Community speaks out against BART's attack on Oscar Grant's friends

Activists continues to demand "Justice for Oscar Grant"

BART will not be allowed to demean Oscar Grant's friends and blame them for his murder, activists said. A community rally and family press conference was was held Wednesday, Feb. 10 at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakand after the "unsettled-settlement agreement."

Grant was shot and killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on Jan. 1, 2009. Last month, BART announced it had reached a $1.5 million settlement agreement for Grant's daughter, Tatianna. After media reports suggested that Grant's friends testimony would help Mehserle -- who claimed he meant to fire his taser at Grant and not his pistol -- the Grant family's attorney John Burris held a press conference where he angrily accused BART of leaking confidential information and attempting the endanger the young men by labeling them as "snitches."

"The murder of Oscar Grant is not settled," Minister Keith Muhammad said. The leader of the Oakland Nation of Islam Mosque 26B said "This so-called settlement is unsettling because BART officials and its attorney have made conscious efforts to drive down any settlement demands by demeaning Oscar Grant and his friends, who were witness to his murder."

He referenced last week's press conference in which Burris compared BART's recent smear campaign to the infamous Dred Scott Supreme Court decision. He added that the young men's rights were violated. He added they are experiencing "Post-traumatic stresses after witnessing the murder of their friend."

"We stand in helping Mr. Burris to fight to insure that no system of laws will ever again declare that a Black man, that a poor man has rights that law enforcement is bound to respect.

"It is unsettling to watch media reports that BART will fight vigorously any additional attempts at settlement and before the ink has dried on the prior settlement, that it would leak evidence and inforamtion from private negotiations and misrepresent witness statements made in the public," Muhammad said.

Grant's uncle Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson spoke on behalf of Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson. Despite reports about a settlement being reached, Johnson indicated that the family still stands united for justice.

"We have started this journey together," Johnson said, "and we as a family, extended family, will continue this journey together."

"We stand behind him (Burris)," said Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson, Grant's uncle. and, as you can see, the community stands behind him and us to seek justice for Oscar Grant.

"The young men aren't on trial for murder," said Jack Bryson, father of two young men who were on the platform when Grant was kiled. "Johannes Mehserle is on trial for murder." He called the media reports which victimize his sons "disturbing."

"The media is just focusing on these young men," Bryson said, but "I have not seen one story on Tony Pirone. Bryson said Pirone "initiated this murder, and escalated this murder." He called the murder of Grant a "hate crime" as Pirone punched Grant in the face and called him a "Bitch Ass Nigger" three times moments before Grant was shot in his back.

"You're running their faces through the news like they did this murder," Bryson said. The media was presenting Mehserle as a model police officer on the reports, according to Bryson. "If he did all that, why is Oscar Grant dead?"

"A black man's life is not worth a caucasian person's life," Wilson Riles said. The former Oakland City Council Member added "That's not justice and will never be justice."

Ten years after the passage of Proposition 21, community activist Tony Coleman said racial profiling and crimilization of youth continues.

"Today it's still the same criminalization of young people going on today," Coleman said, "and even more so that they executing them."

Coleman called for young people to get involved.

"We need you young people!" Coleman yelled. "Young people, this is your fight! You have to come and join this fight!

Don't rely on the system to get your justice," he concluded, echoing Kwame Ture, "Organize, Organize, Organize."

Rachel Jackson with the New Year's Movement for Justice said that the "tragedy" that took place at Fruitvale on January 1, 2009 sparked a statewide movement. She pointed to the fervant organizing taking place in Los Angeles -- where Mehserle's murder trial has been moved -- adding that this attack on young people would help galvanize youth.

"BART is pouring gasoline on a fire here," Jackson said. "We're going to stand with the family to the end." Jackson also pointed out that Pirone and Marysol Domenci -- who attacked Grant and friend's prior to Grant's murder yet "BART still has them on the payroll."

"BART is paying them $100,000 a year," Jackson yelled, "and there's still no justice."

She called on people to attend BART board meeting on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 9 a.m.

"Not only is mehserle on trial, but through this case, so is the justice system," said Muhammad. "Judges, prosecutors, attorneys, and general media are all under the watchful eye of a community that will only be satisfied by justice."

The press conference ended with the chant: Justice for Oscar Grant!

IndyBay has the raw audio of the press conference. It is below:

The BART Board Meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 11 at 9 a.m. at 344 20th Street near Harrison, 3rd Floor.

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