by The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey
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BlockReportRadio.com interviews Oscar Grant’s Uncle Bobby, aka Cephus Johnson, about the recent police execution of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Phil Castile in Minneapolis. We talk about the role of new media in exposing these two cases.
He also discusses Obama’s response to the police executions of Black and Brown people and his inaction as well as the inaction of other government officials like California Attorney General and leading candidate for U.S. Senate Kamala Harris during the years he was been in office.
We also discuss the Dallas sniper killing a number of police officers last night in response to the rampant police terrorism plaguing the Black communities of the U.S.
“To be honest, JR,” Uncle Bobby says, “I believe that, because of the imbalance that’s been happening, we can expect more and more results like what happened in Dallas, because this system has failed to hold police accountable; therefore, people are beginning to take their own form of justice into their own hands.”
M.O.I. JR: This week saw the death of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and they were both killed, unjustifiably, by the police. What was your response when you heard about these two individuals unjustifiably gunned down just like your nephew was in Oakland in 2009?
Uncle Bobby: My immediate response was, Thank God the individuals, the family members, those who were around, actually pulled out their cameras or cell phones to begin to record the incident, because we know what happened to Oscar, but that video helped us see that we had a real problem here when it came to dealing with the police, especially when it comes to Black and Brown men.
And so seeing those videos of both those young men being handled and then murdered, the way they were murdered really speaks to the essence of what kind of system that we are dealing with. So definitely, as a family member experiencing that pain, I was really troubled and pained by the fact that I know what this family has to go through this, but also, just hurt, angry again, and really wanting to bring some support to the families the best way that I can.
M.O.I. JR: Can you speak on, when you show up at a family’s house who has been murdered by the police, I know that you, your wife and other people who work with your organization, “Love Not Blood” – is that the name of it?
Uncle Bobby: That’s correct, the “Love Not Blood Campaign.”
M.O.I. JR: The Love Not Blood Campaign. What is it that you say to these parents? And what is it that when you were in this situation, what is that you wanted people to say to you?
Uncle Bobby: Well, I tell you, if we go back in time, the thing about what happened to Oscar Grant, when this happened to us, it was the Oakland community that embraced us, stood with us, cried with us, prayed for us, went back and forth to court with us, but most importantly, utilized their First Amendment rights to speak to that very injustice that happened to Oscar. Had that community not embraced us and stood with us, I’ll be honest, I don’t know if we would have been able to stand because of what this beast would do to us.
So I realized from that experience that in order for a family to really begin to maneuver this criminal justice system in hopes to get justice for their loved one, they must first be embraced, and they must first feel as though there is someone here who can help give them support and some guidance, some understanding of what they just experienced, and raise their level of despair into empowerment – right? – where they can then connect with the community and then, from the community connection, raise to light what happened to their loved one.
So from that experience, we take that to families. We first definitely embrace them, let them know that they’re not standing alone, let them know that what happened to their loved one is not an isolated situation. It’s not like it’s not happening. It is happening.
And that’s why we make a call out to many families to stand now before it knocks at your door. And so I believe today, what we’re seeing is that it has become so common to see a young Black man or female murdered by the police that most families in their mind have mentally begun to prepare themselves, sadly, for that day or prepare themselves and what they would do if it happens to their loved one.
So these families receive us in. We begin to embrace them, give them the support that they need, let them know that they are not going to walk this walk alone, and find a way to help them connect with the community, so that local communities can also begin to embrace them and help them walk this walk that they need to walk. Kind of give them some insight into some of the pitfalls that exist as far as the movement is concerned and some of the pitfalls that exist when it comes to dealing with the criminal justice system, even some of the pitfalls that exist in dealing with the civil attorneys who are willing to take their case.
Because we know that everybody comes with good intentions, but to have some kind of foreknowledge of what you are getting ready to journey on actually helps better prepare you in how to deal with the situation as it begins to materialize.
M.O.I. JR: Politically speaking, the Oscar Grant murder was the first murder that was committed by the police under the reign of President Obama. Since then, Obama has spoken on Trayvon Martin, and he recently came out and made a statement in dealing with the Alton Sterling murder and the Philando Castile murder. Do you think his response is adequate?
