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Riots in Oakland
January 8, 2009 1:10 AM   Subscribe

I really didn't want to be the one to post this, but there are riots raging in Oakland.
posted by MaxK (362 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
For those who are unaware, this is over the shooting of Oscar Grant.
posted by MaxK at 1:11 AM on January 8, 2009


WHY IS THIS NOT GETTING NATIONAL MEDIA ATTENTION!!!!!
posted by Flex1970 at 1:20 AM on January 8, 2009 [25 favorites]


Previously.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:20 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been saying this would happen since Monday. I knew if Bart police did not deal with this issue properly Oakland would witness riots and violence. And the longer they wait to apologize the worse it'll get. I'm so sad my city is doing this to itself right now.
posted by matt_od at 1:22 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Looking at the video, it seems like the cops have pretty much gotten control of the situation. Hard to tell, obviously.
posted by delmoi at 1:25 AM on January 8, 2009


Jesus, do they need me to draw them a map to San Francisco?
posted by Optamystic at 1:25 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Flex1970, I was kind of shocked myself. I'd been watching the news for about four hours before I thought to check what Metafilter had to say about it. Mostly, it's just local stations that have been reporting this so far, despite the fact that it's been going on for over six hours.
posted by MaxK at 1:25 AM on January 8, 2009


When I first heard about this I just kind of sat there with my mouth hanging open. If the city has really just sat on its hands, I'm surprised it's just riots.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:28 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously, if it had been a white woman shot in the back, by a cop, while face down-WITH HANDS BEHIND THE BACK, it would be a headliner, with a fucking movie in the making. JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!!!
posted by Flex1970 at 1:30 AM on January 8, 2009 [22 favorites]


I'm slightly impressed that the protests/riots are even happening, and I'm damn impressed some those involved had the courage to take on cops, but no so impressed with the random targeting. What kind of morons decided to target "a hair salon, a pharmacy and several restaurants?" If you're pulling that crap, then the police have a legitimate job to do and you deserve to get busted.

It should have been a crowd with torches at Johannes Mehserle's door, or at least they should have kept their focus until they got to BART headquarters.

And it's too bad that the next election is so far away. If it weren't, you might be able to hold some feet to the fire and at least get some promises of prosecution and firing throughout the BART police.
posted by namespan at 1:42 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


A little rioting can be a good thing, like a Forrest fire. Clears out built-up state hubris. But we'll see who gets the upper hand in the end.

bardic: I think Sykes point wasn't that the protesters could have killed the store owner, but was intended to contrast the damage caused by the protesters -- property damage, to the damage caused by the police -- death.
posted by delmoi at 1:46 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some interesting context:

In 2007, Oakland police were involved in 12 shootings, of which five were fatal, Holmgren said. So far this year, five of seven police-involved shootings have been fatal. [here]

The most recent controversial police shooting in Alameda County happened July 25, when Oakland police Officer Hector Jimenez shot a drunken-driving suspect in the back as the man ran from an early morning traffic stop in the Fruitvale District.

Police said Jimenez shot 27-year-old Mack "Jody" Woodfox III because he thought Woodfox was reaching into his waistband for a gun, although no gun was found. Jimenez gave the same reason for taking part in the fatal shooting New Year's Eve 2007 of another man, Andrew Moppin, who, like Woodfox, turned out to be unarmed.
[here]

Flex1970:Seriously, if it had been a white woman shot in the back, by a cop, while face down-WITH HANDS BEHIND THE BACK, it would be a headliner

Were all nineteen people shot since 2007 Black men?
posted by kid ichorous at 1:48 AM on January 8, 2009


Plus she'll have been responding to some leading question from the reporter that we don't get to read.
posted by Abiezer at 1:48 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I live in Oakland in the flats and have two son's 19 and 16 years old, they both have known about the shooting since day one, yet they do not want to see the footage nor get involved in the protests. Why? For them this is neither a surprising or unexpected event. They and their friends have been routinely stopped, handcuffed and searched by the OPD and the BART police. They have been forcefully thrown to the ground and in one incident had an officer stop them with a drawn gun. My son's have NEVER been accused of nor stopped while engaged in a crime, been arrested or issued a citation. (Sorry one $200.00 jaywalking fine that I paid.)
I have repeatedly spoken with officers working our area regarding these incidents, the standard reply is they are doing their job, or my favorite "I don't know anything about that."
I have been disturbed by the behavior I have personally witnessed in the past but now am fearful as I hear my children and their friends casually discuss behavior by the police that seems just a few steps away from the tragedy that has occurred.
The kicker here is we are Caucasian, I can't imagine how much worse it can get.
posted by pianomover at 1:48 AM on January 8, 2009 [45 favorites]


Were all nineteen people shot since 2007 Black men?

Are the only choices "black men" and "white women"?
posted by delmoi at 1:55 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


It should have been a demonstration/protest, not protest/riot. Community organizers should have been all over this before it began. Especially considering their location. Some people like to do dumb things when they get a reason to act a fool. Dummies loot and vandalize their own communities. Meanwhile, cops can shoot anyone of color for a very, very small price.
posted by Flex1970 at 1:57 AM on January 8, 2009


Forgive me for being so silly in the midst of something so serious and horrible, but it amuses the heck out of me that Frank Chu is the fifth picture in the flickr link. That man is everywhere.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:59 AM on January 8, 2009


I have been disturbed by the behavior I have personally witnessed in the past but now am fearful as I hear my children and their friends casually discuss behavior by the police that seems just a few steps away from the tragedy that has occurred.

Are BART police officers a part of the LAPD? If so, a pattern of continued civil rights violations might break the consent decree established after the Rampart scandal, and this would bring the FBI in to investigate.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:00 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It sucks if ANYONE gets shot like that. Not matter the color. Cops aren't supposed to do that shit, duh. But a few people will have no effect on a police department. If the story went national, there would be major pressure for someone to be held accountable. The black guy that put the backwards B(Barack) on that girls face..that was big news, wasn't it? Yeah, justice.
posted by Flex1970 at 2:03 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon, BART is up near San Francisco, not near LA, so BART officers would not be part of the LAPD.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:03 AM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


You're right! For some reason, I thought Oakland was near Los Angeles. My apologies.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:05 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


BART police officers a part of the LAPD

BA != LA
posted by troy at 2:05 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


One more thing, I come from a family of cops firemen and gov't workers. They will always give the police the benefit of the doubt, but they are also able to see when the police are wrong, and expect the court to act accordingly. They can't get behind that rioting stuff though. So god dammit as soon as the dumbfucks from "Revolutionary" books show up you know a McDonalds is going down and my folks will turn away.

How is it that you come to a protest with copies of the Socialist Worker and a bull horn asking "What do we want?" and not feel like the most tired ass cliche in town?
posted by pianomover at 2:07 AM on January 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


And I'm no longer going to discuss this topic in a politically correct way, because the crime was not politically correct. I was at an Arab PDQ back in 94, on lunch break. I was a PC help desk operator. I was in the store buying a slushy, and a cop comes in. I'm just watching my slushy fill and he pulls his hand up like a fucking cowboy and does a silent bang bang at me. I'm like WTF?? He smiles and leaves the store. The worst part was that he checked to make sure no one else was looking. If I'd been in a big city, he'd probably have kicked it up a notch and pulled out his piece. African Americans get harassed/assaulted/murdered by cops. Any African Americans here, tell me I'm wrong. It's part of our history, like college is part of yours(whites). That's all I'm saying. I'm not racist(for sure), I just hate the inequity. And saying 'it happens to all of us, we're going through the same things these days' isn't true. It happens to some of you, but not like it happens to us.
posted by Flex1970 at 2:22 AM on January 8, 2009 [39 favorites]


This gives me uncomfortable memories of the People's Park riots and the Bay Area adjunct to the Rodney King riots. That shit was SCARY. [shiver]
posted by incessant at 2:27 AM on January 8, 2009


God dammit. Riot may be overstating the case a little, but still...

I was going to say that I didn't know what to make of this, but I really do. I sincerely hope that things get better in Oakland before they get worse because Oakland doesn't need this shit right now. I don't mean to blame anyone other than the system that allowed a man to be shot in the back for this, but no one gets to feign surprise after this. The hand-wringing by the newscasters is pretty disgusting (or would be if it wasn't so comical) and really demonstrates the enormous gap between the haves and the have-nots in Oakland.

My heart goes out to everyone who's there tonight, and I know that the city will get better some day.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 2:31 AM on January 8, 2009


Wow, just saw in the Chron article that the core group of the mob included some members (presumably staffers) of Revolution Books. I always despised that place. I love my hometown, but I also fucking hate it.
posted by incessant at 2:37 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, breaking your neighbors' shit because one of your neighbors got murdered by some dude who wasn't even your neighbor is really a pretty shitty thing to do.

I am all in favor of the Bart officer getting punished to the full extent of the law for shooting that unarmed man in the back. Heck, I wouldn't even really make a peep if the property damage were that guys' house or a few BART related locations.

But a local hairdresser? Some people's cars?

Yeah, that's just shitty. The message that is being sent is "we're so angry about this that we're willing to hurt totally innocent people."

Way to take the focus off the BART shooting. Hey, I'll got even farther! Way to make the BART officers think they should maybe be ready to shoot even more people.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:41 AM on January 8, 2009 [21 favorites]


Are the only choices "black men" and "white women"?

No. But I don't understand the value of compounding real and tragic events with conjectured and hypothetical statements about the media. "This isn't as widely known because the victim is X" is the logical twin to "we're only reading about this because the victim is Y;" and when one half of this pair makes its usual appearance, with never a fact to support it, or context to explain it, I can only assume that the point is to ask the reader to become even more outraged over what amounts to an imaginary example.

I am disturbed by the plain fact that eleven (unarmed?) people have been quietly killed by Oakland police, the latest of which was shot in the back while restrained. My appreciation of these facts is not in any way enhanced by pure thought experiments involving victim's race.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:42 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Waitasecond, the 'hand-wringing by the newscasters,' Doublewhiskey? What, that they're clearly emoting some sense of concern and disbelief at the unrest and open conflict as protestors smash shit and light shit on fire and cops advance on them? That demonstrates the gap between the haves and have-nots exactly how?
posted by incessant at 2:43 AM on January 8, 2009


I sincerely hope that the rioters leave privately owned businesses and property alone, and take their fight directly to the police officers and the city government. I strongly believe that an organized, violent resistance against the BART Police Department's personnel and infrastructure is necessary, and if I had the opportunity to participate, I would.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:43 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, breaking your neighbors' shit because one of your neighbors got murdered by some dude who wasn't even your neighbor is really a pretty shitty thing to do.

You're right. But shit like this has been going on for years in Oakland. And every other city in America. Riots are always bad, and they never hit those who need hitting. It's just more rich taking from the poor and acting like they had no idea what would happen.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 2:45 AM on January 8, 2009


Waitasecond, the 'hand-wringing by the newscasters,' Doublewhiskey? What, that they're clearly emoting some sense of concern and disbelief at the unrest and open conflict as protestors smash shit and light shit on fire and cops advance on them? That demonstrates the gap between the haves and have-nots exactly how?

Because they pretend like they can act surprised now, that's why. Look, I'm not saying that these are a good thing. They're terrible and the people whose property is being destroyed in no way deserve it, but nobody in any position of power seems to really give a shit about Oakland these days and these newscasters are just saying "Oh mercy me isn't it terrible that such individuals could be no misguided and not understand that those in charge really do care about them." Those in charge really don't, and this shitty-ass situation is what results.

I don't think anyone here is an apologist for the murder of Grant. I don't even think the police on the scene right now are really apologists for the murder, but I can understand the outrage that has come from its aftermath, and the faux-bewilderment is, frankly, insulting.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 2:53 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


A man distributed the "Revolution" newspaper - whose tagline is "voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, U.S.A." - as he shouted "This whole damn system is guilty!"

Goddamn I hate the RCP, and so do an awful lot of non-white leftists. To see them attempting to play vanguard with this, especially with the (almost entirely white) RCP trying to vanguard a largely nonwhite group, is sickening but unsurprising.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:00 AM on January 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


You know how in a lot of RPG's they have assassination guilds?

Do you ever feel like that just might make things better sometimes?
posted by saysthis at 3:55 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can understand the outrage that has come from its aftermath, and the faux-bewilderment is, frankly, insulting.

I am genuinely bewildered and confused by the impulse to direct one's energies in a violent manner against someone who is entirely innocent in the situation. The proper response is, of course, a calm but powerful protest including vigils and publicity. If that can't be mustered, then maybe some vandalism and such against police or BART targets. Be smart of course, don't assault people, but a bit of graffiti is to be expected. If you really, really believe this is a white/black thing rather than a police-abuse-of-power thing, then maybe a bit of smash-n-grab against white-owned stores.

But no, the violence is against people who, for the intents and purposes of this protest, are of the same background as Grant. Vandalizing a black-owned salon, and telling the owner she should be happy she got away with her life? I'm really confused how the logic gets twisted.

Then again, I live in the Boston area, where people rioted when we won the ALCS in 2004 against the Yankees.
posted by explosion at 3:57 AM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


"I feel like the night is going great," said Nia Sykes, 24, of San Francisco, one of the demonstrators. "I feel like Oakland should make some noise. This is how we need to fight back. It's for the murder of a black male."

...

The roving mob expressed fury at police and frustration over society's racial injustice. Yet the demonstrators were often indiscriminate, frequently targeting the businesses and prized possessions of people of color.


You're doing it wrong, Nia.
posted by billysumday at 4:04 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


WHY IS THIS NOT GETTING NATIONAL MEDIA ATTENTION!!!!!

Seen on CNN yesterday.
posted by fixedgear at 4:19 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


How is it that you come to a protest with copies of the Socialist Worker and a bull horn asking "What do we want?" and not feel like the most tired ass cliche in town?

Free Mumia!
posted by billysumday at 4:27 AM on January 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


The last thing these rioters need is the white vanguarders- fucking opportunists.

That said, the rioters really need to be turning their attention away hair salons and toward the cops. There's a reason I don't feel bad when bad things happen to the police.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:33 AM on January 8, 2009


[BART Spokesman Linton] Johnson has said Mehserle is devastated and is presumed innocent. He also says that the videos making the media rounds are inconclusive and that there is more to the story than what can be seen on the grainy images.

Grainy? Really? I saw those videos. They were not grainy, not in the 7-11 Security Cam From 1986 sense being used here. While I can agree that the videos may not be the end-all-be-all of the matter (there's a lot of witness testimony too), knocking them because they're 'grainy' strikes me as a heaping bowl of CYA.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:53 AM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


How is it that you come to a protest with copies of the Socialist Worker and a bull horn asking "What do we want?" and not feel like the most tired ass cliche in town?

Um. Counterpoint: how do you have an officer of the law shoot an unarmed, prone, handcuffed man in the back, have the city try to sweep it quietly under the rug, and not expect that city to be on fire by the end of the week? The protester they interviewed was an idiot, but this is easily the most justified riot I've ever heard of.
posted by Mayor West at 4:54 AM on January 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Enjoy your "Two Minute Hate", rubes. As long as you keep burning your friends and neighbors' businesses, you're playing right along with the plan. Rioting in Oakland? That's practically a community beatification project. By all means, continue to burn Quick-E-Marts and liquor stores. Don't get in a car, cross the bridge, and start torching shit in Pacific Heights. That might make an actual impression on people.

I guess most of you are too young to remember the Rodney King riots in LA, but here's a refresher course: As long as the rioters were torching Black and Asian owned businesses, no one gave a fuck. As soon as Fredrick's of Hollywood got torched, they sent in the National Guard, and it became a Major News Story.

You want people to take notice of the ongoing slaughter of young black men by police forces throughout America? You have cars, maps, and bridges. Use them.
posted by Optamystic at 5:02 AM on January 8, 2009 [26 favorites]


You know, breaking your neighbors' shit because one of your neighbors got murdered by some dude who wasn't even your neighbor is really a pretty shitty thing to do.

Doubly shitty for it to happen on the other side of town from the actual protest. Fruitvale, where BART police killed Oscar Grant, is a solid few miles away from downtown / Lake Merritt where most of the damage was done. Triply shitty that the Oakland police who put up with this crap earlier tonight aren't the same department as the transit cops who caused the problem in the first place: a BART cop shoots some poor kid in the back, and suddenly it's Oakland's problem? Optamystic, thanks a lot for believing that this city is one bombed-out block of liquor stores after another. We appreciate it, we really do.

Nia Sykes seems sadly representative of the aimless, casual destructive attitude I saw around the neighborhood when I came home this evening to riot cops and burning cars outside my house: angry, not really sure why, but willing to travel to someone else's city to fuck with their shit. I feel terribly for all my neighbors whose cars & businesses were vandalized or destroyed.

Lame.
posted by migurski at 5:07 AM on January 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


You know how in a lot of RPG's they have assassination guilds?

Do you ever feel like that just might make things better sometimes?


No.
posted by uri at 5:08 AM on January 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


The thing that pissed me off about that YouTube video was when the newscaster said this:

There's a tremendous amount of emotion in this case too. And I think some of that may be due to, if you want to say it, fueled by, some of the images that frankly have been on Bay Area media the past several nights. Including some very graphic video tape, of what happened, or looks like happened, at that BART station that night.

The news is supposed to be about telling the truth, and for whatever reason that guy seems to be afraid to say it. The multiple videos of the guy getting shot is not what "looks like happened," it's what actually happened.

TV News people never seem to have a problem trusting the veracity of footage in other cases, why is it when a video says something so deeply troubling about society they live in, suddenly there has to be a ton of qualifiers involved? Rather than saying that people are getting "emotional" about "graphic video" he should be saying that people are "angry" about "an unarmed and defenseless man being shot in the back by a cop."
posted by burnmp3s at 5:14 AM on January 8, 2009 [18 favorites]


Optimus Chyme, you are sadly confused about the jurisdiction here. Oakland city government and the Oakland police has not a lot to do with the multi-county BART transit system and the BART police. The rioters here very much did not leave private property alone: at one point, the security guard of a nearby apartment building was assaulted so that rioters could get into the car park and break a few windows.
posted by migurski at 5:16 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Then again, I live in the Boston area
I was anticipating a shout out for Ye Olde Tea Party for a second there.
posted by woodway at 5:16 AM on January 8, 2009


I strongly believe that an organized, violent resistance against the BART Police Department's personnel and infrastructure is necessary, and if I had the opportunity to participate, I would.

And I strongly believe that I would like a flatscreen TV, so hopefully this righteous outrage will spread to the east coast soon!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:18 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


As stupid as these riots/rioters are for targeting the wrong buildings, the wrong people, in the wrong way, there really is no excuse for the departmental stonewalling on the part of the BART police. There should be mass protests at every BART station, people blocking the entrances and exits of all the BART tunnels so that nobody can use the trains until something is resolved. And, really, if the BART police department and transit authority union is so powerful that a clearly guilty man can be so easily protected, then the state or even the feds should get involved.
posted by billysumday at 5:19 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait a second. Don't these kids listen to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity? Obama was elected! Racial problems are over in this country! Get with the program.
posted by fungible at 5:45 AM on January 8, 2009


When violence is directed against the innocent, it is no longer a social protest. The reason for the protest has become a cheap excuse for the expression of hate and the exhibition of anti-social behaviors, and the change those involved hoped to occur as a result of the protest will not happen.
posted by HuronBob at 5:46 AM on January 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


Here is a pretty tense picture of a man asking a police officer if he could join the protests.
posted by clearly at 5:57 AM on January 8, 2009 [16 favorites]


Free Mumia!

Ha, I used to hate those kids in high school. Or my friends who would proudly waste their afternoon protesting at Home Depot about their lumber. So lame.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 6:00 AM on January 8, 2009


The above picture is actually part of a great set of photos of the fracas.

This one really seems to capture the situation.
posted by clearly at 6:04 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


All of you people who are saying "a little riot is a good thing" or that they should be rioting in other people's neighborhoods and not their own are idiots.

Rioting is stupid. Do the police own those businesses or cars that are getting smashed? Did the people in Pacific Heights shoot the guy in the back? Oh, right, the rich white people are keeping the black man down, and the cops are just a tool of their oppression.

Grow the fuck up. What this riot suggests is that maybe it's better to have a too many cops with a few screws loose than to have not enough cops, because the people are in absolutely no position to maintain the social order on their own.

You want to effect some social change, get organized and vote the bad people out of local office and vote in better people. But of course, it isn't really about that. For most rioters, it's just a chance to smash things and have a little fun at others' expense.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:12 AM on January 8, 2009 [27 favorites]


And the other thing is that the cop who shot the kid was a BART cop, not an SFPD or Oakland PD cop, so "standing up" to the cops on the streets during the riot is misdirected, pointless, and as I said earlier, stupid.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:15 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I strongly believe that an organized, violent resistance against the BART Police Department's personnel and infrastructure is necessary, and if I had the opportunity to participate, I would.

