Choada Salinas, staff
Let’s start here, just in case you don’t know what happened. Frankly, if that’s really true, then you are either a complete moron or you live under a rock or, considering this is Humboldt, both of those things multiplied by being too stoned to think. Two hours into 2009, Oscar Grant was in a fight at the BART station in downtown Oakland with a few other young adults. The cops show up and people get out their cell phones and digital cameras and start recording.
There are at least four videos of this incident posted to YouTube. They are all still there; just search “Oscar Grant” or “BART shooting” and watch. One of these videos starts a little before the others — important because it shows Officer Tony Pirone punching Oscar Grant in the face for what seems to be no reason. Grant hits the floor. Pirone drops a knee on Grant’s back and yells, “Bitch-ass nigger!” twice into Grant’s ear.
Those words only came out at trial. As Pig Pirone is holding Grant down, Officer Johannes Mehserle stands over Grant. Also according to testimony at Mehserle’s trial, Mehserle says: “I’m going to taze him.” But he doesn’t. He pulls out his sidearm and shoots an unarmed and restrained Grant in the back.
More than a year and a half later, Mehserle has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter with a gun enhancement; it’s likely he will serve at least three years in prison. Pirone has been relieved of duty. Disciplinary action of active police officers is extremely rare, let alone a criminal conviction. Think about Rodney King: Four cops were videotaped beating the living shit out of him and none were convicted of any wrongdoing.
This time, Pirone and Mehserle are being punished and it’s a direct result of citizens, people like you and me, pulling out their cell phones and digital cameras and recording the incident.
We have been given the ability to shoot back at the cops, to catch and punish them when they beat and kill us for no fucking reason. But this right is being jeopardized. States like Maryland are using outdated wiretapping laws from the time of rotary phones (you know when you pick “old phone” as a ringtone? That kind of phone.) to arrest and harass people who record the cops. This is happening in different ways all over the country.
Let’s back way up for a second. Did you know that the Black Panthers are actually called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense? Did you know that they got started off in Oakland because the city imported a bunch of racist pigs from the south and anointed them officers of the law? True story. While the cops would harass and intimidate black people, the Panthers would stand at the legal distance — 15 feet if I recall correctly — with loaded shotguns to make sure the police stayed on their best behavior. Of course, Ronald Reagan was governor at the time and he didn’t really care for poor people or minorities interfering with the smooth operation of a police state, so he threatened to ban the carrying of loaded weapons on public streets. Then the Panthers scared the shit out of the California state legislature with those openly carried weapons and things got really ugly — but that’s another story.