OPD, DA had no case against journalist

The arson case against Oakland journalist JR Valrey has been dismissed.

Photo: East Bay Express

Valrey was covering the Jan. 7, 2009 Oscar Grant rebellion in downtown Oakland when he was tackled and arrested by Oakland Police.

Valrey is an Associate Editor with the San Francisco Bay View newspaper as well as producer of Block Report Radio.

Of the dozens of journalists there, Valrey was the only one arrested. Police confiscated his camera as "evidence" and he was charged with felony arson, punishable for up to five years.

The San Francisco Bay View reports that OPD and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office had no case, and one year later, Valrey's case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence.

Of the 105 people arrested that night -- known as the Oakland 100 -- Valrey was one of just three given felony charges. As an eye witness to rebellion, Valrey maintained his innocence and says he was targeted for his extensive investigative reporting on police brutality, or police terrorism.

"Minister of Information JR is the critic the Oakland PD most fears; for years he has covered their war against the Black community as other media cowered in silence. On Jan. 7, 2009, as JR was covering the first Oakland Rebellion following the New Year’s execution of Oscar Grant, the police grabbed the chance to put him away for a long time," writers Mary Ratcliff, editor of the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper. "He’d just left an impromptu press conference at the door of City Hall, where Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums sought refuge from reporters’ questions – the most pointed coming from JR."

Photo: East Bay Express

The East Bay Express -- called the Nazi Bay Express by some activists, ran a front page "hit piece" on Valrey calling him an "Agent Provocateur." And the Chauncey Bailey Project -- which Valrey once criticized as the "Anti-Bakery Project" -- implied he was involved in that journalists' death.

Despite facing trial on trumped up charges and being attacked by media outlets, in the past year, Valrey has continued to document incidents of police terrorism, raise money for Oakland 100 defendants, continued putting pressure on KPFA for the Berkeley Police's brutalization of broadcaster Nadra Foster and its dearth of Black public programming. He also recently organized a media-medic team to document the Jim Crow situation in Haiti.

He also produced an acclaimed documentary, "Operation Small Axe" focusing on community organizing efforts in the Bay Area surrounding the killing of Oscar Grant.

Visibly pleased after the dismissal on Monday, Feb. 22, the Minister of Information for the Prisoners of Conscience Committee (POCC) had a clear message.

"Free 'em all!" Valrey said while lifting a clenched fist into the sky. A victory for the people.

Currently, only one other defendant, punk rock artist Holly Works, still faces charges. Her trial is set for March 1.

A special "Power to the People" Victory Celebration will be held tonight, Monday, Feb. 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Black Dot Cafe in West Oakland. 1195 Pine Street. Speakers include: POCC Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. and Pam and Ramona Africa from MOVE.

To follow the writings of JR, visit the San Francisco Bay View newspaper or Block Report Radio.

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