Uncle Bobby: Well, I’d like to first speak in regards to his response, and as we step back in time, on Jan. 1, 2009, we know Oscar Grant (was murdered), then Adolph Grimes was shot 14 times in the back in New Orleans, then Robby Tollman also was shot in the back in Bel Aire, Texas. All three of them were shot on Jan. 1, all within an eight-hour time period. Nineteen days later, Obama was inaugurated.
Many people were so drunk with joy, so happy that a Black man actually became the president of the United States, believing that racism was gone, that equality had come, really believing that we have arrived. And so the fact that these young men had been killed on Jan. 1, which should have been addressed at that time, was kind of overlooked, and Obama really didn’t pay attention to it. But what he did was that he selected Eric Holder to become the top cop of the United States, the U.S. attorney general, and so now we have a Black president, and we have Eric Holder.
Two months later, he would testify for the professor from Harvard, Henry Louis Gates, when he tried to go into his house, he couldn’t get in; so when a police officer walked up on him, asked for his ID, which he presents – but anyway, he was accosted, kind of rough handled and taken down to the police station. Obama was appalled. He spoke in regards to Henry Louis Gates, being a professor. There was no slander or vilification on him, and so he said something about it.
Yet we had Oscar, and we had Adolph Grimes and Robby Tollman also killed and mishandled by the police, and nothing was said. And so many of us were caught up in this thing that young Black men – and of course the media helped criminalize them, and therefore we had no reason to speak up about what happened to them at the hands of the police.
And of course, Obama spoke about what happened to Henry Louis Gates, that what the police officers did was stupid; so after that, the next day he had to apologize on national television to the world that he might have used too harsh a word in saying that they were stupid in the way they handled Henry Louis Gates. And he said that what he was going to have was a “beer summit” on how to develop better race relations. He had Henry Louis Gates and the police officer meeting him at the White House, and they had beer, and they talked about race, and nothing was ever resolved regarding what happened between Henry Louis Gates and that police officer. It was just a façade.
And so now we hear Obama speaking more with regard to police terrorism that’s happening around this country, but just think, if he had spoken then, maybe 2,000 or 3,000 lives would be living today because he took a much harsher stand by having Eric Holder get extremely involved. Both of them failed. You know what I’m saying? Obama really dropped the ball.
It’s nice for him to be speaking about this, but these things have been happening on his watch for eight years. It’s really sad. You know, I’m not going to take away from the fact that I’m glad that he at least said something, but saying something don’t mean nothing if you’re not doing something.
He allows Loretta Lynch, the new U.S. attorney general to use the word “discretion,” giving the police agencies the right to make a decision on whether they want to report to the Department of Justice concerning the Death in Custody Act that Obama signed into legislation on Dec. 19, 2014. By changing that word to “discretion” means that these agencies will continue to hide the murders that they commit in our communities.
Now, if we want real reform, data actually gives us the proof that there needs to be some measure of attention to an issue (police murders) that seems to be off the charts. And yet, the police agencies, all 17,500 of them, are not even required. They do it on a voluntary basis, reporting to the Department of Justice what kind of murders happen within their agencies. And this is a sad note.
If we know how many pigs are on a farm in the United States, how come we can’t keep real data on the Black folks who have been killed or Brown folks who are killed in the United States by the police? So a conversation doesn’t mean nothing. A statement does not mean nothing. There has to be some kind of action taken.
We don’t need some reforms concerning, you know, putting a camera on ‘em. Now, Alton Sterling , they had cameras on them and they claim that they fell off. You know what I’m sayin’? There are many officers that got cameras on them who don’t seem to be able to turn them on when they need to be on and then write their report based on what they see.
All these reforms and things that we’ve seen in the past are not working. So that’s my feelings in regards to what Obama said recently concerning these young men that were just killed by the police.
