No support from Councilman Parks, says Oscar Grant coalition
Members of the Los Angeles Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant picketed the office of City Councilman Bernard Parks today, asking him to support the Justice Department’s investigation into possible civil rights violations.
Oscar Grant was an Oakland youth who was shot and killed by then-Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle, on New Year’s Day 2009. Grant had been lying face down when Mehserle pulled out his gun and shot Grant in the back. Mehserle’s defense was that he thought he grabbed his Taser.
Mehserle’s trial was moved to Los Angeles in June for fear widespread media coverage and community anger would prohibit a fair trial. He was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on July 8. His sentencing date is scheduled for Nov. 5.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums are supporting the Justice Department’s examination. On Aug. 6, Rep. Waters wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, calling Grant’s death a “brutal police killing” and requested a thorough investigation into the matter.
“It is critical that the Justice Department ensure that all civil rights statutes were properly enforced and that no federal laws were violated during the course of the prosecutorial stage, jury selection, and trial process,” wrote Waters.
However, Parks remains silent on the matter. According to Jubilee Shine, an organizer for the LA Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant, the coalition contacted Parks three weeks ago, but has yet received any statement of support. Today’s action was a sort of reminder of their demands.
Coalition members, as well as members of the Black Riders Liberation Party, walked into the 8th Council District Constituent Services office on Vermont Avenue in South LA. They handed over a written statement of their request for support to representatives of Councilman Parks and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The coalition is also demanding a maximum sentence of 14 years for Mehserle. They are currently engaged in a letter writing campaign to ensure the judge on the case, Judge Perry, takes a hardline approach to sentencing.
The coalition does not have much faith in Judge Perry to pursue justice for Oscar Grant. “We want to emphasize that this is the same judge that whitewashed the Rampart scandal,” says Shine.
Perry presided over the trial of LAPD officer Rafael Perez, who stoled and resold cocaine from the department’s evidence room and implicated 70 other corrupt LAPD officers in what is now known as the Rampart scandal. Shine says, because of Perry, Perez never served time in a state penitentiary, but in a county jail, for only 16 months.
“That’s why we are putting pressure on public officials,” said Shine, “because we don’t trust him.”