That's a good way to get shot for justifiable reasons. Heck, organizing it makes it pre-meditated! Or do you mean just a little violent, but not REALLY violent, so no one gets hurts?
posted by smackfu at 6:25 AM on January 8, 2009


I watched this same behavior during the riots in Detroit in the 60's, pointless destruction of their own neighborhoods. It was the downfall of that city, and it never, ever came back. And, the people left to live in the ruins, to live in a city with no grocery stores, no services, with a blighted landscape, are those that rioted, and now their children and grandchildren.

Hell, even my dog knows not to soil where it sleeps.....
posted by HuronBob at 6:26 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Here is a pretty tense picture of a man asking a police officer if he could join the protests.

Thanks for pointing this one out, clearly. The caption reads:
While I was standing there taking this picture, the guy in the left of the frame was asking the police officer whether he could join the protest. The officer told him very politely that he could not, because it was an unlawful protest and the police officers were now just trying to contain it. The guy in the left of the frame asked about his Constitutional right to assembly. "I understand how you feel," the officer said, "But these people have already committed acts of vandalism. Right now, our job is just to contain them."

This is what policing is supposed to be like in a first-world country.
posted by availablelight at 6:28 AM on January 8, 2009 [19 favorites]


Real simple solution: make sure the police are trained and re-trained. Then train them again.
posted by sswiller at 6:29 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why would anyone want to riot considering that the police, prosecuters, and judges have clearly taken such interest in fully investigating the incident and interviewing those involved and making sure evidence isn't destroyed?
posted by stet at 6:31 AM on January 8, 2009


Don't get in a car, cross the bridge, and start torching shit in Pacific Heights. That might make an actual impression on people.

I guess most of you are too young to remember the Rodney King riots in LA, but here's a refresher course:


Ugh. I remember all too vividly. I was working in downtown Long Beach and my husband worked in Compton. We lived in Westminster. My boss closed the office down for a week because he didn't want his people in danger, but my husband got no reprieve-- he was the manager and had to go to work every day. He kept telling me it was OK because they had armed guards with rifles on the roof, which did NOT alleviate my worries. At the same time just half an hour south, our home, our neighborhood was completely safe. We could go to the grocery store or the mall, without being disturbed by the sight of broken windows and cars on fire. There were rumors that "they" were coming-- that "they" would wise up and start attacking the predominately white neighborhoods, but it never happened. Even the suburbs of Long Beach where my mother lived was completely quiet. This always confused me. Why were they burning their own homes and looting their own neighborhood businesses in protest?

Thinking about now, I assume that there are people who seize on unrest as a time to act out-- similar in a way to how people sometimes use "drunkenness" to do crazy shit. Without strong leadership, the mob mentality is one of individuals just doing crazy shit because they can.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:32 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


From NY Times: "The officer, Johannes Mehserle, resigned on Wednesday, but investigators said efforts to interview him about the circumstances of the shooting had been rebuffed by his lawyers and police union leaders, according to Linton Johnson, spokesperson for the transit district"

And unions wonder why people hate them. I understand you have to protect your members, but blocking investigators just looks bad.
posted by inigo2 at 6:39 AM on January 8, 2009


[Short string of comments removed. There's probably some way to effectively navigate this territory without going there.]
posted by cortex at 6:47 AM on January 8, 2009


I didn't think I needed to state this directly, but I guess I was wrong, so here goes: In no way am I actually advocating torching anyone's house in Pacific Heights. I was mocking inner-city rioters' tendency to burn down their own neighborhoods, as if anyone gives a shit that there are a 3 fewer hair salons in the world. Furthermore, I was mocking the entire concept of rioting as a means of social action. Did you notice the police perimeter? The stated policy of "containment"?

As I mentioned, as soon as rioters look as if they're going to burn down something other than their own houses, the big guns come out, the offenders are tear-gassed and beaten into submission, and order is restored. Trying to get over the Bay Bridge would be like running a police blockade in Grand Theft Auto. Fun for a few seconds, but ultimately fruitless.
posted by Optamystic at 6:48 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Image not seen from a helicopter
posted by Hands of Manos at 6:48 AM on January 8, 2009


As stupid as these riots/rioters are for targeting the wrong buildings, the wrong people, in the wrong way, there really is no excuse for the departmental stonewalling on the part of the BART police.

As I keep telling people, the difference between a good cop and a bad cop is that the "good" cop restricts his illegal activity to covering up for the bad cops.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:48 AM on January 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


whoops, Clearly already posted it!!! My bad
posted by Hands of Manos at 6:48 AM on January 8, 2009


WHY IS THIS NOT GETTING NATIONAL MEDIA ATTENTION!!!!!

I saw it on CNN yesterday. I'm Canadian and rarely watch CNN except when in changing channels mode and come across some comical coverage but this wasn't comical and it was on. Is CNN not national media?
posted by juiceCake at 6:48 AM on January 8, 2009


What this riot suggests is that maybe it's better to have a too many cops with a few screws loose than to have not enough cops, because the people are in absolutely no position to maintain the social order on their own.

I was thinking it suggested people gave a shit, but at the same time felt powerless, hopeless, angry, and frustrated. When people feel like that is it any surprise that they riot?
posted by symbollocks at 6:51 AM on January 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't get why anyone following this story is confused by why innocent people's property (and ultimately innocent people too) gets destroyed in a a riot. It is because there is an absolute, total leadership vacuum both in Oakland in general and in BART's handling of the shooting.

Social protests have leaders, either seen or unseen. Riots have no heads, they are just directionless, stupid anger. You could see this one coming (and I'll wager worse still to come) days ago.

Dellums and De La Fuente made George Bush look like a genius last night. They both went down to the scene and failed to utter a comprehensible or meaningful sentence while their own city stood on the brink. And worse, it was not a surprise at all. I never thought I'd say it but I sure do miss Jerry Brown.

Anyway, it was like a flood. We're just a few blocks away and hearing the mob and the endless low flying helicopter noise we were thinking: is the water going to keep rising or is it going hold? And will the rain stop tomorrow?
posted by quarterframer at 6:51 AM on January 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Ha, I used to hate those kids in high school. Or my friends who would proudly waste their afternoon protesting at Home Depot about their lumber. So lame.

Please explain why your misanthropic opinions, as expressed here, are not as 'lame' as the legitimate protests of citizens about issues that concern them.

Some people (including various prominent members of the outgoing US Government) believe that radical change can only come via rapid societal upheaval. That might explain the attendance of politically motivated people at these riots.

Most riots include a mix of those who 'genuinely' feel injustice has occurred, those who are along for the ride, people wanting to take advantage of the situation for political gain and those who simply like causing trouble and possibly getting some consumer electronics or other luxury items without the usual monetary transactions on their part.

Rioting is the refuge of those who have absolutely no faith whatsoever that the system will deliver justice for them. Violence is the last negotiating tactic used by most mature individuals, however some people (including various prominent members of the outgoing US Government) choose to use it as the primary negotiating tool.

All that need be done to quell these riots would be the BART police issuing a statement that they had incarcerated the officer who killed Oscar Grant and were treating the murder as a criminal matter.
posted by asok at 6:52 AM on January 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


Grow the fuck up. What this riot suggests is that maybe it's better to have a too many cops with a few screws loose than to have not enough cops, because the people are in absolutely no position to maintain the social order on their own.

So what you're saying is we don't have enough innocent people being shot by cops (which is obviously what we would have if we had more cops with looser screws)

Secondly, cops are actually people, so the argument makes no sense. Unless by "the people" you mean "poor blacks and Latinos". Not that I'd expect Pastabagel to actually think through what he was saying. It's much easier to just lash out at anyone upsetting authority. If this were the 1960's he'd be one of those right wingers complaining about how Martin Luther King was "Upsetting Order" and "Bringing about lawlessness" (because even non-violent protest was still illegal)
posted by delmoi at 6:58 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


We're also back to looking at media complicity in bad police behavior. Yesterday, CNN had its police expert/apologist and when Rick Sanchez, who knows what it's like to be Tasered, asked why the BART cop would have pulled out a gun, thinking it was a Taser, when the guy was already being subdued by 2 cops on the ground, the guy replied, a "Taser is the best compliance tool." And, oh yeah, fewer cops get hurt, he said.

Now, every single time a police department acquires Tasers, they insist it will cut down on the number of shootings. And this crap continues or gets worse, or the tool's use is redefined to make it easier and easier to use.

And no, I am not a cop basher. In fact, I just got done sending a letter commending a cop for his work and obvious concern when my dog was badly injured by a hit-run driver.

But this shit has to stop. I'm sorry that innocent people's property got damaged but you know what? No one listens until people are in the streets, furious.
posted by etaoin at 7:01 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oneirodynia posted a play by play of last nights protest in the original thread.
posted by Mr_Zero at 7:05 AM on January 8, 2009


The protester they interviewed was an idiot, but this is easily the most justified riot I've ever heard of.

The media has a long history of choosing the most batshit-insane protesters they can find to interview.

I've just about fucking had it with pigs.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:10 AM on January 8, 2009


"Taser is the best compliance tool."

Funny. When we unleash electrical shocks to wring compliance out of prisoners - people who've already received their due process - we call it torture. Is the man on the street not entitled to the same protections as a felon?
posted by kid ichorous at 7:23 AM on January 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


I really didn't want to be the one to post this, but there are riots raging in Oakland.

Come on. Newsfilter is one thing. But how about a little effort?
posted by Justinian at 7:23 AM on January 8, 2009


I don't watch regular network news or the major cable new stations anymore. All I get from Network and Cable news is how many kids Angelina Jolie had or who won American Idol.
posted by doctorschlock at 7:29 AM on January 8, 2009


WHY IS THIS NOT GETTING NATIONAL MEDIA ATTENTION!!!!!

It's not getting national media attention because the national media has spent eight years externalizing and projecting all of America's problems on to foreigners. That our investment bankers might be more dangerous to America than foreign terrorists, that racism still exists despite the election of America's first black president, that there is endemic poverty in all of America's communities: such notions the national media can barely digest, if at all.
posted by ornate insect at 7:34 AM on January 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is a very sad outcome, but not surprising in the least. I hope that the press takes the hint and starts covering it.
posted by lunit at 7:35 AM on January 8, 2009


WHY IS THIS NOT GETTING NATIONAL MEDIA ATTENTION!!!!!

Seen on CNN yesterday.



And it was on the ABC radio national news overnight.
To the person who questioned the use of the word "riot" (sorry, just skimming here), what I saw was most definitely riot behavior. Smashing windows, jumping on cars and setting crap on fire looks like a riot to me!

Nice move by the BART officer involved submitting his resignation yesterday. Way to be accountable! I hope they get him on criminal charges.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 7:40 AM on January 8, 2009


Were all nineteen people shot since 2007 Black men?

No, sometimes they shoot black children, too.

Other than that, this guy, this guy, and this guy were black, and this one was Hispanic. These four don't list the ethnicity of the people killed.
posted by EarBucket at 7:48 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I find the support for the rioters in this thread strange. What, exactly, are they accomplishing by destroying their own neighborhood? I find the suggestion that violence directed against the authorities might be warranted even odder. What exactly would that do in the present situation? Weirdest of all, I find the notion that some ghostly force--white people, the people of Pacific Heights, Police unions, the Rich--is somehow to blame peculiar. How are they responsible?

Though we should not (as the saying goes) "rush to judgment," it strikes me that the responsibility for the shooting probably rests with one Johannes Mehserle. I am confident that he will be brought to justice, and that destroying the property of innocents will not speed that process.
posted by MarshallPoe at 7:57 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dellums and De La Fuente made George Bush look like a genius last night. They both went down to the scene and failed to utter a comprehensible or meaningful sentence while their own city stood on the brink. And worse, it was not a surprise at all. I never thought I'd say it but I sure do miss Jerry Brown.

I know what you mean. I used to live in Berkeley for nine years. In the left-of-center circles I traveled in, a lot of people thought Jerry Brown was a total sellout, but I doubt he would have been as inept in cooling off this situation. It's really disappointing about Dellums. Dellums is an institution in the Bay Area. He was a card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America who got into Congress by defeating a pro-Vietnam War Democrat on an unapologetically antiwar platform. His successor, Barbara Lee, was the only member of Congress to vote against the war in Afghanistan. Dellums had built up a lot of credibility over a period of decades that he could have used to defuse this situation, but it seems all just too little, too late.

In addition, I concur that the RCP is bad news. They're Maoists who believe that the source of revolutionary change is not the working class, but oppressed races and nationalities. At the same time, the RCP also subscribes to an ideology of authoritarian vanguardism, which argues that these oppressed races and national need proper "direction" from the "correct" revolution vanguard party (i.e., the RCP). What you get from this mixture of ideologies is RCP members applauding black teenagers who smash windows in black-owned hairdressing salons (because that's the "people's war" of an oppressed race), while trying to insert themselves into the fray as the vanguard leading this mess.
posted by jonp72 at 7:59 AM on January 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


"You can't be neutral on a moving train", as the saying goes. If tragedy strikes your neighborhood and some nearby radicals take to your cause don't complain when they mistake your apathy for affinity with those they are against. The mob is bringing attention to the neighborhood because of the neighborhood's failure to lead it elsewhere, such as BART targets or government establishments. Welcome to the America land of the lazy. Possessions are more important than lives, right?
posted by Kale Slayer at 8:01 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Though we should not (as the saying goes) "rush to judgment," it strikes me that the responsibility for the shooting probably rests with one Johannes Mehserle. I am confident that he will be brought to justice, and that destroying the property of innocents will not speed that process.

I abhor violence. But I appreciate the utter frustration people feel when authorities do not respond or appear mealy-mouthed when they do.

A couple of weeks ago, one accused accessory to the killing of a New York cop--the defendant drove the car, didn't participate in the killing and apparently didn't know about it ahead of time--was acquitted of the most serious charges. The New York PBA's president was instantly on TV, screaming about "that animal" who got away with murder (he didn't, he was convicted of lesser charges.) Various officials took to the airwaves too to denounce the verdict. Oddly, we don't find authorities rushing into action when a cop misbehaves. And that's what rioters see.

I am always amused by the question about why do people burn down their neighborhoods. Because that's where they are when the frustration boils over.
posted by etaoin at 8:13 AM on January 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


I find the support for the rioters in this thread strange

People riot because they are angry. People are angry because they suspect -- and i'm guessing they are right here -- that there is going to be no justice in this case. It's all just an expression of anger.
posted by chunking express at 8:13 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh my goodness but those RCP/Avakianites are annoying as hell and now that they can insert themselves into some real trouble, downright dangerous. Be safe Oakland.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:15 AM on January 8, 2009


There's a big difference between protesters and rioters and somestimes that difference is breached by the rush of adrenaline. Bill Buford wrote about it in "Among the THugs".Most of the latecomers are there for the rush that comes with an us against them confrontation.

Violence and looting are biproducts of the search for an adrenaline rush that is part of the same urge that bring us hooliganism, gang fights and mosh pits.

Why are armies fueled by young men? It's an amazing power when harnessed. I see the same thing in the Nuremberg rallies, but they liked their group dynamic choreographed and took pride in adherence to constraints.

I would like to think those that organize the protests make a meaningful connection with those that come just to be at the center of something bigger than themselves. I wonder if this can be harnessed with going all "Brave New World."
posted by readery at 8:16 AM on January 8, 2009


No, sometimes they shoot black children, too.

You might note that the second link describes a ten-year-old hit by a stray bullet from a robbery that took place across the street. It offers no suggestion that police shot him, nor that they were even present at the scene.

posted by kid ichorous at 8:17 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am always amused by the question about why do people burn down their neighborhoods. Because that's where they are when the frustration boils over.

Seriously, it's a riot, not a parade. It is, by definition, not directed, focused or coordinated.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:18 AM on January 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


People are angry because they suspect -- and i'm guessing they are right here -- that there is going to be no justice in this case.
I agree here, but I also ask myself: What sort of "justice" would satisfy the sort of people who wreck their own neighborhood?

I think what the officer did is horrible. I'm glad he's off the force (he's resigned). His actions certainly appear criminal to me. Still, he deserves due process and these sorts of displays make it harder to achieve, I think.
posted by DWRoelands at 8:20 AM on January 8, 2009


It's not the rich it's the middle class that's to blame. The rich love to feel sympathy for poor oppressed minorities. The middle class are the ones that live in fear of the poor.
posted by empath at 8:20 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


You might note that the second link describes a ten-year-old hit by a stray bullet from a robbery that took place across the street. It offers no suggestion that police shot him, nor that they were even present at the scene.

Yes, I was just about to post a correction. My apologies.

posted by EarBucket at 8:21 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Rally organizers said they will have another protest at BART headquarters at 9 a.m. Thursday when the transit agency's board of directors has a meeting." *

"Organizers noted that they intend to build a movement against police brutality and plan to hold several other demonstrations in the coming weeks." *
posted by ericb at 8:21 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was horrified years ago while attending an anti-Klan rally when the crowd suddenly turned into a mini-mob when three men were mistakenly identified as Klan supporters. The shot of adrenaline and rage was physical and instantaneous and the urge to do something physical and stupid only passed once others who knew the men managed to convince everyone else that the guys were innocent. It was damned scary how quickly people turned wild.
posted by etaoin at 8:24 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Possessions are more important than lives, right?

God, we just get to hear this stupid-ass false dichotomy over and over don't we? All busting up the neighborhood does is turns the neighborhood against your cause. All indiscriminate mayhem does is allows the much vaster majority of people who remain unaffected by these displays of unfocused rage to shake their heads and say well it's a SHAME about what happened to that BOY but just look at how THOSE PEOPLE behave. I'm so sick of listening to so-called radicals who have not done shit to bring about genuine change in the system for decades because they remain mired in the idiotic paradigm of transformation through violence.
posted by nanojath at 8:24 AM on January 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


Barack Obama Doesn't Care About Black People™

first!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:27 AM on January 8, 2009


Pastabagel writes "Grow the fuck up. What this riot suggests is that maybe it's better to have a too many cops with a few screws loose than to have not enough cops, because the people are in absolutely no position to maintain the social order on their own."

I agree the rioting is counterproductive, but so is having police officers with "a few screws loose" because the powers that be think the public isn't to be trusted.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:30 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


What this riot suggests is that maybe it's better to have a too many cops with a few screws loose than to have not enough cops, because the people are in absolutely no position to maintain the social order on their own.

Are those really the only two options?
posted by EarBucket at 8:31 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice move by the BART officer involved submitting his resignation yesterday. Way to be accountable! I hope they get him on criminal charges.
"Officer Johannes Mehserle, 27, was supposed to make a statement Wednesday about why he shot 22-year-old Oscar Grant as the supermarket worker lay face-down at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland, BART said.

...Mehserle, however, did not show up for the scheduled interview at 11 a.m.

...Mehserle's resignation means he does not have to answer questions about the shooting from BART internal affairs investigators.

...BART had come under fire from John Burris, the attorney for Grant's family, for not having forced Mehserle to talk with internal affairs investigators since the shooting. Unlike in criminal investigations - in which a suspect has the constitutional right not to talk to police - officers involved in on-the-job shootings must talk to inspectors as part of administrative inquiries or risk being fired." *

-------------------------------------------------

"District Attorney Tom Orloff told CNN on Wednesday the incident is a 'pretty clear' homicide and his office will focus primarily on Mehserle's mental state prior to the shooting." *
Yeah, so why don't they charge him with homicide and arrest him?
posted by ericb at 8:34 AM on January 8, 2009 [21 favorites]


Police bracing for a day of protests in Oakland.
posted by ericb at 8:37 AM on January 8, 2009


The news is supposed to be about telling the truth, and for whatever reason that guy seems to be afraid to say it. The multiple videos of the guy getting shot is not what "looks like happened," it's what actually happened.

Maybe he just made a new years resolution to switch to e-Prime, and is still getting the hang of it?

You know how in a lot of RPG's they have assassination guilds?
Do you ever feel like that just might make things better sometimes?


We have one of those, it's just that the CIA's fees for private commissions are pretty exorbitant.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:38 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


To those questioning the location of the riot, according to SFGate the protests did start at the Fruitvale station where the shooting occured, and then moved on when BART closed down the station.
posted by Big_B at 8:39 AM on January 8, 2009


for real. is it said ANYWHERE why he hasn't been arrested, yet? what the fuck is this? he's not a cop anymore, and even cops can be arrested anyway. so fucking arrest the dude!
posted by shmegegge at 8:40 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just rode the Muni N line from the ballpark to Church St.

At the 4 underground stations that Muni shares with BART, before opening the door, the driver would say over the P.A. "Once again, be careful, this is a BART station". It took me four blocks of walking to realize he was not referring to the danger of riots.
posted by dirty lies at 8:43 AM on January 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


I know that Lynch mobs were usually used against Blacks but I think that this would be an appropriate use of one.
posted by Pseudology at 8:50 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know that Lynch mobs were usually used against Blacks but I think that this would be an appropriate use of one.

