Monthly Archives: June 2010
After 13 days of testimony, the defense rested Tuesday in People v. Johannes Mehserle with the calling of Dr. Thomas Rogers to the stand. Dr. Rogers authored the autopsy protocol which stated Grant’s cause of death was a gunshot wound to the torso. Rogers stated there was evidence of blunt force trauma to the left side of Grant’s head. At this point Oscar Grant’s mother began to weep uncontrollably.
U.S. law professor Peter Erlinder returned from three weeks imprisonment, from May 28 to June 17, in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, where he had traveled to act as defense counsel for embattled presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Ingabire remains under house arrest, unable to leave the country, and faces a possible 20-year prison sentence.
On Friday, the BART cop who pulled the trigger unjustifiably killing Oscar Grant on a BART station platform in East Oakland, Johannes Mehserle, wrapped up his testimony in one of the most important murder trials of the last 20 years. The courtroom was filled to capacity with reporters, Grant’s family and friends, and concerned community members. Six out of the seven Black males under 40 and three Black journalists were excluded that day from the Los Angeles Jim Crow courtroom of Judge Robert Perry.
Day 10 of the People v. Mehserle trial – Thursday, June 24 – ended with the defendant, Johannes Mehserle, taking the stand. The former BART police officer is accused of murder in the death of Oscar Grant. Defense attorney Michael Rains, seeking to humanize his client, asked what he was voted “most” of in high school: Mehserle was voted “Most Huggable.”
Never before has a police officer been tried for murder for actions taken while on duty. The defense is taking the position that Oscar Grant was a threat and noncompliant and that BART Officer Johannes Mehserle thought he was tasing him but shot him by mistake. The trial is expected to wrap up soon.
One of the high emotional points of the case was when Jack Bryson Jr. described Oscar Grant’s final minutes. “Oscar was yelling, ‘I can’t breathe’ to Pirone, who is over 6 feet and was on the neck of Oscar Grant. Mehserle stood up and said, ‘Fuck this,’ and shot him.” Bryson then said both cops were demanding to see Grant’s arms from under his body, and a few seconds after he revealed his arms, he was murdered. If you're in LA, attend the trial! The jury won't know we care unless we're there. And tell the media, especially the Black press and radio, to cover it!
On Monday, May 26, Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, fondly known as Bishop Christopher, spoke to a circle gathered round him at San Francisco’s African American Art and Culture Complex. He explained his counseling work with LGBT youth, his advocacy for LGBT rights and his opposition to Uganda’s infamous proposed Anti Homosexuality Act.
BART train operator Keecha Williams contradicted much of the testimony of former officer Pirone by stating that he never asked her if any of the young men he detained were involved in the fight, that he never asked her who she thought was involved and that she did not state that the young men placed against the concrete wall were the ones involved in the fight.
As a Rwandan Genocide survivor, I would not be alive if not for good people who stood up, advocated for and protected me, facilitating my ultimate survival amidst the deafening silence of the international community. With the present-day eerie similarities to the pre-1994 genocide period, will the international community intervene now? Millions of lives could be saved.
Pirone did not remember many of the details of the morning of Jan. 1, 2009, and at other points he remembered things quite vividly. He denied knowledge of walking over and striking Grant. Pirone does remember that Grant kept trying to “wiggle” his head out from under his knee; but his answer to Stein’s question, “Did you ever hear Oscar Grant say he ‘couldn’t breathe?’” was no.
Freedom fighters support Gray-Haired Witnesses Fast for Justice! Funds to bring Scott Sisters’ family...
All out to Washington, D.C., Monday, June 21, for the the Gray-Haired Witnesses Fast for Justice: 10 a.m. Department of Justice, 12 noon White House press conference, 1-9 p.m. Lafayette Square Park! We need your support in bringing national attention to the case of the Scott Sisters and all other women who have been incarcerated wrongly and egregiously over-sentenced, punishing and destroying our families and children.
“We are appealing to the voices that have spoken out for Professor Peter Erlinder to continue to be on the side of Rwandans that Peter Erlinder has been standing and fighting for in order to get to the root causes of the Rwandan crisis.” - Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
The job of the media is to hold the powerful accountable. To avoid hypocrisy, the media itself must be held accountable as well. In the past few days, KPFA has broadcast at least twice a brief announcement recorded by the interim general manager scolding Bay View associate editor JR Valrey for a passing mention in one of his Block Reports of KPFA’s former interim program manager, Sasha Lilley. The Bay View respectfully questions its timing and refutes its contentions.
Mehserle is not the only former officer whose actions that morning have been described as being out of line. All five of the previous week’s witnesses who video-recorded the events of Jan. 1, 2009, say they did so because of Pirone’s actions, which included cursing and an excessive use of force.
In the runup to the presidential election Aug. 9, Rwandan President Paul Kagame has prevented his prospective opponents from registering, briefly jailed his leading opponent, Victoire Ingabire, and has imprisoned her attorney, Professor Peter Erlinder, since May 28. Today, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), where Erlinder is lead defense attorney, called for his release.
'My son is being held in illegal detention beyond his statutory release date. He was sentenced for a non-violent crime June 23, 1992, and was given 21 years and 10 months. His release date should have been on March 19, 2010,' reports Katherine Wilson. He son adds, 'ADX Florence and CIA agents are denying me law books, legal calls, legal copies, legal envelopes, legal visits and postage stamps.'
Some members of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community would rather divide than build bridges between communities. For instance, Charles Knipp, a racist and culturally insensitive White gay male, dons a Black face, becoming Shirley Q. Liquor and telling jokes that reinforce stereotypical images of Black women and Black culture.
When the now infamous offshore BP oil rig first blew up, some called it another Katrina and many of us took that as an insult. The pain and suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina (August 2005) were biblical and were fanned by the slow response of our own federal government. But the BP oil spill is a monster that is growing exponentially by the day.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ first hearing on the EIR that would allow the ‘dirty transfer’ of the Hunters Point Shipyard to Lennar is Monday, June 14, 1 p.m., at the Land Use Committee in City Hall Room 263. Dirty transfer means the Navy handing over the Shipyard to the City and then to Lennar before it has been cleaned of radioactive and other contaminants.
"Peter Erlinder is in need of all assistance the international organization for human rights lawyers can muster. He is in the hands of a murderous, brutal regime," declares six-term Congress member and Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. Professor Erlinder was jailed after traveling to Rwanda to defend Victoire Ingabire, leading candidate challenging incumbent President Paul Kagame.