M.O.I. JR: Last night a sniper, or an alleged sniper, killed five police officers during a demonstration in downtown Dallas. The police are puttin’ out there that the sniper, quote, unquote, was hell bent on killing white officers. Do you think these occurrences will happen more regularly due to the fact that people aren’t being heard, and Black people are being killed like fish in a barrel?
Uncle Bobby: So the question is, do I think it is going to happen more regularly? Well, of course we’ve got to realize that the issue that we have today is police terrorism in our communities of color – no accountability, no transparency – and yet, they come into our community, and there is no consideration for the preservation of life. Alton Sterling was killed as well as Phil Castile. Phil had, or his girlfriend had her baby in the back seat, and there was no form of consideration for the preservation of life for that baby that was in the back seat of that car. India Kirger out of Virginia had her 2-month-old baby in her car, and the cops shot out over 50 bullets into her and her boyfriend. The baby survived, but no consideration for the respect of life of an infant.
And so, when we think about what’s happening, people are seeing this heinous act happen to such a degree that the balance scales within our minds when it comes to understanding what justice is are so tilted that what we have is that people become mentally unstable – a trigger effect of mental instability – and then we get results like what we see happening in Texas.
We get results like we saw with Lovelle Mixon (in Oakland). We get results like we saw with Christopher Dorner, who went on that rampage in LA. What we see that happened in Dallas is not that uncommon.
The mass media is not really showing the totality of the response of people when it comes to these sick, heinous acts of the police killing people in the community. So yes, in response to that question, these killings have caused Black and Brown fathers and marginalized white fathers to say to themselves, if my good child is mishandled and killed by the police, someone’s going to die.
I’m hearing this on a regular, consistent basis from fathers who have not even been affected, but just the thought that the police can mishandle their good child makes them say these words: Somebody will die. Now we got people who are experiencing this sickness on a regular and consistent basis and not getting any kind of real mental health on a regular basis and no idea that we are entitled to any form of justice.
So the failure of accountability, the failure of transparency, the failure of this system to address these issues concerning people’s right to simple human life has caused many to say in response, internally, that if this happens to me, this is how I’m going to respond. So what we’re seeing now is that type of response.
In New York, the two officers who were killed was a direct response to the killing that had taken place in New York. Lovelle Mixon seeing Oscar being killed, having his own personal experience with the police, came to a point where he was just so disturbed by it, that the best way that he could respond was the way he did – you know, to help find some peace in the sickness he’d been experiencing.
The reality is telling us that many people are mentally hurt by what they are seeing and preparing themselves to respond in ways that we did not create in them, but the system did – the failure to hold officers accountable, to bring transparency for the system to at least give us the impression that Black folks, Brown folks, marginalized whites have a right to life.
Therefore, as I’m saying, normal fathers are having this conversation today. I taught my son all the right things to do – I’m listening to fathers speak to me like this – and he could do all the right things and still get murdered? If that happens to my child, man somebody’s going to die. I’m sorry, but you know this is just off the charts.
This is how I feel and I’m looking at fathers with tears in their eyes over these last two murders, on what the police did making these statements, and they’ve never ever been involved in the movement; they’ve never been outside walking in a protest. They are just seeing it so consistently that they are angry.
That’s like us watching on a regular basis a Black man being lynched. So you can imagine now what’s happening with many of us Black men about what’s been happening to these young men being killed that did all the right things. It’s not like they were robbing a bank and then having a shootout with the police. They are showing their hands; they are saying, “I’m reaching for my wallet. I haven’t done anything.” And yet they’re still getting killed.
To be honest, JR, I’ll say that I believe because of the imbalance that’s been happening, we can expect more and more results like what we’ve seen happen in Dallas, because the system has failed to hold police accountable; therefore, people are beginning to take their own form of justice in their own hands.
M.O.I. JR: Last but not least and I’ll link it back to Oakland, how do you see these cases and the case of police terrorism in comparison with the most recent scandal in Oakland dealing with the sex trafficking of an underage girl, where numerous police officers are involved in taking advantage and abusing this girl sexually as well as having inappropriate relationships with her. And they say that over 30 officers are involved just in this one case. How do you feel that this connects with police terrorism going on in the Black community?
