For the past two months, some Mills students have rallied over the death of Oscar Grant III on Jan. 1, saying his death illustrates the need to fight police brutality.
Bystanders at the Fruitvale BART recorded 22 year-old Grant’s death on cellphones and posted videos of the incident on YouTube. These videos showed Grant lying on his back, unarmed, as BART police officer Johannes Mesherle shot him.
Almost two weeks later, police arrested Mesherle, but he plead not guilty against murder charges, according to a Feb. 20 San Francisco Chronicle article.
Some members in the Oakland community were not satisfied with how the case developed.
On Mar. 5, at least one Mills student protested at the Fruitvale station held by the activist group “No Justice, No BART.” This event fell short of its goal of shutting down the station.
About 50 protesters chanted for justice, including senior Rebecca Woodbury. She said she was not satisfied with the progress from BART board members during the investigation.
“It took 14 days to bring in Mesherle and BART never interviewed him regarding the killing, and the other officers involved illegally confiscated witness’ footage of the killing,” Woodbury said. “It would be pretty hard to argue that their response was stellar.”
Woodbury also attended a protest on Jan. 7 in downtown Oakland, where protesters set trashcans on fire and shattered windows.
“Although I don’t condone all of the vandalism that was committed, I do think that protest is what got Mesherle arrested,” she said.
She also disagreed with how the mainstream media called the protests violent. “Property destruction is not the same as violence directed towards humans,” Woodbury said. “Smashing car and shop windows is just vandalism in my book.”
Woodbury is also involved with the Oakland Chapter of Copwatch, whose goal is to monitor police activity. “But what is more important than us . filming the cops, is educating the public to work together actively to fight police oppression in their communities.”
Two other Mills students, juniors Milani Pelley and Hazel Wheeler, co-organized the Facebook event on Feb. 8, “Peaceful Protest to End Police Brutality: In Memory of Oscar Grant and Gary King.”
When Hazel Wheeler first heard about the incident, she was living in Richmond. She didn’t understand the controversy surrounding his death until, “Milani and I started talking about it more, and she told me what happened, I felt that it was definitely a big deal.”
The two organized the Facebook event in only 48 hours.
Pelley and Wheeler both started organizing small protests and participated in the March of Stolen Lives held on Feb. 6. This march was for family members who lost relatives to violence.
“It was important that we did something because that’s what police officers want us to do, to just brush off these kind of things,” Wheeler said.
Ethnic studies department head Julia Sudbury also voiced her thoughts on the events that transpired on New Years Day.
“It is important that we are looking at this, and realizing that the police are not protecting us right now,” she said. “We have to have conversation and dialogue instead of the knee-jerk reaction shown by the police.”