Please man, one showing of Inland Empire is enough.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:54 AM on January 8, 2009


Please man, one showing of Inland Empire is enough.

(walks backwards out of creepy backwoods cabin...)
posted by billysumday at 8:57 AM on January 8, 2009


Welcome to the America land of the lazy.

welcome to the internet, land of the ineffectual egging on of the so-called lazy - really, i get a little tired of people sitting at their nice safe computers in nice safe neighborhoods, advising people in troubled neighborhoods what THEY should be doing about their problems - as if they're going to read what you write and do something really "radical" because of it

bluster and posing is all you got, buddy - i suspect you want to see a bigger, more effective riot out of some sick need to vicariously work out your frustrations with society by watching it on tv

you're not demanding social change, kale slayer, you're demanding entertainment
posted by pyramid termite at 8:58 AM on January 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


By the way, Cops (Uniformed ones, anyway) should have video recording devices on them at all times and the video in instances like this really needs to be releasable on demand.
posted by delmoi at 8:59 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know that Lynch mobs were usually used against Blacks but I think that this would be an appropriate use of one.

Yes, killing someone in a surfeit of thoughtless emotion based on what you think you know (but without any real thoughtful deliberation) is definitely the solution to the situation that killed Oscar Grant. I like your sense of justice, Suedeology, it's got that olde skoole "eye for an eye" style.
posted by nanojath at 9:06 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Philly PD has an unofficial discussion forum called Domelights and there's a short thread about this there.
posted by The Straightener at 9:13 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Someone really should have called me on 'Arab PDQ'. I was trying to make a point about how racism as I see it, but no one cared. I always wanted to meet Johnny Cash, I think he's cool as hell. But I would have been afraid he would have been talking to me and said something racist without even noticing. People do it all the time, I try not to, but I do. This was on purpose though. Racism in the form of indifference is what worries me here in the states. But, still, we have to kick America in the ass to go after the extreme cases. What hope do we have if people cannot wholeheartedly acknowledge how fucked up these situations are, so we can get on to the indifference in this country, and the world. It takes hard work not to be racist.
posted by Flex1970 at 9:14 AM on January 8, 2009


"I feel like the night is going great," said Nia Sykes, 24, of San Francisco

That individual will live to regret attaching their very search-engine-friendly name to that quote.
posted by nanojath at 9:17 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, so why don't they charge him with homicide and arrest him?

I assume that as a courtesy to police departments that it has to cooperate with the DA's office does not arrest their officers until internal investigations have concluded. Now that he's resigned, I hope there is an arrest warrant being served today.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:17 AM on January 8, 2009


Are the only choices "black men" and "white women"?

That sounds like the straight line for a bad joke.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:20 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Still, he deserves due process and these sorts of displays make it harder to achieve, I think.

He hasn't been getting due process because he's been avoiding it, and BART internal affairs waited so long before forcing the issue.

If he hadn't been a cop, he would have been arrested at the time of the shooting, or at the very least held for questioning. But because of his status as an officer, he was allowed to put off meeting with internal affairs, where he would have been compelled to answer questions without a 5th amendment right to fall back on. Now that he's a civilian, he should at minimum be brought in for questioning. I think he should be arrested and charged.

I'll be interested to see what the other officers who were there have to say. Or maybe they'll be allowed to skip IAD questioning, too.
posted by rtha at 9:22 AM on January 8, 2009


Flex1970, I honestly don't think it's that nobody cares but that nobody disagrees with you. I would not ever claim to be able to truly relate to what it is to not be white in this culture (knowing about something is not the same as experiencing it) but I sure do not disagree with you. I guess where I hope the conversation would go beyond this is what do you do to cause real institutional changes that prevent these things from happening. People are saying that it's stupid to expect a mass eruption of completely justifiable anger to apply some sort of sound political judgment over how and where to erupt, and I know that's true, but it is also true that the persistence of unjustified cop violence against non-whites is a product of social environments and human emotional factors too and we have to come up with different strategies against it.
posted by nanojath at 9:26 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Someone really should have called me on 'Arab PDQ'.

I didn't know what it meant the first time you wrote it, and I still don't. I guess that makes me a racist. And what does Johnny Cash have to do with anything?
posted by Optamystic at 9:28 AM on January 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


No, see, Optamystic, you're racist because you read it in the first place.
posted by billysumday at 9:31 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know how in a lot of RPG's they have assassination guilds?

Is that something like a lynch mob?
posted by hermitosis at 9:33 AM on January 8, 2009


This was a bad shooting. An inexcusable crime. No doubt.

But I only wish that the "community" in Oakland would turn out with rage like this every time it killed one of its own. Gunshot murders in Oakland are all too common. I live there. A family member a few blocks away witnessed a shooting over NYE. Their neighbors had remarked to them once: "Hey you guys are cool. We like you. And you know... if you hear a gunshot every once in a while, you don't need to be calling the cops every time." The 'no snitchin' rule is in full effect here. Unless, of course, it was a P.I.G. who pulled the trigger, in which case the WHOLE WORLD needs to instantly spring into outrage.

This shooting definitely deserves protest. I think unfortunately it has tapped into a deep, rich vein of "anti-police," and "down with the man" sentiment that makes Oakland a shittier place to live. Oakland is full of people who are 100% sure that the only thing wrong with their lives is that The Man has robbed them of their wealth, freedom, manhood, and dignity. It's a self-defeating culture that will seize on any instance of outside oppression to explain decades of rot from within.

The last time I saw riots like this in Oakland, a few gangbangers had been shot in their car on the 4th of July. A crowd came out with barbecue to rock the car back and forth and roll it upside down. What fun. It took an ambulance 40 minutes to sneak 1 block through the crowd to get to the bodies.
posted by scarabic at 9:38 AM on January 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


In my neighborhood during the Mount Pleasant Riots in DC. My neighbors tried to keep the peace. It was the outside agitators that set the stores on fire and attacked the police.
All because an intoxicated undocumented worker from El Salvador stabbed a policewoman and she shot him.
posted by doctorschlock at 9:41 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oakland Metafilter is full of people who are 100% sure that the only thing wrong with their lives is that The Man has robbed them of their wealth, freedom, manhood, and dignity.

FTFY
posted by jock@law at 9:41 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


etaoin, i think you and i were at the same anti-klan rally. Springfield, IL, circa 1993?

i have had some experience with the RCP, back in my early days when i was trying to figure out what i believed and went to everyone's meetings in Chicago. i was momentarily fascinated by some characters in Refuse & Resist (an RCP front), but quickly became suspicious of the "vanguard" idea and their (and the Socialist Workers' Party, and News and Letters) propensity for infiltrating other groups and being dishonest about their affiliations and interests.

having experienced them in action a few times, though, i think we should recognize that though the media is fond of picking out whatever "leaders" they can (and RCP members are quick to step forward), the reality on the ground is probably quite different. i think they are often provocateurs, but that most of the people who are reacting instinctively to oppression with rage see them as annoying mosquitoes—a few white paternalist-acting faces in a crowd who are failing utterly to move the mob in the direction they wish to. they can seem dangerous, but i think they are also ineffective and can only mildly be blamed for instigating violence. it's like a situation where a black youth throws a rock, and the white RCP guy steps forward and yells "forward to the revolution!"—i think the youth sees it as a distraction from his intent rather than leadership. the media love commies and anarchists to point to, though. not least because they're ready with scary soundbites.

riots don't work to get oppression lifted—in fact they often work oppositely. however, it can be understood that riots are an expression of last resort for the powerless—what happens when the people see complete and utter disregard for the injustices around them. just as vigilantism is an expression of disbelief in the "justice" system. in this way, the people shouldn't be *blamed* for their boiling-over rage, rather the leadership that has allowed injustice and powerlessness to prevail should be blamed and held accountable. that's how you prevent riots in the first place.
posted by RedEmma at 9:42 AM on January 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Bartcop?
posted by schoolgirl report at 9:45 AM on January 8, 2009


chunking express writes "People riot because they are angry. People are angry because they suspect -- and i'm guessing they are right here -- that there is going to be no justice in this case. It's all just an expression of anger."

Yeah, and I sympathize with that, but rioting can be very destructive to the community which has already suffered the damage that triggered the rioting. People in Oakland feel disenfranchised, and I suppose it's the closest major metro area to the crime (although it's not their PD), but I don't think the people in Oakland are going to see their lives improve if their own property gets destroyed, making their lives more of a struggle. It can bring attention to a problem, but it's so random and toxic to the people it engulfs.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:47 AM on January 8, 2009


The thing I hate about riots is that they do the exact opposite of what they should. What they should do is send a message which states: "You, the people in power, have done this community a grievous harm, and we are going to respond in kind. We are going to cause chaos in in your ordered streets to force you to recognize our anger so that you never make a mistake like this again".

What they actually do is send the message: "Check this out, we can run through your streets lighting innocent bystanders property on fire and there is little you can do about it! If you had a stronger police force you might be able to stop us! Bet you won't be prepared next time either!"

Riots may feel good in the sense that it's a response. Not a good response, but a response (as opposed to doing nothing). But if we were smart, we would see the signs of something like this building and quickly turn the anger to something productive like peaceful (but unstoppable and unmovable) protests around government buildings.
posted by quin at 10:02 AM on January 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


scarabic writes "But I only wish that the 'community' in Oakland would turn out with rage like this every time it killed one of its own."

I think the difference is that you aren't paying tax dollars to support members of your community. You aren't electing them to represent you. A police force and the government which directs it are supposed to be accountable to the people. Members of the community may be as well, as any community has its own internal standards, but their responsibility is not the same.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:05 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


ericb said: Yeah, so why don't they charge him with homicide and arrest him?

Because once you make an arrest, the clock starts ticking. Even bad cops have a Constitutional right to a "speedy ... trial" in criminal matters. Waiting on the arrest gives the DA's office longer to build the case. Plus he's no longer on the force and probably being watched closely (and scared shitless by how many thousands of people want his head) so I'm guessing he doesn't pose an immediate danger.

Given the cost of an early arrest (which gains you nothing) and the benefit of a later arrest, I would probably not arrest him now either.
posted by jock@law at 10:05 AM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


krinklyfig writes "I think the difference is that you aren't paying tax dollars to support members of your community."

I should clarify that means salary.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:05 AM on January 8, 2009


By "arrest" I meant "arrest and charge" above.
posted by jock@law at 10:08 AM on January 8, 2009


Flex1970 writes "This was on purpose though. Racism in the form of indifference is what worries me here in the states."

Well, we could start an argument about your slip and pick at you for saying something slightly ignorant, but that's sort of getting in the weeds.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:08 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


readery writes "I see the same thing in the Nuremberg rallies, but they liked their group dynamic choreographed and took pride in adherence to constraints."

Yes, Kristallnacht was so "constrained". Well, I guess the targets came from a "constrained" set.
posted by orthogonality at 10:10 AM on January 8, 2009


empath writes "It's not the rich it's the middle class that's to blame. The rich love to feel sympathy for poor oppressed minorities."

Because the rich employ the middle-class (the police, middle-management, foremen, overseers, union-busters, slave-catchers, Pinkertons, politicians) as a buffer between the rich and the poor.
posted by orthogonality at 10:13 AM on January 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Someone really should have called me on 'Arab PDQ'. I was trying to make a point about how racism as I see it, but no one cared.

I have no idea what an "Arab PDQ" even is.


One of the reasons I think people don't care as much about gang violence is that it's not as random. I mean, If you're a drug dealing gang-banger you might get shot by another drug dealing gang banger, and that's a risk you can choose to take on or not. If you're not involved there's no risk to you.

On the other hand the guy who was shot in the video was totally arbitrary. All he had been doing was riding the subway, going home from a newyears party. And if you watch the video it looks like he was doing by the book. He was laying on the ground, his hands behind his back, and then BAM.

People are always going to be more afraid of things they feel like they can't control. For an average person who isn't a gang-banger, the risk from the police must actually seem a lot higher.
posted by delmoi at 10:13 AM on January 8, 2009


I hear you nanojath. I think our government runs completely on taxpayer money. Once everyone realizes that they(Californians) paid this cop to shoot the guy (if BART is funded publicly), then things will start to change. It's going to happen eventually. I'd go with demonstrations. Although, the government tends not to listen until damage is done. Start fucking with their money and they'll dance to West Side Story to get it back from you, but people will get hurt first. Better parenting, education, involvement in your community. That's the cure.
posted by Flex1970 at 10:14 AM on January 8, 2009


Waiting on the arrest gives the DA's office longer to build the case. Plus he's no longer on the force and probably being watched closely (and scared shitless by how many thousands of people want his head) so I'm guessing he doesn't pose an immediate danger.

It's an interesting argument, but, roles reversed, I cannot see a shade of such lenience being extended to someone accused of shooting a cop, ever. And you can't reasonably expect people to place their faith in the old blindfold and balance when all they see is asymmetry and a sword.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:15 AM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


This country was started in response to a police shooting of a protester. But it was violence against government and military (and, sadly, loyalist citizens) not random rioting.

Governor Hutchinson fought hard to uphold general search warrants and the citizens burned his house down, not the coffee shop down the block.

I thought apathy was the worst response we could see to the shooting and any cover-up which might ensue. I was wrong. This shameful, callous, futile violence disgusts me. Every single civilian who has been injured or had their property destroyed is just as much a victim of undeserved violence as Mr. Grant. Those of you voyeuristally cheering it on are as guilty of it as the "pigs" and the "thin blue line" you decry are guilty of police brutality.
posted by vsync at 10:18 AM on January 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Because once you make an arrest, the clock starts ticking. Even bad cops have a Constitutional right to a "speedy ... trial" in criminal matters. Waiting on the arrest gives the DA's office longer to build the case.

i don't buy it. This case is open and shut. The only question is "murder or manslaughter" which they can decide during plea bargaining. further, he represents a flight risk simply BECAUSE he may want to escape his many death threats. lastly, i strongly suspect these riots wouldn't have happened if the DA's office had shown ANY sign of actually pursuing a criminal case here instead of just saying "we're looking into it," and not doing anything. as others have said, anyone else would have been arrested on the spot, clocks ticking or otherwise.
posted by shmegegge at 10:19 AM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, we could start an argument about your slip and pick at you for saying something slightly ignorant, but that's sort of getting in the weeds.

It was ignorant, and it wasn't a slip. We should address the weeds, they're ugly, and they're keeping the grass from growing. Thanks for catching it though. I'm sure most people here did.
posted by Flex1970 at 10:22 AM on January 8, 2009


Thanks for catching it though. I'm sure most people here did.

chalk me down as another person who has no idea what an "Arab PDQ" is.
posted by shmegegge at 10:23 AM on January 8, 2009


Riots happen in lieu of justice.

Yeah, the rioters are being assholes -- that's why it's a riot -- but the BART police could have prevented the riots by arresting the person that shot a restrained man in the back while he was on the ground.

Sometimes I think my misanthropy is justified.
posted by ryoshu at 10:24 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


The mob is bringing attention to the neighborhood because of the neighborhood's failure to lead it elsewhere, such as BART targets or government establishments. Welcome to the America land of the lazy. Possessions are more important than lives, right?

What the fuck does this even mean? My neighborhood was trashed last night by people who don't fucking live here. We happen to be the only residential neighborhood adjacent to downtown. I saw a white dude with a bullhorn lead the rioters right down my street. (there's a picture of him on flickr being run down by riot cops, and I admit to being completely pleased by that. Unfortunately, flickr search isn't working for me). Do you think he's leading them into his own neighborhood on some sort of altruistic mission? When my upstairs neighbor asked protesters on the street "are you part of this?" they said "uhh.... no" . Thanks, violent cowards, for making a stand in the name of justice.

I live in one of the most culturally and economically diverse neighborhoods in the Bay Area. Oakland definitely has the minority/flats well off white people/hills thing going on, but not where I live. Its a neighborhood full of old apartment buildings, where nearly everyone rents, and most buildings are old enough not to have a parking garage, so there are tons of cars parked on the street. Read my posts from last night- my (white) upstairs neighbor helped out a (black) security guard who was jumped by two (black) men. (Hispanic) men posed for pictures in front of a burned out car owned by a (middle eastern) man. Sure, it's nice to think that this is happening in the inner city, because then it won't happen to you, right? It's convenient to put this in handy terms of race, but it's a whole bunch of all sorts of people from somewhere else trashing the possessions and livelyhoods of all sorts of other people that had nothing to do with anything. Strangely enough, a lot of the city emptied out just as the last BART trains were leaving. It's nice to say the neighborhood is responsible for not preventing the shooting, because that's an easy cop-out for standing up to wanton destruction of property. My neighbors this morning are wondering how they are going to pay for their broken windshields, and what happens if mobs come down here again. How many new windshields can you afford to buy in a week? I awoke fast to the sound of helicopters this morning thinking: now what? Everyone who is in this thread saying these riots are justified: come down here. Park your car on my street. Or just leave 2- 500 bucks out on the sidewalk for random people to take from you. Hell, play the part of a storekeeper and leave a few thousand out here. Put your money where your mouth is, instead of spewing smug bullshit.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:25 AM on January 8, 2009 [31 favorites]


chalk me down as another person who has no idea what an "Arab PDQ" is.

My best guess -- PDQ is convenience store chain and he intentionally invoked the stereotypical Arab quickie mart owner.
posted by Perplexity at 10:26 AM on January 8, 2009


Thanks for catching it though. I'm sure most people here did.

No idea what you're talking about. What is "Arab PDQ"?
posted by rtha at 10:29 AM on January 8, 2009


I live in Oakland, I love Oakland, I love people who love Oakland. I wasn't at the protests last night, but I wish I had been. Oakland has a lot of problems, and the intent of the protesters (I'm sure) was to express that.

I doubt, after this, that the city government or police force will so brazenly ignore a wrongful killing by a cop any time soon.
posted by doteatop at 10:30 AM on January 8, 2009


Live stream of sort of community meeting.
posted by billysumday at 10:30 AM on January 8, 2009


My best guess -- PDQ is convenience store chain

Seems correct
posted by burnmp3s at 10:31 AM on January 8, 2009


[Ugly shit and ensuing derail removed. This is enough of a powderkeg without over the top shit-flinging. Drop it or take it elsewhere.]
posted by cortex at 10:31 AM on January 8, 2009


Oh man, this BART community meeting is awesome. Street corner preachers just standing at a podium talking about how evil the White Man is. Would be funny if it weren't so tragic.
posted by billysumday at 10:46 AM on January 8, 2009


I just want to point out again the forum The Straightener linked to upthread because although it's brief, it's a fascinating insight into what other cops have to say about what they see. They're suitably bewildered by the footage of the shooting (and there's even a little discussion about why it isn't national news, too). They also postulate that he mistook his gun for a taser. Here it is. [via The Straightener]
posted by incessant at 10:48 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm still pretty disturbed by the lack of national media on this. I'm seeing almost nothing on the front pages of the major news websites. NYTimes has a good article, but it's buried. SFGate and Mercury News have articles on their front page, but they're local. I heard about this for the first time right here in this post, despite the fact that I listened to NPR for half the morning.

What the hell gives, media?
posted by gurple at 10:48 AM on January 8, 2009


scarabic writes "But I only wish that the 'community' in Oakland would turn out with rage like this every time it killed one of its own."

I think the difference is that you aren't paying tax dollars to support members of your community.


Yeah. The original observation is a bit strange. Protesting the death of a family member by a random criminal act is like protesting the death of a family member by lightning bolt. Who exactly are you trying to send a message to? The gods? The laws of probability? Unless of course you're protesting inadequate safety or response from the authorities.

But when the authorities are themselves responsible... well obviously you're sending the message to them. However, I agree with others here. The public, having been scared by breathless media reports of roving violent youth, see riots as part of the problem, not part of the solution. Hell, the public (having been scared by breathless media reports of angry shouting youth), see protests as part of the problem, not part of the solution. That is if they decide to cover it at all.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:49 AM on January 8, 2009


Live stream of sort of community meeting.

Jesus Christ, if you're going to speak in public, take your goddamned Bluetooth headset out of your ear.
posted by EarBucket at 10:50 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now I remember why I avoid going to community meetings.
posted by chunking express at 10:51 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, so why don't they charge him with homicide and arrest him?

my guess is he's a dead man just about any way you slice it. in jail or on the streets, someone is going to beat the crap out of him. and if someone else doesn't get him first, i wouldn't be a bit surprised if he killed himself. what he did is heinous & irrevocable. the repercussions--beyond the immediate senseless loss of a human life & the fallout/trickle down within his family & social life--are seething (and i wouldn't be surprised if they're spreading, but i'm at work & can't poke around to see if other cities are staging their own protests). mehserle is never going to get away from what he's done & i imagine won't find any peace as long as he lives. being beaten on the street or shot in retaliation isn't the only way to end a life.
posted by msconduct at 10:51 AM on January 8, 2009


And now the crazy lady is defining insanity for us!
posted by EarBucket at 10:52 AM on January 8, 2009


Jesus Christ, if you're going to speak in public, take your goddamned Bluetooth headset out of your ear.

