By Benjamin Gottlieb/Staff Writer
DAILY NEXUS, February 3, 2009
Issue 69 / Volume 89
More than 50 student activists and community members marched in protest of the $3 million bail set for the killer of Oscar Grant yesterday.
Johannes Mehserle, a 27 year-old former BART police officer, was charged with the murder of Grant, 22, after an altercation led Mehserle and three other officers to discharge their weapons on New Year’s Day. Grant was unarmed and prone when he was killed.
The fatal shooting occurred on the train platform of the BART’s Fruitvale station in Oakland as hundreds of passengers looked on.
Mohammad Hafez, a UCSB alumnus, said the video evidence of the murder will be instrumental in the conviction of Merhserle.
“For every Oscar Grant or Rodney King, when a civilian can record what happened, there are 100 others that no one sees,” Hafez said. “They should strap a camera to every cop and record every time they use force.”
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson issued the decision to award bail last Friday, despite the judge acknowledging the officer’s account of the events contained inconsistencies. Mehserle’s defense attorney argued that Mehrserle mistook his gun for a taser and shot Grant by accident.
A coalition of student leaders from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Black Student Union led the rally, calling on the UCSB community to continue to pursue justice.
Alma Soriano, a first-year political science major, said UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC Berkeley staged similar rallies yesterday to demonstrate distaste for Mehserle’s bail.
“The prosecutor didn’t do his job,” Soriano said. “There should have been no bail. He committed a murder. There is video evidence of this and they say the evidence is inconclusive. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, the color of his skin.”
Soriano encouraged fellow students to continue to speak out against police brutality.
“We’re going to keep on fighting and make sure he does time in jail,” Soriano said. “We cannot let cases like Oscar Grant keep happening.”
Chinedu Unaka, a fourth-year sociology major, said he was taken aback by the court’s decision to award bail to Mehserle in spite of the video evidence.
“As far as the cop [Mehserle] receiving bail, I was very surprised,” Unaka said. “I felt there was enough evidence to deny him bail with the video. As for today’s march, a quick response is the best response. I feel like the fight has to go on. We have to personalize [Oscar Grant] because if this happened on campus, it would be a huge deal.”
Jamahdi Blueford, a third-year political science and black studies double major, said yesterday’s march was part of a continual battle against police brutality.
“The reason for this march is to keep the pressure and attention on the issue in order to keep this from happening,” Blueford said. “The percent of officers that commit unprovoked violent acts is upwards of 98 percent. We are going to let people know that this is not okay.”
Blueford said he does not believe the defense’s claim that the killing was accidental.
“People are afraid to convict officers,” Blueford said. “One day, he thought it was his taser, the next day his gun just went off. If you’re a police officer that does not know the difference between your gun and your taser, you’ve got some serious problems. This seems to happen when the person is black or Latino … nothing that is new.”