Uncle Bobby: Well, it’s connected directly for the simple fact that we have a culture of police that has really permitted a sickness; again, our Department of Justice and of course our president of the United States allowed this sickness to fester to such a degree that these officers today feel as though they can do anything they want.
A good example would be the Rampart case in Los Angeles with the gang of police there that did the damage that they did to the community, the Riders case right here in Oakland – what they’ve done here in the Bay Area. We could talk about Chicago. And yes, we have these agencies that have a consistent pattern and practice of disregard for respect of life, and no one is attacked or charged in that department for a sick culture.
So what we see happening in Oakland is not something that we should not have expected. They’ve been under basically a form of receivership for the past 10 years just to try to tweak some reform to make it look like they are doing the right thing, but (federal 9th Circuit Judge) Thelton Henderson always complained about it, saying they should do what they’re supposed to do as far as reform.
Now it’s been over 10 years and yet the Oakland Police Department still hasn’t got itself together and, as a matter of fact, even as it’s been under this form of quasi-receivership, ill stuff has still been happening. Wrongful police shooting has still been happening, the disrespect of the mayor and people in the community has still been happening, sick text messages have still been happening.
We’ve been talking about the Oakland Police Department and yet we find and hear about the manipulation and the using and abusing of a young minor female by police officers, especially within the Oakland Police Department, and the failure to investigate murders that happened throughout Oakland and kind of cleaning our hands. Especially when police is involved, it just shows that what we see happening now should not have been unexpected, because we have a sick culture that is not being broken up and straightened out so that people can feel that the police is here to serve and protect the people, not the state.
So this just gives great inference to the fact that the police is not here to serve and protect the people; the police is here to serve and protect the state and the state interests and whatever that may be in the form of making sure that some of us stay within our community and stay controlled.
It’s business that keeps crime in the community; it’s business. I’m talking about what the state is doing, in fact to see what we see happening on a regular and consistent basis. I mean it all ties together. The Department of Justice should have been in Oakland, should have been holding Oakland accountable and filing charges against them and firing those officers, you know.
I have to say his name, Officer Ersie Joyner. How many shootings has he been involved in in Oakland, and yet he is still promoted and is still working as a police officer in Oakland? You know that right there shows the lack of accountability. A police officer should be held responsible for the murders they commit. Even Thelton Henderson wrote about Ersie Joyner and the way he beat up an inmate and the way he handled him, and yet he is still employed.
Yet he still hasn’t been reprimanded for those sick acts and yet he is in our community covering the beat. I don’t know if he claims to be a good officer, but the fact is he is in our community, he is policing our community and yet he done put bullets in five people and that means that he is more apt to shoot again. You know most officers who shoot, shoot more than once. And yes, it’s a small percentage that does all the shooting. Those are the ones who should be targeted; those are the ones who should be held accountable for their acts. As a matter of fact, those are the ones who should not even be policing in our community.
M.O.I. JR: Thank you, Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, for coming on the Block Report and giving the people the words and your feelings and emotions about what’s been going on politically in the United States since we can remember. Thank you.
Uncle Bobby: JR, can I say a couple of things more? I want to update quickly. You know we have rallies, we have protests, we have various numbers of different events to bring awareness to people, and I want people to know that the community involvement really brings about some positive results.
You know today is verdict day for Johannes Mehserle, who murdered Oscar Grant. It was July 8, 2010, when the jury came back and found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter but also found him guilty of the gun enhancement charge. So we knew we had at least a 12-year prison sentence for this officer for killing Oscar Grant. But again the criminal justice system – Judge Robert Perry – claimed the error with the instructions to the jurors and took the gun enhancement off the table, then gave him two days served for every day in jail, reduced his time down to 11 months when he was sentenced to prison.
And then they put him on non-revocable parole, which meant that once he did his 11 months, if he had no contact with the police after he was out of jail for one year, he would have that felony drop off his record. He would be issued back his weapon and then he could reapply to the agency he was fired from, which was BART, which he did.