That must be part of having white privilege but not being white. CRAZY.
posted by chunking express at 10:53 AM on January 8, 2009


And now the crazy lady is defining insanity for us!

And she is tired, tired, tired!
posted by billysumday at 10:53 AM on January 8, 2009


readery writes "I see the same thing in the Nuremberg rallies, but they liked their group dynamic choreographed and took pride in adherence to constraints."

Yes, Kristallnacht was so "constrained". Well, I guess the targets came from a "constrained" set.
posted by orthogonality at 12:10 PM on January 8 [+] [!]


Just to clarify, I'm not saying any of this is justified, but the main source of the violence and looting are those that are looking for the rush the get from group action, coupled with righteous indignation. If the cops treat young men as the enemy, damn straight they'll rise to the bait.

And I don't think the RCP and other organizations that try to get in on these actions are very helpful either. Those organizations that are taking part in the protests must also serve as self policing parts of the protest.
Police unions have get to stop acting as a shield for bad eggs. They have to have a hard and fast line where their advocasy for their members stops, and stick to work related greivances entirely.
posted by readery at 10:55 AM on January 8, 2009


Jesus, lady, we don't need your entire resume!
posted by billysumday at 10:56 AM on January 8, 2009


That our investment bankers might be more dangerous to America than foreign terrorists, that racism still exists despite the election of America's first black president, that there is endemic poverty in all of America's communities: such notions the national media can barely digest, if at all.

This thing boiled over because of the murder of Oscar Grant, but the whole community of Oakland was already simmering (and still is) because of the economic collapse and its attendant unemployment, and the foreclosures in the poor neighborhoods.

"Our investment bankers" are more responsible for this riot than the police.
posted by jamjam at 10:56 AM on January 8, 2009


If there was video on the web of me shooting an unarmed, restrained man to death, I would already be in jail.
posted by vibrotronica at 10:57 AM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Tracy: I shouldn't expect a white woman from Whiteville to understand street cred.
Liz: First of all, I'm not from Whiteville, I'm from White Haven. And it's not as nice as it sounds.
posted by chunking express at 10:58 AM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry, this community meeting is riveting. Now the lady's going on about George Bush, Sr. and Chevron and...omigod, it's all just insane rambling. Stream of consciousness stuff now. Crazy lefty hyperbole makes riveting television.
posted by billysumday at 10:58 AM on January 8, 2009


Where's an armed, itchy-trigger-fingered cop when you need him?
posted by EarBucket at 10:59 AM on January 8, 2009


Rioting doesn't solve anything, but I understand the urge. When things have built up to that degree, when people feel grossly disenfranchised and threatened, when no one has listened in a long time, when the people have even lost the ability to pull the community together for themselves because there are too many opportunists, too many fractures, too much hurt.

Then, like many other depressed beings, the response can go beyond simply destructive and into self-destructive, into narrowing one's view into one end of the spectrum, thinking there's no possible way there's support and understanding beyond that held by those you know best, because, hey, what proof has there been, otherwise? What grand gesture? What noticeable effort?

Rioting is the opposite of the most productive response, but it's what happens when an entire community has been marginalised to the degree that they only see one commonality at a time and feel there's no hope, no other way to pull it together. And then the weasels, those opportunists, the people who want to be part of something big and furious and full of rocks, they stoke the mood and soon it's a sullen lashout ending in folded arms with angry faces.

Then the outsiders feel they're justified in not investing, in not finding a humane solution. They aren't seeing the humanity of the response, only the effects of rage and frustration long pent. Patronising attitudes will have them shaking their heads and dehumanising the people involved, because to them this entire response appears unreasonable, mysterious. "Only savages shit in their own beds," they'll think. They'll be wrong, but that's what they'll think. They don't understand the fury of being ignored, being threatened, being left to figure it all out for yourself on a sliding scale that always seems to be sliding past and scaling away. Hardening yourself so that maybe you can get through it with some kind of...anything.

When this is all being processed, everyone's going to say something that's going to hurt someone else. Assumptions will be made that will push away supporters who don't fit the template of what a supporter looks like. Wildly ignorant statements will be made by people who really should know better and should have paid attention to the mistreatment, discontent, and survivor fatigue long ago. And the schism will get wider, instead of being used as an opportunity to bring us all together around this wound, around this seeping, burning proof of a fractured nation.

It didn't have to be that way. It doesn't have to be that way. It's too late to stop what's already happened, but there's got to be something we can do to instigate healing, to show support, to start breaking down the old lines of who's allowed to care and understand.
posted by batmonkey at 11:03 AM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


etaoin, i think you and i were at the same anti-klan rally. Springfield, IL, circa 1993?


Wow, no, it was in Connecticut, mid-1980s. Pretty amazing, eh?
posted by etaoin at 11:05 AM on January 8, 2009


I was wondering if this would make the Irish news, but it's obviously not important enough of a story. Instead there was a piece about a 6 year old who drove his mother's car to school because he missed the bus.
posted by Elmore at 11:06 AM on January 8, 2009


Crazy lefty hyperbole makes riveting television.

The trick to these meetings is to ask people to write down their comment or question, and have someone else in charge of reading them. That's what the Palestinian club at my old university used to do whenever it had talks. They would almost always become charged, and most of the time, people just want a soap box to ramble from -- case in point, this train wreck of a meeting. When you ask people to write shit down, you filter all that stuff out. No one writes their rambling ass stream of consciousness shit down. It forces people to get to the point.

posted by chunking express at 11:06 AM on January 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


rtha. That's good you have no idea what it means. It didn't mean shit, it was ignorant. The identity of the person at the counter of the PDQ had nothing to do with the cop assaulting me. I just said that as an example of how I see racism. And what I think is the most dangerous kind. The story I gave earlier is as true as the day is green. But I also said something fucked up before it. Like, I love my mom, but she cautions me about dating any other woman than an African American one. Is she any different from the KKK? Arab PDQ doesn't mean shit. But millions of people would affirm the statement if I said it to them. The Indian in the Seven Eleven, African American basketball player, Caucasians who grew up in trailers. Just implying something that I know damn well I shouldn't. But almost everyone in the states does it. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, I've heard them all. The mind set has to change. If you don't do things like this, I'm totally impressed. The subtle stabs are what's to blame for the big bleeding. If you have kids, teach them well.
posted by Flex1970 at 11:08 AM on January 8, 2009


No one writes their rambling ass stream of consciousness shit down.

I'm going to point to the post below yours as possible proof that you're wrong.
posted by EarBucket at 11:11 AM on January 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


chunking express, that sounds like a much better plan. On the other hand, there is something to be said of having a forum and letting people get up and just scream at you for a few hours. So good for BART for at least hosting the meeting in the first place. If people can get all of their aggression and anger out at a meeting like that instead of at night on the streets, like a valve letting off a bit of steam, then good all around.
posted by billysumday at 11:13 AM on January 8, 2009


CNN dropped the meeting feed. Here's a lower-quality alternate feed. Doesn't work for me in Firefox, but IE works.

Twitter finally does something useful for me.
posted by cortex at 11:17 AM on January 8, 2009


my guess is he's a dead man just about any way you slice it.

I dunno, Zantzinger had a long life making people's lives miserable after he got out of prison.
posted by nomisxid at 11:22 AM on January 8, 2009


Twitter finally does something useful for me.

Twitter was were I looked yesterday afternoon when I wanted to know why there were half a dozen helicopters over my house. There was nothing on any local news, and indybay just talked about the protest at Fruitvale.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:27 AM on January 8, 2009


Given the cost of an early arrest (which gains you nothing) and the benefit of a later arrest, I would probably not arrest him now either.

lulz

You know what could have been a benefit by an early arrest? No riots.
posted by ryoshu at 11:31 AM on January 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Adam Shatz on the Greek riots in the new LRB. There, the police killing was just the trigger: the riots were the result of youth unemployment, increasing inequality and hardship, an inept and corrupt government, and a growing sense of national disillusion and desperation.

Peaceful protests, vigils, petitions, letters to MPs or congressmen or government ombudsmen, letters to newspapers - all these things demonstrate an underlying faith in the system and the civil society that buttresses it. They all indicate faith that the system is staffed by men and women who are capable of doing the decent thing without direct material motivation, even if they need to been shamed or shown the hand of Demos to bring something to their full attention or change position on something.

Rioting shows that that faith has disappeared, or never existed. Of course, those with decent motives get mixed up with those who just want to steal or break things, but they share a sense that the underlying socio-political contract has been suspended - or, to put it more bleakly, the cease-fire between the state and the individual has been breached. The bargain is broken.
posted by WPW at 11:32 AM on January 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


my guess is he's a dead man just about any way you slice it. in jail or on the streets, someone is going to beat the crap out of him. and if someone else doesn't get him first, i wouldn't be a bit surprised if he killed himself.

I was thinking the same thing. You can see his reaction right after he shoots him. He pulls his hands up to his face like, oh shit! What have I done???? Aside from the possibility of some horrible death at the hands of others, his conscious must be bothering him. Killing himself at this point would probably be the easiest way out.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:34 AM on January 8, 2009


There, the police killing was just the trigger: the riots were the result of youth unemployment, increasing inequality and hardship, an inept and corrupt government, and a growing sense of national disillusion and desperation.

Hmmm... sounds familiar....
posted by dersins at 11:37 AM on January 8, 2009


Another interesting (shocking) fact from the Shatz article about Greece: some of the violence was perpetrated by state provocateurs intent on making the protestors look bad and justifying an extreme police response.
posted by WPW at 11:42 AM on January 8, 2009


After I was (unbeknownst to just about all of us beforehand) involved in this protest of a black man shot by an off-duty police officer, which blocked a major (10-lane) highway in Seattle, I regard that as something disruptive but not destructive. I have some great pictures of it.

The idea is that it needs to affect everybody. The protest or whatever it may be termed needs to make sure everybody is affected, and finds out why. Shut the city down with sheer masses of people. Basically make everybody stop and pay attention.

All I know is, that officer better not disappear. He's way too much on the d.l. for me. I'm just waiting for the word that officials haven't heard from him in x amount of time and cannot locate him. I really hope that doesn't happen. That would be a colossal error.
posted by cashman at 11:45 AM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Here's a little bit more information. Granted, this situation with Oscar Grant's death is a lot more volatile because it is seemingly open & shut, but I'd love to see more things that are strategic. But I guess that goes back to the whole "vacuum of leadership" and difference between protest vs riot thing.
posted by cashman at 11:48 AM on January 8, 2009


I just told my mom that there were riots happening in Oakland about the shooting and she asked why, and I told her about the shooting and the police or city hadn't taken any actions and she said "Are you surprised? Police protect themselves and coworkers first, its always been that way and it will always be that way."
posted by lilkeith07 at 12:00 PM on January 8, 2009


my guess is he's a dead man just about any way you slice it.

You know who else is a dead man any way you slice it?
posted by stet at 12:14 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


They're suitably bewildered by the footage of the shooting (and there's even a little discussion about why it isn't national news, too). They also postulate that he mistook his gun for a taser. Here it is. [via The Straightener]

I should have included some perspective as I've followed that board off and on for the past couple years (it's mostly neocon insanity but they do occasionally leak out very useful info about crimes in the neighborhoods I work in) and whenever there is a police shooting incident there is an immediate, unilateral flood of kneejerk defensive posts on the board. The fact that the inital responses seem sort of uncertain says a lot about what a brazen example of greivous error and/or incompetence this is.
posted by The Straightener at 12:22 PM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Another interesting (shocking) fact from the Shatz article about Greece: some of the violence was perpetrated by state provocateurs intent on making the protestors look bad and justifying an extreme police response.

I'm not sure why that is shocking. Inserting agent provocateurs into protests is SOP for law enforcement world wide. This actually makes me wonder if the Oakland PD is sending in some provocateurs for these protests. All it takes is a handful of people to turn a large crowd into an angry mob.
posted by ryoshu at 12:38 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't want to say I support the rioters because, as several people have mentioned in this thread, they just seem to be attacking their own neighborhoods and without any real, sensible direction. If they were a little more focused and lashing out against targets that were actually somehow related to or associated with the BART or PD, that I could understand. Or better, having seen the video and the fact that there were, like, dozens of people and 6 cops, I'd have been much more impressed if the people who were THERE at the time had pulled a 'Let's Roll!' on the police, overtaking them, detaining them in the name of 'citizen's arrest'. I'm sure that probably wouldn't have ended well either, but it would have impressed the hell out of me and made for a terrific story. Some part of me really thinks that would have been the right thing to do, since the police officer really did commit murder.
I know it's often quoted, but "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure." There's way too many questionable actions by police officers, not just in SF or on BART, but everywhere. I keep waiting for the people to fight back in an intelligent way that everyone as a nation can rally behind. What we end up with, unfortunately, is shit like this.
posted by Bageena at 12:39 PM on January 8, 2009


I was mocking inner-city rioters' tendency to burn down their own neighborhoods, as if anyone gives a shit that there are a 3 fewer hair salons in the world.

This woman is the owner of Creative African Braids, who was in her store when it was trashed by rioters. I'm not sure why you have to care about hair salons in order to care about small businesses and their families, and the benefits of locally owned businesses to the communities that they serve.

From a blog post of someone who attended the protest:

I saw a couple that while closing down a diner on 14th, a group of young hooligans stormed into their store and made a mother of a mess in a few seconds. The hooligans left quickly, but the couple stayed inside hiding somewhere until a few minutes later a young man armed with a baseball bat came to get them, I assume he was their son. The young man was so angry, yelling at the top of his lungs asking who had done this. Of course by then the culprits were gone, and his screams served for nothing more than to break my heart a little.

posted by oneirodynia at 12:46 PM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yeah. The original observation is a bit strange. Protesting the death of a family member by a random criminal act is like protesting the death of a family member by lightning bolt.

I respectfully disagree with this, and also with the argument that a wrongful shooting by a police officer is worse than a drug-related murder because cops' salaries are paid by tax dollars. All murder creates a tax burden in the system. Why do we even need to hire cops in the first place? I think a drug murder and wrongful police shooting are equivalent: both are senseless, inexcusable, and should be punishable by a long life of ass rape. But we expect more from cops? What? I happen to expect every ordinary person walking down the street will NOT shoot me, thank you very much. That expectation means as much to me as any standard law enforcement supposedly represents. It's the fabric of society itself.

Arguing that when one poor person kills another it's unavoidable random chance, a fact of life with blame unassignable - is frankly bullshit. This dodging of responsibility is exactly what irks me here. If people took better care of themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods they'd make a material improvement to life in Oakland. Taking police shootings from 9 a year to 0 per year isn't going to solve Oakland's problems.

I'm not pooh-poohing the fact that people protest this shooting. They should. What I'm pooh-poohing is the lack of riots when drug organizations shoot bystanders. I suppose the main reason people don't protest those shootings is they could get killed for it.
posted by scarabic at 12:50 PM on January 8, 2009


I'm not pooh-poohing the fact that people protest this shooting. They should. What I'm pooh-poohing is the lack of riots when drug organizations shoot bystanders. I suppose the main reason people don't protest those shootings is they could get killed for it.

That's silly. If the drug organizations had a list of employees, publicly approved processes and standards and had publicly approved power over private citizens, sure people would protest their actions. The police have been given the power to enforce the laws the citizenry enacts through representatives. Some drug "organization" has little to no real rules, is accountable to nobody, and has no power given to them by the public. Come on now, you're not seriously trying to say "either riot for both or don't complain when a cop shoots a prone guy in the back" are you?

And that's not even bringing in the race issue.

In related news, USA Today put out an report 2 days ago about 98% of emergency room physicians believing their patients were victims of excessive force by police.
Nearly 98% of emergency room physicians report that they believe some patients were victims of suspected excessive force by police, a national survey concludes. Yet most of the suspected incidents went unreported because no laws require physicians to alert authorities.

The survey of 315 physicians, contained in the Emergency Medicine Journal's January issue and based on 2002 data, is believed to be the first doctors' account of suspected police brutality, says H. Range Hutson, the lead author and assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard.

The responses were based on interactions with patients who were brought in by police or who said officers caused their injuries. Ninety-five percent of the doctors reported injuries caused by fists and feet. Hutson says the survey and analysis of findings were in the works for years.

National police groups challenged the survey, saying it would be hard for physicians to know if injuries resulted from excessive force if they were not present during the encounters.
posted by cashman at 1:06 PM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


and should be punishable by a long life of ass rape

I could argue with someone on Metafilter again, or I could douse my keyboard in ghee and set it on fire.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:13 PM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


No, the case isn't "open and shut." Lots of things could come up during trial. The DA has to guard against all of them. He has to interview officers who've worked with him, including and especially the one who was with him that night. He has to look at ballistics and other forensic evidence. He has to find and review video footage of the incident.

For all you know, the DA is doing his job just fine. To blame the prosecutor for people burning cars is so asinine and nonsensical I have to think you really must be joking. The prosecutor is an elected official doing a job that he has many years of education and training in, and yet you, who have no legal education and no experience wanna come in here and comment on what constitutes an "open and shut" case?

How contemptible! You assume that whatever other plausible explanations exist, the only one that could possibly be correct is the one that blames The Man.
posted by jock@law at 1:16 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


scarabic:
"should be punishable by a long life of ass rape"

No.
posted by batmonkey at 1:18 PM on January 8, 2009 [13 favorites]


SF Gate article:

The core group of the mob appeared to be about 40 people, several of whom were with Revolution Books, a Berkeley bookstore.

It's sadly formulaic at this point:

1. People of color show up to do peaceful protest/rally.
2. Random activist white kids who don't live in the area show up to break/burn shit and start the madness
3. Police bust out tear gas and rubber bullets
4. Lots of people of color arrested and blamed for being scary rioting violent savages
5. The instigators go home and hi-five at another blow against The Man.

It happened at the Seattle WTO protests and seems to be a consistent pattern since.
posted by yeloson at 1:18 PM on January 8, 2009 [16 favorites]


Optimus Chyme, you are sadly confused about the jurisdiction here. Oakland city government and the Oakland police has not a lot to do with the multi-county BART transit system and the BART police. The rioters here very much did not leave private property alone: at one point, the security guard of a nearby apartment building was assaulted so that rioters could get into the car park and break a few windows.
posted by migurski at 5:16 AM on January 8


That's super; re-read my comment and you'll notice that I specifically talked about BART police personnel and infrastructure, nothing about Oakland, and also specifically hoped that private property would be left alone.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:18 PM on January 8, 2009


Also- speaking as someone who watched it from his apartment window...
posted by yeloson at 1:24 PM on January 8, 2009


I think a drug murder and wrongful police shooting are equivalent: both are senseless, inexcusable, and should be punishable by a long life of ass rape.
Oh goodie.
posted by vsync at 1:25 PM on January 8, 2009


jock@law, someone said it up thread, but it bears repeating: If there was a video of you shooting some dude laying on the ground in the back you would have been arrested.
posted by chunking express at 1:25 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


chunking, that's irrelevant. I'm not a law-enforcement officer or member of the military. I don't put my life on the line every day. If I shot someone laying on the ground on his back, it would be a random and gratuitous thing.

Detention is not about revenge. It's about protecting people against violent acts. If there's no reason to believe this guy will do it again (I don't think there is), then there's no reason for him not to be free pending charges. In the meantime, the DA's office can investigate.

The people blaming the DA's office for Oakland residents acting a damn fool are way outta line.
posted by jock@law at 1:34 PM on January 8, 2009


I'm not pooh-poohing the fact that people protest this shooting. They should. What I'm pooh-poohing is the lack of riots when drug organizations shoot bystanders. I suppose the main reason people don't protest those shootings is they could get killed for it.

I think that's pretty absurd, I mean there are entirely different incentives at work for police and for drug dealers. Rioting wouldn't make drug dealers lives more difficult, drug dealers aren't accountable to property owners who might have their building trashed in a riot, etc.

For all you know, the DA is doing his job just fine. To blame the prosecutor for people burning cars is so asinine and nonsensical I have to think you really must be joking. The prosecutor is an elected official doing a job that he has many years of education and training in, and yet you, who have no legal education and no experience wanna come in here and comment on what constitutes an "open and shut" case?

I was going to say "You can't be serious" but I realize you are. Still, just because someone has a lot of education dosn't mean they can't be an epic failure. And there is far more then enough evidence to arrest the guy for the shooting. People get arrested on flimsy charges all the time. Just look at Rod Blagoyavich, for example. He still hasn't been indicted and the prosecutors have asked for a 90 day extension before they even bring charges, yet, they arrested him.
posted by delmoi at 1:36 PM on January 8, 2009


Come on now, you're not seriously trying to say "either riot for both or don't complain when a cop shoots a prone guy in the back" are you?

