Police Brutality Against Minorities
Johannes Mehserle, the former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police officer was released from the Los Angeles County Men’s Jail at 12:01 a.m Monday morning (6/13/11). He was caught on video cameras fatally shooting and killing unarmed train passenger, Oscar Grant. Mehserle was convicted by a Los Angeles jury in July 2010 of involuntary manslaughter for the New Year’s Day 2009 shooting of Grant. He was sentenced in November to two years in prison, which was the minimum sentence for his conviction and acquitted of murder, the most serious charge he faced. From the days after the shooting to his release today Mehserle has only spent 1 year in prison. The early release angered members of Grant’s family and others, who protested Mehserle’s release at two rallies held at the site of the shooting and in front of Oakland City Hall Sunday evening. There is a demand for police accountability and justice in police involved shootings.
Mehserle’s defense argued that the shooting was a mistake. Mehserle had intended to use his Taser gun against Grant, but mistakenly drew his pistol. Oscar Grant and several others were detained by Oakland police in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, 2010. The Oakland PD were responding to an alleged fight taking place between some of the men in the Fruitvale station of the BART system. After detaining the men for almost an hour, questioning and arguing with them, police officers moved to handcuff several of them and Mehserle restrained Oscar Grant by kneeling on his back while he lay stomach down on the platform. Officer Mehserle then drew his gun and shot Grant in the back at point-blank range. Grant then screamed “you shot me!” and died several hours later from his wounds caused from a bullet that ricocheted off the ground and punctured his lung.
It’s been said that “Grant has become the Lil’ Bobby Hutton of his generation—a young black man, killed by a police bullet, who has become representative of a larger struggle for self-determination.” Grant’s memory has been kept alive by the efforts of numerous graffiti artists; the motto “I Am Oscar Grant!” began appearing all over Oakland, along with aerosol versions of Grant’s face.
This is just one of the many recent incidents of police brutality that has outraged communities across America.
- Danroy “D.J.”Henry Jr., the Pace University football player from Easton who was fatally shot
by police in New York in the fall. Henry was unarmed and shot while driving his car. He was handcuffed and placed on the ground, where he lay dying. He was left on the street for 15 minutes without any medical attention.
- Arizona SWAT team shot 26 year-old José Guerena, 26, 71 times, as they executed a search warrant on his home. The former Marine who served two tours in Iraq was killed while protecting his family from what he thought to be intruders, men with guns advancing on his home. Police confusion lead to Guerena bleeding out and dying in his own home. Police refused to allow medical personnel in to help save his life.
- This past Memorial weekend at least nine officers shot Raymond Herisse, 22, and injured four bystanders in the process. Police claimed Herisse hit an officer with his car during a traffic stop and then took off and started shooting at them. The police initially stated that they did not find a gun in
Herisse’s car. However, two days after the shooting they reported locating a semiautomatic pistol in the car. Several witnesses had been placed in handcuffs and had their cell phones smashed for recording the incident.
Police have a history of aggressive tactics in poor communities. Racial profiling and systemic police brutality against minorities stems from a system in which ordinary people do not control the police, and the police act like an army in communities of color. The incomprehensible day-to-day police abuses create a hostile and racially charged environment that allows the more extreme cases to occur. “Racial and ethnic minorities were disproportionately” harmed by harassment, verbal and physical abuse, and false arrests. Through education, public and legislative action it is important to mobilize public awareness about the causes and effects of racial profiling and police brutality. Know your rights! (click)