And of course the community came out and spoke to that issue, and BART was wise enough not to rehire him because they thought about what happened in the past and they knew that the community here in the Bay Area was strong enough to not only protest what happened in the past but to even make it bigger in regards to allowing an officer like Johannes Mehserle to come back on the force.
And this leads me to say this: With all that’s been said, Chief Gee of the BART Police Department resigned because of the community pressure concerning Oscar Grant. Chief Lee of the Sanford Police Department resigned because of the community because of what happened with Trayvon Martin.
Chief Thomas of the Ferguson Police Department resigned because of the community of what happened to Michael Brown. Chief McCarthy of the Chicago Police Department resigned because of the community pressure of what happened to Laquan McDonald.
Chief Bent of the Baltimore Police Department resigned because of what happened with the community and Freddie Gray. And Chief Schultz of Albuquerque Police Department resigned because of the community and what happened with Kenneth Ellis III.
I’m saying that to say that when the community comes together, we have people power. We can actually begin to control our community that controls the police, but we’ve got to do it in such a way that we really call out those individuals that need to go and then put the pressure on them enough that they will either voluntarily resign or be fired.
And I need to say one more thing right in the Bay Area: Just to give another example of how powerful that is, Chief Suhr of the San Francisco Police Department, as you know, was finally fired by Mayor Ed Lee because of the community pressure over what happened to Mario Woods and others in San Francisco killed by that sick police department. So we have power when we come together as a community to really eradicate this sickness that we see on a regular basis.
And that does not exclude people like our state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is turning a blind eye to all these killings. She should have been calling the Department of Justice to come in here and investigate some of these police agencies that exist in the state of California.
This is the most deadly state in the United States when it comes to police handling and killing people in the community. So we need a positive response from her or she should be called out and identified as one who needs to go. I believe she needs to go anyway because she has never done anything for the people of California when it comes to handling these murders that the police commit in the state of California. So I just wanted to get that out there.
Again, JR, thank you for allowing me to express myself. I’m upset, I’m hurt, and I’m reaching out to the families. We’ll be going to meet the families, both families at some point real soon. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and I believe we will be successful from the work that we do because the community has grown, the national reach has grown, and people are now responding to every killing that they can respond to, especially when it’s known to be so heinous as the last two killings that we’ve seen.
You know my condolences go out to the families and then also to the local families like James Greer in Hayward, who was just killed and tasered three times. You know we’re putting Hayward into the mix. You know we’re building a mass of community people that will respond to killings in Hayward.
We’re building a massive community of people that will respond to killings in San Jose. We got a strong mass of community people in Stockton, in Vallejo. We know about the outreach in Oakland and San Francisco.
As we continue to build these surrounding communities, what we saw happen in the protest last night – about 3,000 to 5,000 people – will soon double and triple. We have Hayward there, San Jose is there, Sacramento is there, Vallejo is there, Stockton is there. You know that’s what we need.
The power resides with us! It’s the community, and I believe when we really put the pressure on, we’ll bring some real systemic change.
M.O.I. JR: Well, thank you, Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant and also one of the nation’s top anti-police terrorism activists. The organization that you are the head of is Love not Blood, am I right?
Uncle Bobby: Yes, Love not Blood Campaign.
M.O.I. JR: Love Not Blood Campaign and give the people all your social media info if they want to get in touch with you.
Uncle Bobby: Go to http://www.lovenotbloodcampaign.com/ or .org, either one, and on the website you’ll see various ways you can become involved. That’s what’s critical. We created a crisis family response team that requires them basically to go to the families and embrace those families and begin to help them begin to stand up so that they can begin their journey of seeking justice through this sick criminal justice system. You can email me at email@example.com, and we can be reached by cell at 510-599-6357.
M.O.I. JR: Well, thanks again, Uncle Bobby, for standing tall and we’re right there with you on the battlefield. I urge everybody, you don’t have to do what JR or Uncle Bobby is doing, but please do something.
Uncle Bobby: That’s right.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’“ and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2“ and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe“ and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.