No, I'm saying riot for both, although I tend to agree with others, above, that rioting is destructive and counterproductive. Protest. Don't riot. Ever. I saw Telegraph trashed During Rodney King and it made me sick. My Dad happens to run a business nearby and certainly doesn't need a brick through his window.

The fact that drug organizations are accountable to no one should be more cause for outrage, not less. And another way of looking at what you said is that the police make it easier to protest. They are transparent. They have an address and elected officials. That's certainly more opportunity for redress, but it doesn't justify silence on the community's internal problems, or make police shootings more deplorable.

In short (I plan to shut up and stop trying to make this point here) if you track community protest in Oakland, you'd think that the police are public threat #1, but as a citizen on the ground, I will be the first to say they are the last thing I worry about.
posted by scarabic at 1:38 PM on January 8, 2009


There is not nearly enough information about the situation for anyone to decide what happened. A lot of the comments here are trying to form a judgment based on non-related experiences ('i was walking down the street picking my nose yesterday...'), and on the video, which gives the viewer a false sense of seeing the whole truth. The mob aspect of it is particularly scary, as is the impatience for information. despite that fact that rush releases of information usually prove hasty and inaccurate. The reaction doesn't give me confidence that justice will prevail here, no matter what the actual chain of events.

Plus, it defies logic that a police officer would shoot a man who is on the ground being restrained, amidst witnesses and video cameras; yet the first conclusion of many is that he did so intentionally, with the added assumption that doing so is some kind of blanket policy of BART police, or all police.
posted by troybob at 1:39 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


And just because it's interesting, here's a Google search for Sicily Mafia Protests. It's a great example of public outcry directed at crime organizations. It can happen.
posted by scarabic at 1:39 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


scarabic, it sounds like you want the community be vigilantes and go directly attack the drug dealers.
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 1:56 PM on January 8, 2009


“I find the suggestion that violence directed against the authorities might be warranted even odder. What exactly would that do in the present situation?”

Yeah, why do people cry at funerals? It’s stupid. It’s not like that’s going to bring them back. Doesn’t accomplish anything.

+ etaoin & Thomas Jefferson et.al sed re: tree of liberty, blood, etc.


“I was mocking inner-city rioters' tendency to burn down their own neighborhoods, as if anyone gives a shit that there are a 3 fewer hair salons in the world. Furthermore, I was mocking the entire concept of rioting as a means of social action.”

What riots do - ultimately - is gauge the compassion of the observer.
I’m not saying it’s ‘right’ or warrented to riot.

But you see, when people riot, bust up their own stuff, etc. it’s akin to someone in an altered mental state (by grief, rage, etc - say ‘temporary insanity’) harming themselves. There’s no justification to it. No right or wrong. It’s how people react sometimes.

As a society we either look the other way, react to protect only ourselves (or over react), or we try to heal.
To fix the problem.
To assuage the self-destruction and understand where this is coming from.
We try to listen, and to do justice - so right or wrong or understandable or not, this doesn’t happen again. And again. And again.

Or, y’know, make pithy comments while an injured community destroys itself and innocent bystanders.

+ what quarterframer & nanojath sed re: social protest vs riots, etc.


“He didn’t reach across for his Taser. He couldn’t have been thinking about that. He went directly for his gun.”

I want to address the taser/firearm thing, since Purposeful Grimace brought it up in the other thread and I’d only done that tangentially and Bruce Siddle out here has spoken in the press about this.

Siddle says basically if the cop was under stress he wouldn’t have been able to distinguish between a Taser and his service pistol.

Well, he’s an expert and I’m loathe to disagree with him. The problem though is all the contingencies and variables.

My point on training - when one is very well trained, everything else becomes muted.
e.g. racism.
Very few bigots survive military service with the ideas they had going in remaining intact when they leave.

I’ve read that there were some racist epithets shouted here. That, in my mind, could lead to fear and a stress response which could lead to a mistake, sure.

But the flaw is in the response and what the pecieved goal here was. It SHOULD have been deescalation and restoration of order.

Instead the focus - of all the officers involved from what I see in the footage - was on subduing the suspect.

Typically when I enter a violent situation, I’ve already won. That is, I’ve got back up, the cops are on the way, I’m better armed, I control the environment, circumstances, etc. etc. so I don’t have to rely on violence to achieve my goal - it is, at best, one of the tools I have.

That’s the flaw here. They didn’t have a goal that could be achieved without the use of violence.
This was a riot in microcosm. By definition. Because they had lost control.
Violence cannot restore control.

Only the aquiescence of your opponent can do that. That’s how one achieves a victory. It’s why I’m alive.

And, IMHO, if he were better trained, he’d have be able to control the situation and his stress response and Siddle’s work on the matter generally agrees with that.

So – maybe, sure, he pulled the wrong gadget. Doesn’t excuse anything though. (Because as I’ve said, you shouldn’t be relying solely on the gadget or violence in the first place).

If it was a mistake, if he pulled his sidearm instead of a Taser, he should still go to jail.

And I still think the taser would have been out of line as well.

Siddle did some work on stress and sympathetic fire (cases of the police mass firing on someone discussed in the other thread).

Think this riot was bad? What if the other officers joined in and they cycled their rounds through this guy because they thought their lives were in danger as a result of this one cops reaction?

Too many police departments don’t train the way the real world demands. Especially not in teamwork.
I mean you go to the range you’re still qualifying in the weaver stance from a cool head.

Well who the hell shoots that way in a life or death situation?
I am (and people I’ve trained) are alive because I train the way I fight.
I posted the Shockknife here a bit ago. It’s a pretty intimidating little gizmo (if you dial it up all the way). It hurts. And it should. Badly. You should fear it. I’ve electrocuted people’s genitals with it (no - uh, suspects or anyone, students).

Know what happens? They learn not to lean back with their gonads sticking out.

Same deal here. Even if this was a complete mistake, it’s still an utter failure.
And completely not surprising that people reacted this way.

I’ve argued on the way we fought in Iraq and against torture on the same principles. People are interconnected.

Violence isn’t an end in and of itself or some kind of magic wand that gets people to do things.
Violence, like fire, propogates and reiterates.
Professionals know this.

Amatuers make violence and weapons a fetish.

This ‘which thing should he have drawn’ is red herring bullshit (on the order of “well, Saddam was a bad- guy anyway” or “ticking time bomb” - ignores so many real world practical variables in favor of speculative theory)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:56 PM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


jock@law : I'm not a law-enforcement officer or member of the military. I don't put my life on the line every day.

Which shouldn't make any difference towards the law being applied to you. If you are a LEO or soldier and you illegally shoot someone in front of a bunch of witnesses, you are still supposed to have the full force of the law brought to bear against you.

If I shot someone laying on the ground on his back, it would be a random and gratuitous thing.

Or it could have been an accident, or a mistake, but it's still a violation of the law, and you would still be held responsible for it.

Detention is not about revenge. It's about protecting people against violent acts. If there's no reason to believe this guy will do it again (I don't think there is), then there's no reason for him not to be free pending charges.

I disagree; detention is most certainly about revenge, at least partially so. It's called a punishment for a reason. Nonetheless, even if it was just about protecting people, and we are incredibly charitable and assume that he shot by accident, I see no reason to believe that anyone is safer for him being free. He obviously doesn't know how to control his weapon, and since he wasn't immediately suspended I can only assume that until he resigned, he was still in possession of his firearm. Even under my most benign read of the events, he still constitutes a threat to the public.
posted by quin at 1:59 PM on January 8, 2009


Hundreds attend BART board meeting -- with embedded videos of the meeting and related events.
posted by ericb at 2:05 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bageena: I'd have been much more impressed if the people who were THERE at the time had pulled a 'Let's Roll!' on the police, overtaking them, detaining them in the name of 'citizen's arrest'. I'm sure that probably wouldn't have ended well either, but it would have impressed the hell out of me and made for a terrific story. Some part of me really thinks that would have been the right thing to do, since the police officer really did commit murder.

Yeah, I knew some people who walked into a situation in which a police officer was beating a guy bloody and they tried to stop it. They tried to insert themselves between the officer and the guy on the ground. They got maced, beaten, arrested and charged with felony assault on a police officer. Acting on your conscience gets you fucked, that's where it gets you. The appropriate action is what people in this situation did. Videotape the motherfuckers.
posted by threeturtles at 2:09 PM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Detention is not about revenge. It's about protecting people against violent acts.

it's also about punishing the perpetrators of crimes.

If there's no reason to believe this guy will do it again (I don't think there is), then there's no reason for him not to be free pending charges. In the meantime, the DA's office can investigate.

investigate what? he should be brought up on charges of murder which can be plead down to manslaughter if the officer chooses to claim it was an accident. why should any charges be pending? what could they have to investigate? there's no question he did it. the idea that this is standard procedure is ludicrous. cops are subject to the same laws everyone else is.
posted by shmegegge at 2:10 PM on January 8, 2009


Bageena, what's interesting about Jefferson's comment is he's saying it doesn't matter if the rebels are right, and sets aside concern for the loss of life:
A little rebellion now and then is a good thing . . . .It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government... God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty . . . . and what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned, from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed, from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.
We don't have the stomach for Jeffersonian thought today.

Of course, they were attacking an armory, not running riot in the streets.
posted by vsync at 2:16 PM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey Pope Guilty, did you ever stop to think how counterproductive that is, in terms of effecting change?

Let's stipulate there's a lot of latent racism around. In our political system you still need to garner wide support to change things.

So when they see the niggers, as you so cutely called them, trashing their own neighborhoods, it's going to do nothing but confirm their prejudices. They're going to see a group of people — through their blinders, as homogeneous, of course — engaging not in civil protest, not in vengeance, but in what seems obviously just the containment of the angry black male breaking down.

The only answer to a situation like that is more police, given more discretion as to the use of force. Sadly, the only thing to be done is keep them in their place.

Is that what you really want? If not, then please stop doing everything you can to cast this as a race war.
posted by vsync at 2:22 PM on January 8, 2009


My son is mixed, which means "black". One of these days, not soon but in a decade or so, I'm going to have to try to give him a talk on a subject I only know about peripherally: how to minimize his odds of being murdered by the police simply because he's black. I must, for his own safety, try to instill in him a sense of paranoia about the police.

As much as I'd like to tell him to be a self-confident, assured, person in all circumstances I must tell him that, as a black man, he must learn how to behave as a beaten down, completely compliant and unresisting, serf when he sees any uniformed thug. Maybe 9 out of 10 cops won't want to torture him with a taser, or beat the shit out of him, just because they can. But how can he tell which are the crazy thugs looking for an excuse to fuck him up, and which aren't? His only recourse is to assume that *ALL* police are evil thugs seeking any opportunity to torture him they can find.

Obviously I don't support burning random cars, smashing random windows, etc. But I can sympathize with the impotent fury that prompts such actions. Anyone who doesn't match the straightlaced white guy image learns quickly that the police aren't his friends, that they can, and will, beat, torture, and murder anyone who deviates from that norm and they will get away with it. The first produces the fury, the second the impotence.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, the victims of the police can do to gain justice. The cops beat them, torture them, kill them, and the cops get medals. Even when there is video shot from multiple angles showing that the cop in question murdered a black man in cold blood the cop is most likely to get away with it. And, even if the cop gets a slap on the wrist, he's treated with kid gloves. No arrest, no bail, not even the mild unpleasantness of having to answer questions. The victims know that if the situation had been reversed they'd have been arrested instantly and during the arrest severely beaten, possibly beaten to death, that their trial would be quick, filled with fiery judicial condemnation of their abominable crime of cop killing, and they'd be guaranteed to be convicted and sent to death row.

There's only so long a people can be systemically abused and utterly powerless to do anything about that abuse, before they snap and lash out randomly. And of course the random lashing out does nothing, or possibly even makes the situation worse. I'm not saying they should riot, but merely that the riot was both inevitable and understandable.

troybob wrote Plus, it defies logic that a police officer would shoot a man who is on the ground being restrained, amidst witnesses and video cameras; yet the first conclusion of many is that he did so intentionally, with the added assumption that doing so is some kind of blanket policy of BART police, or all police.

You haven't been paying attention to the news lately. The police, never a group known for restraint, civility, or reason, have lately been made vastly worse by the introduction of tasers. They routinely torture people with tasers for shits and grins in order to produce an atmosphere of cowed fear among their victims. Anyone even slightly visibly not straight white and middle class normal knows that there are cops out there who are not just willing, but eager, to torture them with a taser simply for not being sufficiently subservient.

Its possible that the cop in question really did mistake his gun for a taser because he wanted to torture Grant. Its also possible that he just wanted to kill Grant and felt confident that his status as a cop would let him get away with it. The official video cameras aren't an issue, you'll note that BART initially denied that they even existed, if it hadn't been for the video (which the cops tried to confiscate, presumably to destroy) taken by private individuals we'd never have heard of this story. The official line would have been that Grant was dangerous, and the brave, heroic, police officer thought he was reaching for a gun. He'd have gotten a medal, and if the news covered it at all it'd be through the lens of the brave police facing the daily threat of black men with guns.

It doesn't defy logic at all to imagine that the cop was confident that he could shoot Grant and get away with it. It is only quite recently that personal video cameras have become even somewhat common. They aren't ubiquitous yet, its only by pure chance that we have video evidence of the murder, had a few people been in a different train car the cops would have covered it up they way they cover up any crimes by cops they can.

I work on the assumption that the police have a blanket policy of protecting police who randomly torture and murder anyone they can, because that appears to be the police policy. Hell, the police union is working diligently to threaten and intimidate coroners who report taser deaths as taser deaths. Its police policy to claim that all torture and murder by police officers is heroic defense of the law or fellow officers.

jock@law Please tell me you're getting into civil law and will never work a criminal case. Because if you can't see that there's something horribly, mind bogglingly, wrong with civilians involved in murder being instantly arrested (and beaten "while resisting arrest" if their victim was a cop), and police being treated with kid gloves, you're not merely clinically insane, you should be kept well away from criminal law where your lunacy will only affect people engaged in lawsuits, not risk getting someone a term in jail.
posted by sotonohito at 2:32 PM on January 8, 2009 [19 favorites]


Its possible that the cop in question really did mistake his gun for a taser because he wanted to torture Grant.

It's also possible that he was trying to pull his taser out in case he needed to use it rather than trying to torture him. Believe it or not, there is a middle ground between Hannibal Lecter and Jesus Christ. Jumping to the most extreme (and, again, bias-reinforcing) conclusions is silly--as is the idea that a police officer who just wants to kill somebody because he knows he'll get away with it would choose to do so in front of a crowd of people.

You can't call it bias when accusing police of characterizing all people of a certain race as criminal, and then turn around call it worldly wisdom to say that all police and their policies are unethical.
posted by troybob at 2:52 PM on January 8, 2009


Detention is not about revenge. It's about protecting people against violent acts.

Are there gumdrop streets and candycane trees in this world you live in? Since when was tossing a person in jail for smoking a joint about "protecting people against violent acts?" When HBPD tossed my friend in jail for throwing a water balloon in his own yard, they were trying to prevent a violent act[0]?

I said it before, but it bears repeating: if that officer had been arrested there wouldn't be riots in Oakland. So even if you believe that detention is this magical thing that is only used to prevent violent acts, detaining the officer would have prevented violent acts. Like, you know, riots.
posted by ryoshu at 3:06 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


troybob writes "It's also possible that he was trying to pull his taser out in case he needed to use it rather than trying to torture him."

Then how'd he manage the 4 to 10 pounds of pressure needed to pull the trigger of the gun? And if he thought it was a taser, and only accidentally pulled the trigger, how convenient that instead of making a wild shot, he hits the victim.

Just how "unlucky" and inept is this cop supposed to be? He draws from the wrong (gun) side of his body, he doesn't notice the drawn weapon's different feel and quintuple weight, he accidentally aims it despite the wrong weight, and then accidentally pulls the trigger? And then after this absurd series of "accidents", handcuffs the bleeding victim instead of immediately providing medical aid. Inspector Closeau, Barney Fife, and the Keystone Kops combined couldn't carry off such a contrived chain of "accidents".
posted by orthogonality at 3:16 PM on January 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


As far as the lack of media attention goes: Yeah, not much. It's frustrating, sure, but there's probably some apprehension re: sparking new riots nationwide. If that's the case, maybe it's a bit too Archie-Bunker-race-riot-paranoia on the part of the media, but it probably wouldn't be the outrage of the century if they were to wait until the situation cooled off a bit before kicking into Columbine mode.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:23 PM on January 8, 2009


And since I still seem to be filled with righteous indignation: It's been a week since the shooting and the officer that shot and killed an unarmed man has not been questioned. Are you fucking kidding me? How much investigating needs to go on before the DA's office calls the officer up and says, "hey, we'd like to ask you what happened when you shot Oscar Grant?" The only way the city could fuck this up more is if they held a ticker tape parade for Officer Mehserle.
posted by ryoshu at 3:28 PM on January 8, 2009


As far as the lack of [national] media attention goes...

Looks to me like there's plenty of national coverage -- ABC, AP, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, NPR, not to mention world coverage.
posted by ericb at 3:35 PM on January 8, 2009


Sys Rq writes "As far as the lack of media attention goes: Yeah, not much. It's frustrating, sure, but there's probably some apprehension"

For the last, what, eight months, "TOT MOM" Casey Anthony has been the topic of Nancy Grace's evil show, every night. But then, the tot was white.

American media figures that America doesn't care when a heroic "first responder" kills a black man. We saw it in the original thread: even on metafilter, even with video footage to the contrary, we had people defending the cop and suggesting the victim was probably a criminal or otherwise at fault.
posted by orthogonality at 3:36 PM on January 8, 2009


troybob wrote It's also possible that he was trying to pull his taser out in case he needed to use it rather than trying to torture him.

No, it isn't. Because Grant was already lying face down on the ground, with two cops holding him down when Mehserle pulled out his gun, took aim, and murdered Grant. Why, exactly, would anyone need to pull out a taser to cover a person who is lying face down on the ground and being held by two cops? The only possible need in that circumstance is the pathological need of the evil, murdering, cop to torture Grant for not being sufficiently compliant.

Again, you don't appear to be following the news WRT cops and tasers. Maybe you think this is the Andy Griffith show where cops are nice smiling men who respect the citizenry and blanch in horror at the very concept of police brutality. Meanwhile, in the real world, there are daily reports of cops using tasers as instruments of torture in an effort to instill terror and fear born compliance in people who aren't white, straight looking, and middle class.

A cop pulling out a taser when the suspect is on the ground, held by two other cops, and about to be handcuffed is not a cop pulling out a taser fearing that he'll need it to prevent the suspect from harming others. He is, however, a cop pulling out a taser with the intent of torturing someone.
posted by sotonohito at 3:38 PM on January 8, 2009


I'm doing social work in the judicial system now so I'm in criminal court twice a week and I ear hustle as many cop conversations as I possibly can. I overheard three cops in the elevator two weeks ago talking about the average time it takes for Internal Affairs to initiate an investigation into a police shooting. This one cop was asking the other cops if they knew how long it took because he knew another cop who shot someone 8 months ago and hasn't heard anything from anyone at Internal Affairs yet. According to the other officers in Philly it takes about a year and a half for an Internal Affairs investigation to start.
posted by The Straightener at 3:42 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Demand The DA Arrest Cop Who Murdered Oscar Grant
"This is about justice for the execution of a young Black worker, father and son.
ALAMEDA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
1225 Fallon Street # 900
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 272-6222
(510) 271-5157 fax
Call and fax the DA to demand that Mehserle be arrested and charged with murder.

Let's support those arrested folks -- go to the court date tomorrow [Friday 01/09/09] at 2 p.m., Room 107 in the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse.

Call the Lawyers Guild (415-285-1011) if you have been arrested or know of those who have been arrested.

Let's get together and focus our rage and anger toward the right targets not each other."
posted by ericb at 3:43 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


we had people defending the cop and suggesting the victim was probably a criminal or otherwise at fault.

and here I was waiting for just one comment from orthogonality where he wouldn't be a disrespectful prick towards anyone not completely agreeing with him. sadly extremists don't do reason.
posted by krautland at 3:45 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, chiming in way late here and I'll admit I have read all 220+ comments in relation to this post.

But here's what I have to say, from someone who was there.

First of all, I don't usually get all involved with spouting my opinions on the internet because I don't always have the popular opinion and someone always ends up humiliating me in some way, but here goes.

I live and work in Oakland. I actually went down to the Fruitvale BART to take part in the peaceful protest. It was a splinter group of people who broke off and started all the ruckus on the way to and in downtown Oakland.

It saddens me that there always seems to be on group of troublemakers who simply want to smash things up. It saddens me that this energy could be used to do positive things, rather than tearing up our city. I am deeply troubled that this splinter group of protesters (rioters at this point) felt that they had to target small businesses who had nothing whatsoever to do with the shooting. How does that solve anything?

