About two and a half years ago, our community member, friend, neighbor and family member, Oscar Grant, was shot in the back by a police officer (pig) at close range while Oscar was being handcuffed on his belly on the floor of a BART (local subway) station in Oakland, California. Oscar was a 22 year old Black father, and his close friends described him as a ‘peacemaker’. Just before being killed, a pig yelled the phrase “bitch ass nigger” at Oscar and his friends, and slammed one friend’s head into a concrete wall.
Oscar’s killing was recorded on the cell phones of numerous people on the BART train, and the video was widely distributed. In the days after Oscar’s murder, angry Oaklanders took to the streets in protest. The protests took the form of candle-lit vigils, speak-out rallies, open mics and riots (or ‘urban rebellions). In the end, hundreds of people were arrested after the city declared multiple states of emergency and called in the FBI, Secret Service, DEA and 23 other police agencies in to tame the anger that our community was expressing.
Johannes Mehserle, the cop who killed Oscar, was arrested, and became the first officer in the history of California to be charged with an on-duty murder. It is now widely agreed that the many shows of protest and anger, including the ‘peaceful’, ‘non-violent’ and ‘riotous’ behavior, led to Mehserle’s arrest. He would not have been arrested had it not been for ALL these shows of anger.
Dr Martin Luther King once said that ‘rioting is the voice of the unheard’.
We are tired of living in a society which is called ‘democratic’, when our voices go unheard and our communities are targeted by police who essentially have nothing to lose for killing members of our communities.
We, the undersigned, are in solidarity with the anger being expressed in the UK, which has been provoked by racism, unemployment and under-employment (especially among young people and people of color), and followed after the tipping point of the police killing of Mark Duggan, a Black father and community member in Britain.
In the 1960’s there were riotous/rebellious eruptions in Black urban communities throughout the US not unlike what is occurring in Tottenham today. By the US government’s own admission, in its 1968 study (called the Kerner commission) the cause of the Black urban riots/rebellions were conditions created by “segregation and racism”.
So we partially agree with Deputy Prime Minister statement that, “the riots had nothing to do with the death of Mark Duggan”, in the sense that Mr Duggan is not the reason why Tottenham has the highest unemployment rate in London. Like the largely Black ghettos, Brown barrio’s and Red reservations of the US, the Dalit community in India, and the Palestinian territories, Tottenham is economically oppressed and politically marginalized.
We understand that the Londoners’ anger is a result of years of systematic alienation, flowing from the blatant failure of global capitalism to support the people, and policies that have concentrated wealth for the upper classes by taking untold billions through Prime Minister David Cameron’s government cuts in education, health and the general welfare which disproportionately affects the lives of Britain’s poor and people of color, all of which are unacceptable for a forward-looking society.
People’s Tribunal on Racism and Police Violence
Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant
New Years Movement for Justice for Oscar Grant
Oakland 100 Support Committee
Members of the National Lawyers Guild
Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee/Black Panther Party Cubs