’s two friends were held by police for the next six hours. Alan’s parents were not aware that their son was dead until his friends were released from police custody. The friends told a different story, a story about how three teenagers were waiting on a corner around midnight for “some girls in a white Chevy” to pick them up, as Alan had told his father in the last phone call he made before he died. A story about how the cops rolled up on them with their lights out and their guns drawn, and how Alan did, in fact, run, because he was scared.
On May 15, 2012, the remarkably composed family of Alan Blueford appeared before the Oakland City Council. Alan’s mother, Jeralyn, told the council about how she and her husband, Adam, had rushed to the police station upon learning about Alan’s death from his friends. About how they had been told to “go sit down” and were forced to wait for two hours before someone finally came and told them that their son had been involved in a “gun battle” with police. Alan’s cousins talked about what a wonderful young man Alan had been, how he’d just been to the prom at Skyline High School and how he’d had been looking forward to graduating. The meeting was packed with people who had come to bear witness to yet another family’s grief, grief inflicted by OPD. We were all overcome by their courage in the face of such injustice, such outrage, such sorrow.
Except for the council members, many of whom fidgeted with their phones and seemed to be engaged in other, more pressing business. Councilwoman Desley Brooks, to her credit, at least demanded to know why OPD Chief Howard Jordan was not present to answer the Blueford’s questions. Unfortunately, Desley’s concern seemed to be about whether or not OPD had followed the established protocol for informing yet another mother that her young black son was dead at the hands of the police—rather than questioning the perfectly insane notion that such a protocol should even exist.
HoJo Doesn’t Know, So Don’t Ask Him
On the following evening, May 16, 2012, a handful of us attended a meeting of the Oakland Citizens Police Review Board. The original agenda of the meeting—which had been postponed from a much earlier date—was to address OPD’s response to Occupy Oakland. It was held in East Oakland in the gymnasium of the Allen Temple Baptist Church. Before the meeting began, we were reminded by the vice pastor (or whatever the fuck his title is) that we were not at City Hall, that we were in a church, and that we should behave accordingly. Because Jesus wants us to talk in soft, reverent tones when discussing dead teenagers and veterans with skull fractures and babies with tear gas in their lungs.
Police Chief Howard Jordan deigned to grace us with his presence on this evening but was unable to answer a single question. He could not comment on items he knew nothing about, which included most incidents of police brutality and fascism against OO as well as the mysterious events leading to the death of Alan Blueford. Citizens Review Board members seemed quite accepting of HoJo’s ignorance. Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, Oscar Grant’s uncle, told the board members that even though they don’t have any teeth, they could at least try to growl occasionally. It occurred to me that now we have “alumni” families of the dead—those strong, resilient, loving souls like Uncle Bobby who show up to comfort and guide the latest victims of police brutality.
Photo by glennshootspeople
Why on Earth Would Anyone Bring a Shield to An Occupy Oakland Protest?
On May 22, 2012, the Public Safety Committee of the Oakland City Council met to consider a proposed ordinance “prohibiting the possession of the tools of violence at a demonstration.” You might think this was a proposal that would ban the use of rubber bullets, beanbag rounds, tear gas, flash bang grenades, batons, tanks, LRADs, and other weapons that OPD has routinely used to quell peaceful protest. But you would be wrong. This is an ordinance that would make sticks, paint balloons, spray paint cans and makeshift shields—as well as ordinary items like water bottles and camera tripods—illegal if you happened to have them in your hands in the vicinity of a demonstration. You wouldn’t have to actually do anything illegal with these items; you could be arrested for just having them. OO’s kickass Antirepression Committee member Laleh Bahbehanian schooled the council on just how fucking ridiculous and unconstitional such an ordinance would be. Countless occupiers addressed the council, bringing potentially illegal items up to the podium with them. OO ustreamer Bella Eiko’s spectacular rant/meltdown began with a salient observation about how you can’t possibly tell the citizens of a town represented by the Oakland Raiders that they can’t have shields. Many speakers talked about how this was nothing but a distraction, another attempt to draw the attention of the press back to Occupy Oakland and away from asking nosy questions about dead black kids.
HoJo Still Doesn’t Know, And If You Ask Him Again, He Will Snatch Your Ass
Last night, on May 23, 2012, OPD held another meeting in East Oakland at Acts Full Gospel Church, near the Coliseum BART station. The purpose of this “town hall” meeting was to answer questions from the community about the killing of Alan Blueford. HoJo refused to answer people directly; instead he forced them to submit their questions in writing. He started obfuscating and telling lies right away. People began to turn their backs to him and put power fists in the air. Chris Moreland, a well-known and well-loved member of the OO Tactical Action Team, began to heckle HoJo. After less than 30 minutes of “answering questions,” HoJo and his homies decided to call an end to the meeting and leave. Chris and other occupiers and citizens continued to verbally engage the cops as they made their way out of the church down a narrow hallway. Chris is the tall guy with the bullhorn. He’s at Santa Rita Jail right now, charged with battery on an undercover officer. Eyewitnesses beg to differ. Chris wasn’t arrested on the spot; they waited until the crowd dissipated and he walked to back to the BART before they kidnapped him. He was taken away in a squad car with two cops sitting on either side of him in the back seat.
Friends of Chris have called for support at his arraignment tomorrow afternoon and at a demonstration tomorrow night. This coincides with the weekly Fuck the Police march, of which Chris was a founder. Chris’ mother, who has never attended an Occupy protest, has asked people to be respectful and avoid property damage. I think we all want to honor her wishes, but people are sad and mad and we have had it. I’ll be there tomorrow night and I’ll let you know what happens.