Do I believe that the officer involved should be held accountable for his actions? You bet. But the way to get that accountability is not through violence and destruction. I've heard some people calling for immediate action -- and that's tantamount to a lynch mob. Have we learned nothing? We do have a justice system in place and I say let it runs it's course first. I strongly believe that he gets his day in court, just like anyone else. Justice is not swift for a reason.

Unpopular opinion: I actually don't believe he meant to shoot him. I believe me might of thought he had his tazer, not his gun. Not that it's an excuse and I'm sick of watching the police departments treat people poorly, but yeah.. that's what I think maybe happened. Think about it. You are a police officer and you know there are at lease a hundred people looking on from a BART train. You gonna just pull your gun and shoot someone in the back who is lying on the ground? Probably not. Or are you going to do something like that when you think no one is looking? Again, not an excuse and he should be held accountable but I just don't think it was a malicious act.

Anyway, I live just about exactly 1 mile from 14th & Broadway in downtown Oakland. I took a bit of video of all the helicopters flying over head at 11PM last night, but I otherwise didn't get involved after I left the (still) peaceful protest. I finally had to put in earplugs at 1AM in order to get any sleep.
posted by trixare4kids at 3:47 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]



Whoops, I need to clarify. I was at the peaceful part of the protest, I was NOT at the shooting itself.
posted by trixare4kids at 3:49 PM on January 8, 2009


Again, you don't appear to be following the news WRT cops and tasers.

Yeah, but I also don't bet on red at the roulette wheel because the last five spins all turned out black. This incident and its details--which, recall, remain mostly unknown--is a case independent of the variety of biases, paranoid fantasies, and persecution complexes being hurled at it. There are too many variables and possibilities here to just know what happened here. And it's as disingenuous to assert the cop's guilt here as it is to assert his innocence (particularly when either view is predicated on the simple fact that he is a cop.)
posted by troybob at 3:56 PM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


It saddens me when people who ostensibly care so passionately about civil liberties deliberately choose to know so little about them.

Though I have to admit I enjoyed being called clinically insane by someone who can't distinguish between his imagined reality and actual reality.
posted by jock@law at 4:07 PM on January 8, 2009


lilkeith07 writes "I just told my mom that there were riots happening in Oakland about the shooting and she asked why, and I told her about the shooting and the police or city hadn't taken any actions and she said 'Are you surprised? Police protect themselves and coworkers first, its always been that way and it will always be that way.'"

Yeah, and that's why we always need independent civilian oversight of any PD or policing authority. The people should always have a say above and beyond the authority of the badge.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:09 PM on January 8, 2009


krautland writes "and here I was waiting for just one comment from orthogonality where he wouldn't be a disrespectful prick towards anyone not completely agreeing with him."

Um, how was I being a prick by simply noting that some people defended the cop an suggested Oscar Grant was at fault? How is pointing out what the comments in a thread contain being a prick?
posted by orthogonality at 4:11 PM on January 8, 2009


trixare4kids writes "Again, not an excuse and he should be held accountable but I just don't think it was a malicious act. "

Malice or incompetence. Not great choices.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:11 PM on January 8, 2009


Wait a minute. Are the BART police Transit Cops?

This blows my mind. In Vancouver people were shocked when they found out the Skytrain Police had tasers. If those rent-a-cops compiled the kind of record I'm reading about... well... I don't think they'd even get that far. Even our "tough-on-crime" guys would come down on them like a ton of bricks. They'd be dissolved and the Municipal police and RCMP would be sent to handle it. At least I hope that's what would happen. You never really know. How did the people in SF city hall let it get this bad? I really would appreciate a history so I know when that bullshit starts sliding North.
posted by Pseudology at 4:17 PM on January 8, 2009


A cop pulling out a taser when the suspect is on the ground, held by two other cops, and about to be handcuffed is not a cop pulling out a taser fearing that he'll need it to prevent the suspect from harming others. He is, however, a cop pulling out a taser with the intent of torturing someone.

Well, that's what I find so creepy about the discussion around this thing. You're so sure of your conclusion and the motive of the cop that you leave no room for any other possibility, though your conclusion has no factual basis. It's strange how these stories come out now and then that inspire not only a willful, but a gleeful suspension of critical thinking.

Were I so inclined to play mindreader, I might assume that your concern for the victim or for justice takes a backseat to your long-winded delight at having a cop to pin it on.
posted by troybob at 4:17 PM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


There are too many variables and possibilities here to just know what happened here.

Because maybe Oscar Grant was a Cylon?

I mean really, what Civilian Academy do I have to go to to learn a more non-threatening position than unarmed, face down with my hands on my back to NOT be tased, shot or otherwise considered a threat?

And I'm asking seriously, because 2 months ago BART police pulled me off the train because they thought I looked like someone else.
posted by yeloson at 4:26 PM on January 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


“And if he thought it was a taser, and only accidentally pulled the trigger, how convenient that instead of making a wild shot, he hits the victim... Just how "unlucky" and inept is this cop supposed to be?”

Well, it is possible. Fear does make people do goofy things. I mean, isolating just the response - taking the improper escalation of force off the table - if he *had* to access a weapon on his belt - baton, taser or firearm - it is entirely possible he was thinking one thing and did - with apparent deliberation - something completely different.
It does happen.
Stress results from interpretation of and reaction to events, not the events themselves. The perception of a stressful event depends on training, experience, self-confidence, etc.
(Nifty police study here it’s in PDF)
So, how you look at this and how I look at this are different that from how this cop was seeing it first hand.

Many folks who’ve been in firefights report never having looked at their sights. According to one study, 93 percent of police officers focused on the threat, not their sights and wound up using both eyes. Which is a natural human instinct, to go to binocular focus. And you get tunnel vison from the adrenal response, all that.
It’s just not what’s trained. (They sell gizmos to counter that - Sure Sight f’rinstance. Not bad really. Training is better.)

...of course, none of that absolves any responsibility or refutes any assertions other than just the disbelief that such a thing can’t happen.

I won’t refute your other speculation. In part because I don’t really know. And in part because, yeah, maybe it did happen that way too.
I don’t know that anyone was defending the cop here exactly. Just mostly speculation the other way really.

“because I don't always have the popular opinion and someone always ends up humiliating me in some way, but here goes.”

In solidarity and sympathy with trixare4kids I shall humiliate myself.
*wets pants*

Er...I was thinking ‘pie in the face’ but I got a little excited.

“Think about it. You are a police officer and you know there are at lease a hundred people looking on from a BART train.”

See, to my mind that’s what makes it all the more egregious a mistake. Let’s give the cop 100% benefit of the doubt. Ok - the scenario is you have a group of people, an argument, etc. and you’ve got one of their number on the ground. Is the area secure? No? Well, if you’re pulling your weapon in close quarters, how do you know someone won’t take it away from you?
So it is secure? Ok. Is the suspect subdued? Well, yes he is. So why are you pulling your weapon?

Again - the assumption you (and others - of the opposite opinion) are making is that someone either deliberately does this or is thinking rationally, about, say, consequences.

There are times, and during this kind of stress response is one of them, when one can quite literally be of two minds. Where you’re thinking, “I’m going to quiet the baby down” and your arms are doing something quite a bit more malevolent.
And it doesn’t stop until your lizard brain stops feeling the heat.
And that’s when you go “Oh my God what have I done?”

On the other hand, maybe he thought he wasn’t on video. Or he thought he was pulling a baton even. Who knows?
I don’t. I doubt even the cop himself does at this point.

But if we grant the police officer the courtesy of understanding his human instinctual response in a stressful situation - even as we do not condone it - why then do we not extend the same courtesy to the rioters?
And vice versa. Finding fault is easier than finding a solution. Takes patience. Tough for an animal with proportionately the largest adrenal glands in nature.

Stress, fear, response to events, perception, takes many forms. We must dispassionately recognize the enemy here is within us all and guard against it before we try assign fault or separate one form of flame from another.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:26 PM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


You're so sure of your conclusion and the motive of the cop that you leave no room for any other possibility, though your conclusion has no factual basis.

There's so much room for rampant speculation because it has been a week and no one has thought it would be prudent to ask the officer why he shot an unarmed man in the back.
posted by ryoshu at 4:26 PM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]



"Malice or incompetence. Not great choices"

krinklyfig, you are exactly right. Indeed, they are not great choices; however, they are different things.
posted by trixare4kids at 4:30 PM on January 8, 2009


(Not, again, that this cop in particular shouldn’t go to jail, but I’d like to see some consequences that address the deeper problem more broadly rather than the symptom, so police events don’t ever have this kind of outcome - regardless of where the individual fault lay. This is bad for everyone. I mean, the other problem with riots - you can appease them with a scapegoat.)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:34 PM on January 8, 2009


There's so much room for rampant speculation because it has been a week and no one has thought it would be prudent to ask the officer why he shot an unarmed man in the back.

Yeah, the logical conclusion is that those investigating are too stupid to have considered that. It's not like there could be any other reasons, procedural or legal or whatever. Nice job spelling that out for us.
posted by troybob at 4:34 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute. Are the BART police Transit Cops?

This blows my mind. In Vancouver people were shocked when they found out the Skytrain Police had tasers. If those rent-a-cops compiled the kind of record I'm reading about... well... I don't think they'd even get that far.


They are law enforcement officers of the State of California, and they have jurisdiction throughout the state. They are not rent-a-cops.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:36 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the logical conclusion is that those investigating are too stupid to have considered that. It's not like there could be any other reasons, procedural or legal or whatever. Nice job spelling that out for us.

troybob, I understand what you're getting at, but really. I think the point a lot of people are driving at is that if one of us had shot and killed somebody in front a bunch of people (some of whom were videotaping it), we wouldn't be walking around for a week waiting for the authorities to get their ducks in a row. Just wouldn't happen. So take him into custody and figure out what happened and I guarantee the riots would die down.
posted by billysumday at 4:38 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


But if we grant the police officer the courtesy of understanding his human instinctual response in a stressful situation - even as we do not condone it - why then do we not extend the same courtesy to the rioters?

Because the rioters have been trained. They go through training and learn how to perform under stressful situations. They learn how to control their emotions and react appropriately. They seek out the profession of rioter, apply, then study, train and learn from more experienced rioters. So that's why we hold the rioters to a higher standard.
posted by cashman at 4:38 PM on January 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


oneirodynia, is there any word of where the officer is right now? Protective custody? Undisclosed location but in the presence of law enforcement? All I know is he better not disappear.
posted by cashman at 4:40 PM on January 8, 2009


This youtube video was a new angle for me.
posted by cashman at 4:47 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the logical conclusion is that those investigating are too stupid to have considered that.

Apparently so. And that stupidity has led to riots.

It's not like there could be any other reasons, procedural or legal or whatever.

If you have some special insight into what procedures prevent the police or DA's office from questioning a man that shot another man in the back, please let us know. To outside observers it looks like the system is trying to protect one of its own.

Nice job spelling that out for us.

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
posted by ryoshu at 4:49 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


A boycott of BART (which would also be a general strike for many SF area inhabitants, unless they have some other way of getting to work) would have been more effective. Unfortunately, Oakland sounds like the kind of area where the inhabitants have crappy jobs, or don't have jobs at all, where they live. The rest of the city neither knows it nor is in sympathy with it (even before the riots). As for the professional anarchists, they took BART to get there.

The other thing to do is to make tasers illegal. There is a pile of evidence for their abuse by now. They weaken fire discipline. It's easier for a cop to reach for a supposedly non-lethal weapon, even though it can be and has been lethal in many instances, and that makes it easier for him to reach for the lethal weapon, whether by accident or on purpose.

Of course, the riots have spoiled any chance of these constructive actions.
posted by bad grammar at 4:54 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The roving mob expressed fury at police and frustration over society's racial injustice. Yet the demonstrators were often indiscriminate, frequently targeting the businesses and prized possessions of people of color."

Well, at least they're keeping tradition.
posted by Eideteker at 4:58 PM on January 8, 2009


In short (I plan to shut up and stop trying to make this point here) if you track community protest in Oakland, you'd think that the police are public threat #1, but as a citizen on the ground, I will be the first to say they are the last thing I worry about.

Or, to put it another way, the lefties who are pretending that murder of minorities by minorities is an uninteresting problem compared to murders of minorities by police appear to be in the same basket as righties who think that Amercians should be more concerned about terrorism than dying in a car crash or of a heart attack.

So that's why we hold the rioters to a higher standard.

Nicely played.
posted by rodgerd at 5:03 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Looks like we're going to need some warning labels. (PDF)
posted by mattdidthat at 5:06 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you have some special insight into what procedures prevent the police or DA's office from questioning a man that shot another man in the back, please let us know.

i don't have special insight except in the knowledge that the way things work is usually quite a bit more complex than as comprehended by the 24-hour-on-demand-hurry-up-news crowd. That there might be reasons they have not questioned him about it yet (if indeed that is the case) is a more logical explanation than that they don't know they should, or that they think it might go away if they ignore it--particularly with the public response and the political pressure they're surely getting over it. People who work in organizations are under policies and procedures that few people outside the organization (even sometimes within) don't understand the rationale for but that often exist for good reason, often proven by parallel or past experience.

Of course, that's not to say that they are following appropriate procedure or conducting a good investigation. But ignorance of the process doesn't mean there is not a legitimate one in place.
posted by troybob at 5:15 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Forgive me if this has been asked, but where are the statements of all the other people within 5 feet of the shooting? There are 2 other officers right there. What did they hear him say? What was said to Oscar right before Mehserle jumped on him? There are also two other men that were being detained right there. What are their accounts of what was said, what Mehserle said and his statements and reactions and demeanor? Again, it's been a full week since Oscar was killed.

If the investigation has that info but isn't releasing it, they should be providing some sort of details to inform people of the progress of things. The situation demands it because from a reasonable observer's point of view, a man was killed by a public official, there's video from like 5 different angles, and a week later the killer is free, having resigned to avoid having to speak to investigators.

After watching that latest video, I think he just got all big ruff and tough and pushed Oscar down, then wanted to get his gun out and be threatening, and he accidentally fired his weapon. It doesn't help that after that they don't seem to be overly concerned about Oscar's life. I saw video, or maybe a still image of them carrying Oscar out and they didn't seem to be in a hurry at all there either. I mean I know they're experienced and I don't expect them to wile out like it's the movies or something, but just all around there seems to be a desire to punk out everybody who was watching, and a general lack of care that Oscar had gotten shot.

That has to be the worst - having the bullet go through your back, bounce off the concrete and back into your upper body? Dear lord. And then he's turned on his back and his feet are waving and his hands are waving and I just feel so bad for his family.

As dumb as it sounds, I would have been totally okay if the officer would have come out the next day saying he pulled out his gun as a show of force (though that's surely against protocol) and it went off, and that he was incredibly sorry even though it wouldn't bring Oscar back. And said his name - Oscar. Oscar Grant. He would have been admitting guilt and would spend some time in jail, but you'd be surprised how forgiving some families are, and from what I saw, his family seems like one of those families. They know you're an officer, and they know you can make a mistake, and they can accept that. What is not acceptable, however, is running away and trying to pretend like you didn't gun this man, Oscar Grant, down.

But ignorance of the process doesn't mean there is not a legitimate one in place.

Then they need to inform, and loudly, the public of precisely the steps they take, generally. Shit, I know the president and vice president elect's secret service code names - I think these investigators can give some information out.
posted by cashman at 5:24 PM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


They are law enforcement officers of the State of California, and they have jurisdiction throughout the state. They are not rent-a-cops.

So are the Skytrain Police.

By Rent-a-cop I was referring to the dregs of the police force. Usually those with the least training and experiance.
posted by Pseudology at 5:25 PM on January 8, 2009


A little rioting can be a good thing, like a Forrest fire.

Burn Forrest, burn!
posted by Eekacat at 5:37 PM on January 8, 2009


Then they need to inform, and loudly, the public of precisely the steps they take, generally.

I think they could do a better job of the public relations aspect of it, particularly about how this kind of investigation works, but I tend to be more a fan of the release of a verified and complete account rather than the panic-driven release of bits of information. Were they to put out information too early and then have to retract or revise it, many would see that as a sign of a cover-up or would (still) blame them for not getting it out fast enough; but there's some stuff that just takes time and effort to figure out. The withholding of information in this case does not pose imminent danger, so I'd rather see a legitimate, well-documented investigative process that is not sacrificed for the sake of the news cycle.

I think a big problem here overall is many people have interpreted the oversimplification of news stories (not to mention crime procedurals) as a reflection of real life. There's never a shortage of people who think they know better on a subject than those who make it their life's work.
posted by troybob at 5:39 PM on January 8, 2009


In other news, a police officer shoots an unarmed black man.
posted by ryoshu at 6:15 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


troyboy & jock@law You both seem to be rather willfully ignoring the fact that one of the main contributors to a lot of the general bad feeling is that we're seeing a horrifyingly blatant example of the way the criminal justice system grants preferential treatment to cops.

If any civilian had shot a cop, accidentally or otherwise, they'd be in jail waiting for a trial. They wouldn't have been left to wander around free for five days before anyone even bothered to take a statement. They'd have been arrested (and most likely savagely beaten during the arrest, cops are quite uncivil towards cop killers), and they'd have been held in jail for the past five days.

The cop killed a civilian and five days later he's still wandering around, free as the proverbial birds, and no one seems interested enough in the fact that he killed a civilian to even take a statement from him. The one time I was in an automobile accident the police took a statement from me before I even left the scene of the accident. We're seeing that, to the police, the fact that a cop killed someone is apparently less urgent, less important, and less worth taking a statement about, than a traffic accident where no one was hurt, all parties were insured, and total damage to both vehicles wound up being under $500.

We are seeing a double standard. Civilian kills cop == all hell breaks loose, civilian is instantly arrested and held in jail. Cop kills civilian == no worries man, go home, drink a beer, and maybe in a week or so we'll ask you for a statement.

Why doesn't that double standard seem to worry you even slightly?

Why do you have a hard time seeing how that double standard would worry a lot of other people? Especially in light of the many documented instances of the police covering up crimes by police, and helping criminal cops escape punishment? Given that the police are charged with enforcing the law, shouldn't we hold them to a stricter standard than we hold civilians?

Smedleyman First an apology, I wrote a lengthy (and calmer) reply to you in the other thread and apparently didn't actually hit post, I just now noticed that my response isn't there. It wasn't my intent to just drop out, I always hate it when other people do that, so again my apologies.

As for your statements here, I can only say that if what you say is true then I think we'd probably be better off disarming cops and only giving them guns in emergencies, as in England. I'd rather not put my life in the hands of a guy who has his lizard brain trained to see me as a threat and shoot threats because he's feeling a bit panicky. Cops charged, chiefly, with making sure that people aren't misbehaving on the subway certainly shouldn't be carrying firearms.

I'd also suggest that, not merely in light of this incident, but in light of the hundreds of documented cases of abuse, we should immediately make it illegal for police to carry tasers. If the lizard brain is going to confuse a taser with a real gun, and cause the cop to start shooting wildly, the cop shouldn't be carrying a taser even if we do let them keep carrying firearms.

At the very least we should make the standard load for the guns carried by cops to be rubber bullets or something equally less than deadly. Better a fleeing perp escape than the cops randomly killing people because they got nervous.

But, since you are an expert in a related field, what's your suggestion? We've obviously got a suite of related problems here: cops routinely torturing people with tasers to enforce compliance, cops accidentally (or not) killing people, etc. You seem, and please correct me if I'm wrong, to be arguing that this sort of thing, while horribly unfortunate, is just something we have to expect, and its wrong to get overly worked up about it. Given that this is a legitimate problem (I assume you agree that police randomly tasering and/or shooting people is a legitimate problem), and given your experience, what is your suggestion for a solution? Does my suggestion of disarmament, and especially of taking the tasers away, seem deeply flawed to you?
posted by sotonohito at 6:39 PM on January 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


I was in Newark, NJ a couple of months ago and got to see the benefits of rioting (and racism) 40 years after the fact. Chicago still has empty lots where buildings were torched after Dr. King was assassinated. (A bunch of Life Magazine photos here). The need to do something, anything, based on the feeling of injustice and impotence is just to strong to ignore. I truly do not believe that anyone rioting is thinking about decimating some of the few pieces of infrastructure that they do have. Their reaction is to not just this incident, but to every real (or imagined) injustice that they have been subjected to.

I am keeping my fingers crossed for you all in Oakland.
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:01 PM on January 8, 2009


In other news, a police officer shoots an unarmed black man.
posted by ryoshu at 6:15 PM on January 8


jesus fucking christ
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:06 PM on January 8, 2009


Transit police should not be armed.

And Nia Sykes needs to be placed in a sturdy bag containing half a dozen cats and suspended over a low fire.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:26 PM on January 8, 2009


WHY IS THIS NOT GETTING NATIONAL MEDIA ATTENTION!!!!!

