May 25, 2010

Important Development in the Oscar Grant Case

Soulclap to the brothers and sisters of ColorOfChange for bringing us this important news:

There’s been an important new development in the Oscar Grant case, and you helped make it possible.

Last year, we told you the story of Oscar Grant, the young man who was shot in the back by a police officer while laying face-down on a subway platform in Oakland, CA.

The officer who shot Grant, Johannes Mehserle, was subsequently charged with murder and is currently awaiting trial — a rare moment for police accountability. But in the moments before Grant’s murder he was also brutalized by another officer on the scene named Tony Pirone.

Now, more than a year after Grant’s tragic murder, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police Department has fired Pirone for his conduct that night. With Pirone’s dismissal, three officers at the scene of Grant’s murder have now been fired for their actions, which clearly set the stage for Grant’s death that night.

While the fate of the officer who killed Grant is not yet certain, it is important to recognize the significance of this moment. It is definitely a victory for all who believe that those who enforce the law can never be above it. And it couldn’t have happened without the participation of tens of thousands of ColorOfChange members who spoke up for justice for Oscar Grant, signing petitions, making phone calls, writing letters and attending rallies.

Last year, ColorOfChange members in the Bay Area confronted the Alameda County District Attorney with stacks of more than 20,000 petitions demanding that he explain why he hadn’t arrested Pirone. Most of the local media covered our event, feeding a public conversation about the D.A’s handling of the case and shining a spotlight on Pirone’s actions.

Our action was a major catalyst in Pirone’s ultimate dismissal. The intense media spotlight ColorOfChange members shone on Pirone and the pressure you generated both locally and nationally contributed significantly to a measure of accountability: a rogue cop was kicked off the police force, losing his ability to shield himself with his badge while terrorizing and brutalizing innocent civilians. It also sends a clear signal to other officers who might be inclined to abuse their power.

We still believe that Pirone should have been brought up on charges for assaulting Grant. But we shouldn’t let this distract us from the ultimate goal: seeing that Grant’s murderer gets the full measure of justice for what he’s done. With his trial for murder pending, we’re already part of the way there — a position we might not be in today were it not for ColorOfChange members like you speaking up, keeping pressure on the District Attorney, and forcing him to act swiftly to pursue justice.

These are achievements we can all be proud of. Thank you for standing with us.

Thanks and Peace,
-- James, Gabriel, William, Dani, Milton and the rest of the team

I have to admit that this blog didn't provide as much coverage of the Oscar Grant case as we should have done at the time. I'm grateful to James and his crew from ColorOfChange for their tireless online activism. I hope that justice is finally done in memory of Oscar Grant and for the family that he left behind.

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