It's not getting national media attention because the national media has spent eight years externalizing and projecting all of America's problems on to foreigners.


I've been seeing this story all over CNN all day.
posted by the other side at 7:29 PM on January 8, 2009


How did the people in SF city hall let it get this bad?

BART isn't subordinate to the City or County of San Francisco, AFAICT. It's an independent agency set up to deliver transit across several municipalities and counties.

I can't find the organizational chart offhand, but I would not be surprised if authority flows directly from the Constitution of California to the BART Board of Directors (who are elected), or through enabling legislation from the Legislature directly to the Board.

Complex sets of overlaid independent governments are common in metro areas in the US.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:46 PM on January 8, 2009


Sotonohito, the problem with your post is the number of assumptions and leaps of logic it makes. This is the clearest video footage of the incident that I can find, and I neither see nor hear a shooting in it. While I have no doubt that the shooting occurred, the evidence that I'm aware of isn't solid enough to win a criminal trial on.

In the meantime, it's been a week. Immediately following an incident, the PD begins its investigation. It will examine the scene, interview witnesses, talk to the suspect. In this case, it would probably also have begun an internal affairs investigation, which may have been cut short by the officer's resignation. If the police believe there's an immediate danger to others, they may detain the suspect immediately. After preliminary investigation by the PD, the warrant officer will go to the DA's office and present a case for the DA to authorize a warrant. This typically only happens 1-2 days of the week. In my office, we wrote warrants every Friday morning. This warrant is not an arrest warrant, but a formal charging document. If the DA does not believe that there is enough evidence to file charges yet, the DA will work with the PD to continue the investigation. Eventually, if enough evidence is gathered, the DA will file the charges, and the suspect may be arraigned. Note that in many jurisdictions, there is a limit on how long you may hold a suspect without filing charges, so even if an arrest is made, the suspect cannot be held indefinitely while the PD does its preliminary investigation; however, usually at arraignment or shortly after at a separate hearing, bond will be set. If bond is met, the suspect may be released. This is critical for the defendant, particularly in complex cases such as murder, because otherwise the defendant will not have the time or resources to begin preparing his own defense. Statistics on convictions show that, of defendants who go to trial, defendants who are released on bond are significantly more likely to prevail in court. Sometimes a plea offer will be made at arraignment or bond hearing. Next comes either indictment by a grand jury or a preliminary examination by a judge, depending on your jurisdiction. In a lot of prelim jurisdictions, the prosecutor gets the defendant to waive the prelim in return for holding the plea offer open. There are various opinions on the practice, ranging from finding it anywhere from nefarious (viewing it as extortion) to practical (if the prosecutor's office is going to expend the time to actually conduct the prelim, then it may as well go to trial, because at that point plea offers don't actually save a lot of prosecutorial resources). Pretrial conferences and settlement conferences may be called. Eventually a trial date is set. And the rest you can view on Law & Order.

My point in all of this isn't to give you an oversimplified, off-the-cuff (I'm sure there are some inaccuracies in my account but I'm not in the mood to bring my crim pro tome off the dusty shelf) lesson in DA procedure. My point is that it takes a long time. Where do you expect the process to be right now? And how do you know it's not there? DAs offices tend not to comment on cases in progress, and for good reason: media coverage can taint your jury pool and make a valid conviction impossible. So how do you know? What basis do you have for your complaint? Because all I see on this board are unknowledgeable, uninformed, uneducated guesses by people who cheer on violence just because they can't stand The Man. Meanwhile, hundreds of people are terrorizing innocents for no good reason, and those ostensibly corrupt cops you keep complaining about are the only ones keeping Oakland from falling into total anarchy.

You wanna talk about double standards? Why is it that you all would go nuts if there were a news story about someone being denied due process, but in this case, just because the suspect is a police officer, you wanna lynch him?

I'm sorry, but the response on this board breaks my heart. I think it's wrong. I think it's vengeful. I think it's blind. And I just can't support it.
posted by jock@law at 8:07 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


jock@law: I think that your video ends a minute or so before the shot. You might want to check out the video linked in this comment by cashman for a clearer view. Combine that video with the cellphone footage in this news report (at about 110 seconds in) for some correlation of the action.
posted by simoncion at 8:27 PM on January 8, 2009


A boycott of BART (which would also be a general strike for many SF area inhabitants, unless they have some other way of getting to work) would have been more effective. Unfortunately, Oakland sounds like the kind of area where the inhabitants have crappy jobs, or don't have jobs at all, where they live. The rest of the city neither knows it nor is in sympathy with it (even before the riots). As for the professional anarchists, they took BART to get there.

Actually, they're more like professional Maoists than professional anarchists. The SFGate said that a lot of the instigators came from Revolution Books in Berkeley, which is basically an outfit of Bob Avakian's Revolutionary Communist Party. If there were some Black Bloc dudes with black bandannas, then I might say anarchists, but I haven't seen any in the press coverage.

This is how you keep it straight:

Revolutionary Communist Party: Protest shooting of black youth by BART cop. Riot. Go home on BART train.

Black Bloc: Throw rock through window of Starbucks. Go across the street. Buy coffee from the Starbucks across the street.
posted by jonp72 at 8:31 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


jock@law: This appears to be a longer (but poorer quality) version of the video that you linked to.
posted by simoncion at 8:34 PM on January 8, 2009


My point is that it takes a long time.

I realize you're trying to make things seem really complex, but it just doesn't work as an excuse here. It's like someone asking why their post was deleted and imagining one of the mods here saying "well the way computers work is that an electrical grid is powered by the blah blah blah and then the signal is sent through fiber optic cables throughout the blah blah blah.

Dude, people keep making the point - it doesn't take this long when there's this much information, this much on the line, this many witnesses and then add in the behavior of the former officer-killer. If I, in full view of the police, legally had a firearm and shot somebody, I would not be roaming free, having provided no statement to police.

You wanna talk about double standards? Why is it that you all would go nuts if there were a news story about someone being denied due process, but in this case, just because the suspect is a police officer, you wanna lynch him?

No I think people are saying there's more than enough information to charge the former officer with a crime, and that something is wrong when more than a week can go by without even a single word from the officer, then former officer.

I think "the response on this board" has been all over the place, and no one single viewpoint can encapsulate it all.

It really does get annoying to see that "oh it's just toooooo complicated" nonsense crop up. It pops up when minorities get "left out" of shows amid weak cries by hollywood and some in the public that it's just too hard to portray nonwhite experiences. It emerges in a number of situations and here it is again. Video from a bunch of different angles, police witnesses within 5 feet. 2 witnesses within 5 feet. Audio. Documented occurences. I mean shit, if there isn't enough information here to charge someone with a crime after more than a week, then hell, nobody should get charged with anything for at least a week minimum. Come on man. Claiming insider here isn't going to get it done.
posted by cashman at 8:42 PM on January 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


The other thing to do is to make tasers illegal.

Way-hey.

At CES/Las Vegas -- Taser International introduces the Taser MPH -- the first combination hand-held music player and Taser.
posted by ericb at 8:50 PM on January 8, 2009


Cashman, please point out where I said "it's just tooooo complicated"

If you're going to mischaracterize my statement, at least have the common courtesy to do it using actual quotes. This is somebody's life we're talking about. The policy discussion deserves better than your half-assed straw men.
posted by jock@law at 8:52 PM on January 8, 2009


At CES/Las Vegas -- Taser International introduces the Taser MPH -- the first combination hand-held music player and Taser.

Ever get the feeling that the USA has jumped the shark?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:01 PM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


posted by ericb At CES/Las Vegas -- Taser International introduces the Taser MPH -- the first combination hand-held music player and Taser.

If I was a cop, I'd want it to play "Shake Your Booty" or the Benny Hill theme. Or maybe just the "Stun" phaser sound from Star Trek.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:08 PM on January 8, 2009


My point is that it takes a long time.

unless, of course, you're a civilian, in which case it takes about as long as it takes to shove you into a cruiser and drive you to the jail

bureaucracy is not a substitute for justice

Why is it that you all would go nuts if there were a news story about someone being denied due process, but in this case, just because the suspect is a police officer, you wanna lynch him?

if wanting a cop to be arrested and put through the justice system is lynching, what do we call it when a white cop shoots a black man lying on the floor through the back?

what a disingenuous thing to say - you're really whoring yourself and the english language out by stooping to crap like this

I'm sorry, but the response on this board breaks my heart.

i'm sorry, but you'd have to convince me you have a heart before i'd believe that

you're a puppet in a stuffed suit with a briefcase - so easily bought and so desperate to please
posted by pyramid termite at 9:16 PM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


"As for your statements here, I can only say that if what you say is true then I think we'd probably be better off disarming cops and only giving them guns in emergencies, as in England. I'd rather not put my life in the hands of a guy who has his lizard brain trained to see me as a threat and shoot threats because he's feeling a bit panicky. Cops charged, chiefly, with making sure that people aren't misbehaving on the subway certainly shouldn't be carrying firearms"

I don't have a problem with that. Downside is, I still believe civilians should have access to firearms. I doubt law enforcement would go for that.
Of course, decriminalizing drugs would go a long way to easing some, hell, most of the problems cops face in lethal force.
A higher general standard of living would smooth out the rest. Speculative, but it has worked.

And let me clarify, my assertions are very narrow focused. I'm only saying it can happen. And I'm also saying it can be eliminated with better training.
I speculate that more money is funneled into equipment than training (although I've seen 1st hand evidence, but not enough to say that as a general rule) for purposes other than the best practices in law enforcement.
But again - it's doable. Even to very very close to 100 percent. I'd argue 100 percent, but even the Tokyo police break out firearms now and then.

So we're not in solid agreement but we're closely aligned here. I'm saying police officers should have training commensurate with their responsibilities.

Bearing a firearm in the enforcement of law carries with it a hell of a lot more responsibility than maybe shooting one guy by accident. As we see.
So it's not so much the gun thing here as it is the mindset of the police.
If that makes any sense.

"I'd also suggest that, not merely in light of this incident, but in light of the hundreds of documented cases of abuse, we should immediately make it illegal for police to carry tasers"

I agree with eliminating tasers as a standard piece of equipment. Don't know that it has to be made illegal though. It's enough to make it restricted. Not a lot of cops carry fighting knives f'rinstnce. But it's a specialized weapon and it can have its uses.
(As an example - someone violent with a weapon, threatening to kill themselves. It's silly to shoot someone with a gun pointed at their head. So - taser or shotgun baton - other specialized equipment)

"At the very least we should make the standard load for the guns carried by cops to be rubber bullets or something equally less than deadly"

Good God no. Rubber bullets ricochet all to hell and they can be lethal. It's a specific use kind of munition. Much like a taser. Much like a handgun. They have specific and narrow focused uses and if they're used outside of the spectrum they're intended for
things can go seriously awry.

I just want to stress here - it's not the cops having the wrong tool really. It's not a gizmo problem.

A bad carpenter can't build a decent house no matter how good a set of tools he has.

(which would serve as my response to your question on disarmament and taking tasers away - it's not the gizmo it's the program)

"You seem, and please correct me if I'm wrong, to be arguing that this sort of thing, while horribly unfortunate, is just something we have to expect, and its wrong to get overly worked up about it"

Yes, you're completely wrong, I'm not arguing that.
There are a great number of things we can do about it. Better training. A change in the professional police environment.
A major change in how law enforcement does business and gets outfitted. Greater public transparency and civilian accountability and oversight.
I'm not saying it's something we HAVE to expect and accept - on the contrary, I'm saying it's something we SHOULD expect and prepare and train officers against.

We know this is a response. we know it exists. It can be trained out of you.

Look at boxers - everything they do is mirror image to a natural response.
It's all backwards. Move in? to a punch coming at you? Who does that who hasn't been trained to?

But people can be trained to do it and do it well and do it so it's so natural they think it's ingrained from birth. So too - we can train cops against this. Because we know it's there.
Hell, I move like greased lightning. But that's only because I've gotten slow. I used to be supernatural. Zero lag time. Because I'd been trained by some of the best. And that was before I went into the military. So something like this has never happened to me. I've never applied any more or less force than I've intended to apply (within reasonable tolerances of course) so I've almost always gotten the result I've intended.

In terms of overly worked up - hell, I'm one of the folks cutting rioters a break. And on the same terms I'm giving the cop.
Same kind of human response to stress, they just don't (as cashman nicely augments my point there) have training. Even half-assed training. And I see it, it's this training lip service that is the problem. Cops get a lot of training. It's just not real world applicable. Why I don't know. Maybe it scares old ladies, I don't know.

As it is I recognize the enemy here is the violence itself, not who's perpetrating it. Uncontrolled violence is like an uncontrolled fire.
There's no right or wrong to it. Only victims. And it spreads. So yeah, I think getting overly worked up over it is a bad idea.

On the other hand, getting properly worked up over it, and in perhaps a sustained manner, is a very good idea.

Much the same way fire can be controlled and focused to heat your house.
But just 'cause it's warm doesn't mean you let it spread to the carpet and drapes because 'warm is good'.

And I'm just pointing out without certain safeguards, and under certain conditions - it's perfectly natural that fire spreads. Well, we know that. So we protect ourselves against fire. We have smoke detectors. We have flame retardant materials.

So - no flame resistant materials - you have a fire eventually.
Give a poorly trained group of cops handguns, eventually they shoot someone.
Law enforcement breaks down enough - eventually, like I said - riot, no duh.

I say that and folks get all put out of kilter. But if I hold a blowtorch to a bookshelf people know it's going to start a fire.
Well, just because humans are in the equation doesn't change the nature of anything. 'Should' doesn't factor into anything. This is the way it is.

And I'm saying we should expect - and account for - that lizard brain we know we have. And, like we protect ourselves from fire, take precautions.
Typically this is done through training.

We can't train masses of people not to riot, so we have to better train the cops who, if they fail, will cause riots the way a match to paper causes fire.

And we have similar safeguards on other things - due process, etc. Protects everyone. Or it's supposed to.
This is not to say the PR here wasn't an utter failure. Or we shouldn't question WTF the DA thinks they're doing.

But in these matters a focused, reasoned response is the most effective means and an angry or fearful or retributive response is inherently flawed whether it's understandable or not.

I apply that to the officers response as well as the riots. Doesn't mean I favor either. I recognize them as improper, albeit possibly understandable, responses.

With the caveat that yea, the police are supposed to be trained. Therefore what's the solution? Hang this particular asshole and it will all go away?

The problem with recognizing a problem is that people in stressed or passionate states tend to want to skip ahead. That makes you lose focus on the goal.

So I'd ask - what is the desired outcome here exactly?

Me, I'd be pretty happy if unarmed folks laying on the ground aren't shot by police anymore. How do we accomplish that?
Well, taking guns from cops isn't going to make guns go away. So, what, we disarm civilians first? And how many people are going to be shot in that operation?
But even allowing that - you still have to get the guns away from the cops. And now you don't have guns. But ok, oversight, pass laws, whatever.

Now cops don't have guns. And people don't have guns.
Think folks aren't going to get beaten to death? Oh, sure, not as easy. And there would be less accidents. But it's still not going to eliminate the core problem - which is preventing the behavior.
Which, as I've belabored, has less to do with whatever tool any given officer has in his hand than the other factors (training, civilian oversight, professional environment, etc. etc.)
posted by Smedleyman at 9:56 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Bearing a firearm in the enforcement of law carries with it a hell of a lot more responsibility than maybe shooting one guy by accident. As we see. So it's not so much the gun thing here as it is the mindset of the police."

Yeah, I'm shorthanding again because I'm short on sleep.

What I'm saying - firing as gun as a cop is more than just that event. It can lead to a riot. It can lead to someone's dad not coming home.
It can lead to many many things beyond just the firing of the weapon.
Therefore the responsibility is broader in scope than just one persons life. It carries with it a broad social impact.

The pistol itself isn't the problem because the police officer makes the exact same kind of statement with any encounter while on the job.
If he punches someone. If he throws someone down a flight of stairs. However he comports himself, makes an impact on society which could lead to
a social response, such as a riot or rebellion or vigilantism (if he's indifferent say) or any number of things.
Therefore the pivotal point - the point to attack - the point we can control - is officer behavior, not what tools he has at his disposal in execution of that behavior*

Make sense?


*(although what tools they carry is an argument to be had, I'm saying it's moot without controlling behavior, carrying guns, not carrying them, whatever - needs to rest on the foundation of proper behavior through training)
posted by Smedleyman at 10:07 PM on January 8, 2009


""I worked diligently for the past 72 hours, and for it to be destroyed by a group of anarchists was extremely upsetting. I felt like my integrity had been compromised.""

Other snippets:
"opportunists can quickly co-opt a loosely organized group"

""I uphold the whole protest from start to finish," said Reiko Redmond, one of several people from Revolution Books in Berkeley who were in Downtown Oakland on Wednesday night. She said called the events a "righteous rebellion" that stemmed from a long history of oppression and police brutality."

""If people committing violence are doing it to get attention," Blackmon said, "they certainly get more attention than people doing things peaceful and positive.""
posted by batmonkey at 10:09 PM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


PS: now it's getting plenty of national attention, btw.
posted by batmonkey at 10:10 PM on January 8, 2009


And to clarify on the gizmo/program argument. Police should have access to specialized equipment when the situation warrants it.
Cops shouldn't carry, say, high powered rifles with FMJ rounds. But, during the famous bank robbery in L.A. when the guys in body armor and
assault rifles put the LAPD through paces, that would have come in really handy. So - where circumstances warrant.
I'm very very strongly against the use of tasers as a tool of compliance.
(Never been a big fan of pain compliance in whatever form. You shouldn't rely on your opponent's weakness to place them where you want when you can
do that mechanically.)
So, I'm with Tuco. If you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk.
But if you don't have to shoot, don't go to this soft-core porn version. Do the damned job yourself(ves). Cut out the damned donuts and McDonalds.
Police are supposed to be stronger and in better shape than their civilian counterparts.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:20 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Worth noting:

Family and friends of Oscar Grant III pleaded for peace Thursday afternoon...

"I am begging the citizens to not use violent tactics anymore," said Grant's mother


It starts to choke me up if I think about the four year old daughter, I'm sure because my son is four as well and I basically can't take anything to do with children suffering anymore which is a handicap since the world is evil and horrible. Oh I am tired of this place.
posted by nanojath at 10:27 PM on January 8, 2009


It's not getting national media attention because the national media has spent eight years externalizing and projecting all of America's problems on to foreigners.

That's an interesting way to frame it.

'cause truth is that by focusing attention on terrorist attack threats, the rich and powerful have been able to steal all your money, take away a bunch of your freedoms, and heavily arm police against the citizens.

Another reason media monopolies are contrary to a free and democratic society. When the rich and powerful control the media message, you're kept in the dark.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:05 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but the response on this board breaks my heart. I think it's wrong. I think it's vengeful. I think it's blind. And I just can't support it.

You can't support people being arrested after shooting people in front of like a 50 people and 10 video cameras?

LOL.
posted by delmoi at 4:36 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or, to put it another way, the lefties who are pretending that murder of minorities by minorities is an uninteresting problem compared to murders of minorities by police appear to be in the same basket as righties who think that Amercians should be more concerned about terrorism than dying in a car crash or of a heart attack.

I'm sure the people who are upset about this are totally just hallucinating when they imagine all the problems caused by police in their own lives and in the lives of their friends when they feel like the police pose more problems then local hoodlums. I certainly couldn't be media hysteria (like with Terrorism)
posted by delmoi at 4:42 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


You wanna talk about double standards? Why is it that you all would go nuts if there were a news story about someone being denied due process, but in this case, just because the suspect is a police officer, you wanna lynch him?

I think it's less about saying everyone should be treated badly, and more about asking why a cop is treated well while other shooting suspects are treated badly. I don't condone that the police routinely rough up suspects that they arrest, but it's undeniable that the officer in this case is free from that kind of treatment. The solution is not that he should be beaten, but when an illegal and unjust punishment is handed out to all but a select group of people, it makes people angrier than if it had been applied to everyone.

And on the subject of questioning, it's significant that the officer isn't subject to the intense police interrogations that other suspects go through. Interrogators have documented bullying tactics that they use to obtain confessions, and yet in this case it seems that the office hasn't even been questioned. Again, I'm not advocating shady interrogation techniques for anyone, but it's hard to say that our justice system treats everyone equally when a police officer caught on tape shooting someone is treated one way and everyone else is treated another way.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:34 AM on January 9, 2009


jock@law: My point is that it takes a long time.

You're so full of shit I can see it coming out of your ears:

10/16/2008: Man Killed at Hayward Bart Station: ... 18-year-old Joshua Ligons of Hayward ... and a 77-year-old Fremont man were shot at about 12:40 p.m. Monday at the station ... Ligons died at a local hospital. The other victim, whose name wasn't released, suffered a non-life-threatening injury ... The chief said investigators are trying to determine a motive for the shooting and are reviewing surveillance video from a camera at the station.

10/19/2008: Man arrested in fatal Hayward BART shooting: Kentwan Hawkins, 20, of Hayward was being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin in connection with the shooting last Monday that killed Joshua Ligons, 18, of Hayward.

Same department. Same crime. Same video evidence. 72 hours. The only difference here is that the suspect is a cop.
posted by jacobian at 6:26 AM on January 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


jock@law wrote You wanna talk about double standards? Why is it that you all would go nuts if there were a news story about someone being denied due process, but in this case, just because the suspect is a police officer, you wanna lynch him?

What are you talking about? Neither I, nor anyone else, has demanded that the cop be denied due process, or be lynched [1]. I'm merely demanding that he be treated the exact same way a person who was seen to shoot an immobilized and face down cop would be treated. I'm asking for a single standard for all people who are seen to shoot unarmed people in the back while the victim is lying face down on the floor and being restrained by two armed people.

You say "these things take time", but you're lying through your teeth. These things don't take any time at all. If me and two of my buddies went to the subway, wrestled a random guy to the ground, and I shot him in the back while my buddies held him down we'd be in jail. We'd have been arrested on the spot. We wouldn't be wandering around, six days after the killing. They haven't even asked the murdering cop any questions, much less arrested him.

That is a double standard. Can you please address this point? If you don't believe there is a double standard in how police who are killers are treated, and how non-police who are killers are treated, can you link to evidence showing the cases of non-police killers who are not arrested, who are not detained, and who aren't even asked any QUESTIONS for a week after the killing? And, no, soldiers in battles don't count.


[1] BTW: nice way to use that term in reference to a white cop accused of murdering a helpless black man. I'm sure the other people down at the Rush Limbaugh Reading Room think you're a real wit. Way to show those dirty fucking hippies that they're the real bigots!
posted by sotonohito at 8:18 AM on January 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Oakland protest organizer watched in horror
"The man who organized Wednesday's BART police protest said he broke down in tears when he saw his peaceful march turn violent as some participants began throwing bottles, spitting on police cars and setting small fires.

Evan Shamar said he left the demonstration and watched on television as the situation got worse.

'I was devastated by it,' said Shamar, 24, a photographer who lives in Oakland. 'I worked diligently for the past 72 hours, and for it to be destroyed by a group of anarchists was extremely upsetting. I felt like my integrity had been compromised.'"
posted by ericb at 8:23 AM on January 9, 2009


Smedleyman I think we mostly agree on the subject of root causes. I will add that I think the pervasive culture of corruption in the police, and specifically a culture of silence and revenge against snitches helps remove some of the governors from police behavior. Certainly no one in a stressful situation thinks "since my fellow police will cover up any of my misbehavior to the greatest extent possible I can run hog wild if I want", but I don't think its unreasonable to suppose that the knowledge that the police will help their fellows avoid penalties for misbehavior doesn't encourage the lizard brain to go wild.

However, I think that from a solution tactics standpoint I do disagree with you. Yes, striking at the root cause of a combination of pervasive corruption and poor training would be ideal. But I don't see how that can be successfully accomplished, or even attempted. The current American culture is such that even centerist/liberal types will tend to reflexively vote against restraints on police behavior, against judges who are too willing to prosecute criminal police, etc. "Git tuff" is still a mantra the wins votes despite the fact that its a proven failure.

I do, however, think that while it isn't politically possible to get reform of the system, it should be possible to alter the mix of tools available to the police so as to minimize their excesses. It isn't the best solution, but its the only one that I think has a chance of success at the moment. I think that, despite the "git tuff" mentality, a campaign to strip police of their tasers could succeed where a campaign to reform the police and intensively retrain them wouldn't. Among other things, extensive retraining is expensive, while simply denying equipment is quite cheap.

I will bow to your superior knowledge WRT rubber bullets. Are there any other less than lethal ammunition types that you think wouldn't pose that sort of danger that you might recommend? What about taking away handguns entirely and substituting shotguns (sawed off perhaps) loaded with flexible baton rounds? I suspect that'd have less political possibility of success than retraining/reforming, but it'd be interesting to hear your opinion on the topic if you've got the time to expound.

And maybe my proposed incremental solution of taking away tasers would be a bad idea in the long run. Perhaps what is needed is for the situation to get visibly worse in order to produce the political will to strike at the root causes as you recommend. As camera phones become increasingly commonplace we'll be seeing a lot more video of police abuse.

I will admit a personal preference for immediate action. A project to reform and retrain the police is a vastly longer term project than one to alter police equipment. To accomplish the first will require a substantial change in American culture, and I'll concede that as a long term project its worthy of a lot of money and time. In the short term, however, people are being killed and tortured by the police and, as I demonstrated in the last thread, I have a difficult time not seeking immediate relief for that problem.
posted by sotonohito at 8:38 AM on January 9, 2009


jacobian: According to those articles, that shooting happened on Monday, 08-10-13. The shooter was ID'd on Wednesday, the 15th. He was arrested on Sunday, the 19th. So, this is more like a 96 hour response time. (Even though investigations probably began immediately.)

Though, if the process at jock@law's office is a common one, we were lucky that the shooting didn't happen at the wrong time in the week. The alleged shooter in this particular case might have had nearly a whole week to walk around free before he was charged!
posted by simoncion at 8:38 AM on January 9, 2009


Thanks for the correction, simoncion. The timeline was indeed more like a week from the shooting to the arrest, and about four days from identifying the shooter until his arrest. I'll note too that there's not yet been a trial, and Hawkins has been held without bail since his arrest.

Mehserle, on the other hand, hasn't even been interviewed nine days (and counting) later, and continues to walk free. Meanwhile, the Oakland DA has said it'll be two weeks until a decision on criminal charges is made.
posted by jacobian at 9:44 AM on January 9, 2009


We are seeing a double standard. Civilian kills cop == all hell breaks loose, civilian is instantly arrested and held in jail. Cop kills civilian == no worries man, go home, drink a beer, and maybe in a week or so we'll ask you for a statement.

I understand your frustration but there actually is a difference beyond the one you pointed out here: the officer is supposed to go outside with a gun and he is supposed to seek the most troublesome spots. a civilian shooting someone has passed an even higher barrier for surprise: not only did he shoot someone, he also had a gun on the street in the first place, which most of us are not supposed to carry. the fear here is that he might do it again with the next person he sees.

I think it's terrible that the officer hasn't been interrogated within hours of the shooting. a bail hearing should have been conducted the very next day and a district attorney should have decided whether to consider filing charges. I wouldn't have bemoaned had a judge said okay, I see why you had a gun and I see there is a chance this might have been an accident, go home on bail for now" but that hasn't happened. that's where the process broke down.

I personally hold an opinion as to the guilt of this officer after having seen especially the last video linked in this thread but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the presumption of innocence and wait for due process (aka. a trial) to take place. that is what I would hope for and expect were this me. the travesty is that the process is executed differently in this case but that's something I blame the prosecutors for. that cops try to protect cops doesn't surprise me at all. families protect each other and so do people in most other companies.

posted by krautland at 9:50 AM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just called the DA's office, assuming I'd just be leaving a message with the receptionist. She actually transferred me right to the voicemail of "Frank," the person handling the investigation. I'm oddly impressed.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:50 AM on January 9, 2009


Mehserle, on the other hand, hasn't even been interviewed nine days (and counting) later, and continues to walk free. Meanwhile, the Oakland DA has said it'll be two weeks until a decision on criminal charges is made.

A crucial piece of difference in the wording between the Chronicle article and the Contra Costa Times.
Tom Orloff, who will now receive evidence from both agencies, said he expects to make a decision in about two weeks on whether to file criminal charges.
Versus the Contra Costa Times:
Tom Orloff said Thursday that he will decide within two weeks whether to file criminal charges against Mehserle.
The former means expect it around the 23rd. The latter means any time between now and then. He made the announcement at a press conference - anybody have a link to a video of what Orloff actually said?
posted by cashman at 10:39 AM on January 9, 2009


krautland, I agree with most of your post, but I just wanted to let you know how offensive this bit is:
he also had a gun on the street in the first place, which most of us are not supposed to carry
posted by vsync at 10:44 AM on January 9, 2009


They are law enforcement officers of the State of California, and they have jurisdiction throughout the state. They are not rent-a-cops.

To expand on this point, all police officers in California have to satisfy the standards of the California Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training, which means having taken a specified "Regular Basic Course" at an approved police academy.

In other words, BART cops went to the some police academies, and have the same training as other cops anywhere in California. Individual departments might have additional requirements (or additional requirements for specific jobs.) Actually, the BART police have an additional requirement themselves -- officers must have completed at least one year of college.

So any presumption of lack of training playing a role should be no more or less than would apply if this had been a beat cop in Oakland (or Sacramento, or Modesto, or San Diego, or anywhere-o in California.)
posted by Zed at 10:47 AM on January 9, 2009


What the fuck is so offensive about that? Do you really think that the majority of people should have concealed carry permits?
posted by dersins at 10:47 AM on January 9, 2009


People shouldn't walk around hiding guns. That shit is fucked up. I still don't get how you're even allowed to get permits to do so. Who thought that was a good idea?
posted by chunking express at 10:55 AM on January 9, 2009


krautland, I agree with most of your post, but I just wanted to let you know how offensive this bit is:

he also had a gun on the street in the first place, which most of us are not supposed to carry


Wow, your threshold for offense is really low. It's illegal to carry a firearm in California unless you've been granted a CCW permit. I can't understand why stating that reality would be offensive to anyone.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:30 AM on January 9, 2009


though the media is fond of picking out whatever "leaders" they can (and RCP members are quick to step forward), the reality on the ground is probably quite different.

Yes, exactly. Piling on with condemnations of RCP (or "lefties" generally) because they were there with a punchy quote when some journalist was looking for vanguard "leaders" is a lazy-minded distraction from considering what's actually been happening in Oakland. George Ciccariello-Maher has a thoughtful firsthand account on the Counterpunch website today:
And if the crowd of demonstrators was largely multiethnic, it was clear by this point that the functional vanguard was composed largely of the young, black teenagers most acutely aware of their relationship to the police. There were chants of “We are all Oscar Grant!” and several protestors lay in the middle of the street with their hands behind their backs, mimicking the position in which Grant was executed.
posted by RogerB at 11:32 AM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


"but I don't think its unreasonable to suppose that the knowledge
that the police will help their fellows avoid penalties for misbehavior doesn't encourage the lizard brain to go wild."

I wouldn't refute that assertion. Just saying that can be addressed with training. Someone trained to react a certain way will react that way whether they
are racist or not, whether the professional atmosphere encourages covering up or not. Eventually the new trained behavior supercedes the old behavior.
Natuarally a department that focuses on such training would pretty likely already have a very professional atmosphere (so, not helping avoid penalties for
misbehavior) so bit of a moot point.

""Git tuff" is still a mantra the wins votes despite the fact that its a proven failure."

I agree. But that's a broader cultural problem. It's easier to control a microcosm (law enforcement in general, or even your local PD) than it is
society.

"I think that, despite the "git tuff" mentality, a campaign to strip police of their tasers could succeed
where a campaign to reform the police and intensively retrain them wouldn't.
Among other things, extensive retraining is expensive, while simply denying equipment is quite cheap."

I agree. Unfortunately that would be addressing a symptom. Just depends on what one values I guess. Not saying you or I are right or wrong about
our respective concerns, but that folks have to decide what their priorities are. Want the tasers to go away now?
Don't want to spend too much on training? Well, you're still going to have violence, because as I said, the problem isn't the equipment.
On the other hand, maybe someone with a few more dollars in his pocket can stand up to police better and maybe lawsuits etc. will cause a change.
I don't really know. That's a huge problem.

"Are there any other less than lethal ammunition types that you think wouldn't pose that sort of danger that you might recommend?"

Well again - yeah, but they're mission specific. The best all around sidearm to have for police is still a pistol. They're not really
that lethal - compared to other firearms (shotguns, rifles, etc). And they're less lethal in close quarters than knives. No really. Talk to an ER
doctor. I'd rather be shot than stabbed.
The best option IMHO is small squads of police, trained to work as a unit, carrying different, but modular equipment, for certain ends.
So four cops, say, in a group, one carrying medical equipment and trained as a paramedic, etc. Each trained in hand to hand combat with a focus on
subduing, takedown and trapping techniques. Only one guy carrying firearms. I'd like to see them on bikes or on foot. With squad cars patroling in an
overlapping pattern. Things like that. Not a lot of overwatch.
Community policing works well though.
But for the most part cops depend on their equipment - cars - to get them there and equipment - tasers, batons, guns - to do the job.

The best machines are non-physical. For example the "orange blossom special" legendary fast trains were not fast because they had special equipment
or a special train. It wasn't the engine itself that was fast. It was a matter of scheduling and integrated timetables, communication, etc. that
made the train so fast.

Same methods need to be used in policing. I think a lot of people don't think that kind of methodology can be applied to a practice profession, but
it's done in the military all the time. People think the U.S. military is bad-ass because of all the nifty equipment. ...and ok, sure, part of it.
But mostly it's those methods, the non-physical technique.
Same deal with, say, the Spartans or the Athenians. The phalinx is just a method of organization. Anyone could have done it. They chose other methods.

I do take your point on how the means often drive method. If you have spears, your organization becomes spear focused. But it also depends on the environment.
Desert warriors didn't use a lot of armor. Relied on mobility, etc. They had access to other things, but the desert demanded certain efficiencies.

I'm saying society can instill the same thing by creating the environment. That's not exclusive to eliminating or adding certain means (Tasers, etc.).

European knights wore armor and carried heavy lances and swords because the lush grasslands and climate allowed for it.
There have always been arguments over what weapons are 'proper' and it always comes down to what is the most expedient solution in the environment.
I mean, longbows were outlawed, crossbows were outlawed (considered 'against God' even). Etc. etc.

What can be controlled is the behavioral environment. (e.g. Tyler’s Rebellion - the black death changed the labor environment which changed how much force the nobles could
bring to bear, etc. etc.)

But again, that's just addressing a fairly narrow sliver of all this.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:23 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


http://www.sfu.ca/~mjordan/remove-line-breaks.htm
posted by cashman at 12:39 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


vsync: how is it offensive? you need a permit to carry a gun as a civilian. being caught with a gun on the street without the proper permit is a felony on its own. please explain why this is offensive - I genuinely am not following you here.
posted by krautland at 1:40 PM on January 9, 2009


cashman - I’m working on that. I’m not always on a computer that I can really type on exactly.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:44 PM on January 9, 2009


Just curiously: what does everyone think that national press coverage will accomplish?

Is the CNN story sheet suddenly some A-list of shit for God to rectify pronto?

As far as I'm concerned TV cable news is little more than pornography sans fucking.
posted by scarabic at 4:30 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look, if the rioters felt they had a voice, they'd be posting on metafilter. I'm glad that the riots show that at least people CARE.
posted by agregoli at 5:51 PM on January 9, 2009


Neal Rodriguez:
"I ask today's youth to avoid situations where executions with such a blatant disregard for life are likely to occur. My response to such a request as a former troubled teenager would be that I can't afford to get out of my projects, my ghetto, my situation. My response now to anyone who shares these sentiments is to seek education as high as required to give you the foundation to seek a job or a business opportunity that will extract you from tyranny."
posted by batmonkey at 9:17 PM on January 9, 2009


Annnnd, more nice stuff coming from the BART police. Shotgun blast to the back of the head? The suspect was an obvious threat being all black, and you know, black.
posted by ryoshu at 1:46 AM on January 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just curiously: what does everyone think that national press coverage will accomplish?

the wish for national press coverage strikes me as a "it's important to me, it's gotta be important to them, too" kind of thing. CNN tried that and failed miserably. people in dubai just never really cared about the weather in little rock. that's why you see different broadcasts for each geographical region on CNN international now.

the BART story is a local story. local police department fucks up, local community outraged. the riots value a little bit of national coverage but they are nowhere near the LA riots in scale and thus don't get more coverage. the formula is the further away the story, the bigger it has to be.

police misbehavior on the other hand is a national story because it can be made into a local story but again BART would play a minor part in it. the screwups of the Chicago and New Orleans PD among others are just way more outrageous and appear more often and would probably serve as headline examples symbolic for a larger pattern.

such a story requires commitment from editors, reporters and audiences because there aren't easy (read: knee-jerk) solutions available. local newscasts need a setup, an explanation and a chance for the newsfolks to opine ("we say what you think so you can agree with us and are happy"). the guy freezing outside the police station on his location shot can't just opine against the cops and he can't opine for them, so that's gonna get the story killed as "just not very satisfying to viewers." you can't solve it right then and there, you can't just tell people what everyone should do and cut to commercials. yet that is the kind of journalism we all tune into in significant numbers.

this kind of story is something that would spark discussion and flak from all sides and that would make it ill-suited to a medium like commercial television or a tabloid newspaper. this is the kind of journalism requires a series of long articles, which invariably limits the audience. new yorker, certain foundations, perhaps the NYT, harpers.

yet that's not really what the commenter with the many exclamation marks following his wish for national coverage wanted. he wanted his outrage portrayed. he didn't care about any effect a story might have. he just wanted a dumb report that rallied people. he dreamed of something akin to a revolution. he wanted something that very rarely happens after thirty second pieces on the evening news. he wanted south central LA style reactions. he didn't think about what that would accomplish, which wouldn't be anything good. nothing ever got solved by the national guard doing the skull cracking instead of local cops.

Look, if the rioters felt they had a voice, they'd be posting on metafilter. I'm glad that the riots show that at least people CARE.

bullshit. every demonstration sparking a riot follows the same old pattern. a bunch of people care and go demonstrate and a few others mingle in the group. those few are the only ones who riot and they don't care about the cause at all. they just see an opportunity to break some shit. they assemble regardless of the cause. it's hooliganism. those people don't give a rats ass about any causes and they don't mind giving the cops an excuse to stop listening and whip out the baton.
posted by krautland at 5:54 AM on January 10, 2009


It takes a while to bring charges for murder, but protesters/rioters have already been arrested, charged, and even released on bail.
posted by batmonkey at 8:36 AM on January 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's not that I don't expect that double-standard, batmonkey, but it's still startling the absolutist protection the cops provide each other. I agree with others here that the civic response to this has been so backwards.
posted by agregoli at 8:51 PM on January 10, 2009


This is an interesting analysis of this video(which I can't get to fully play):
At mark 00:10 an unidentified bald officer walks up and punches Oscar Grant in the face. This is obvious in the video as the officer's arm moves forward and Grant's head snaps back and Grant begins to collapse. After striking Grant the officer moves him to a seated position and grant puts his hands up palm forward in supplication, the officer orders another man to sit and then leaves after a few seconds.

At 01:23, after the bald officer returns and appears to order the detainees arrest, this is apparent as the officers were talking with the suspects until the bald officer marched back over. At this point Mehserle moves Grant to a kneeling position and pulls Grant's arms behind him, there is no sign of resistance at this point.

However, at 01:26 Mehserle pushes Grant face first to the ground while the bald officer plants his knee on Grant's neck, which causes Grant to involuntarily squirm due to the pain of that maneuver. Up to this point there appeared to be no threat posed by Grant to justify the use of this tactic.

At 01:28 Mehserle makes a furtive grab for his service weapon, but then stops.

At 01:45 Grant grabs at his service weapon again, this time he continues to try to pull it from the holster for at least 2 full seconds, ample time to have figured out that this was not a taser which is held in a different type of holster and has a different feel.

Four seconds later, at 01:49, the bald officer shifts his stance to the other side of Grant to put himself out of the line of fire, but resumes his pain compliance hold with his knee on Grant's neck while Mehserle pulls his service weapon from the holster. This would indicate that the order to fire, whether it was to fire a taser or the Mehserle's service weapon, came from the bald officer.

At 01:51 Mehserle gets into his stance and aims his weapon at Grant while the bald officer maintains his hold. If this was in prep for the application of a taser the bald officer would have moved away now to avoid getting shocked.


At 01:52 Mehserle fires a shot into Grant's back as the bald officer continues to hold him face down on the floor of the station.

It's only one second later, at 01:53, that the bald officer finally stands up and steps away from the mortally injured Grant.
There are a couple of images of the knee-in-the-neck move officers use and a look at the problems with that.
posted by cashman at 7:24 PM on January 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


From Sunday's BART meeting:

"BART Director Carole Ward Allen - who represents the Fruitvale Station and opened the meeting with an apology to Grant's family - stood up and walked out for 10 minutes at one point after she and her colleagues were taken to task by Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks.

Allen later explained, "I was aware that I might say the wrong thing."
"

..."wrong thing" means anything other than "we're sorry. we're fixing our training program and will retroactively train all current officers. we've arrested Mehserle." Probably she meant she was going to say something offensively defensive, though.

"Fellow Director Lynette Sweet, meanwhile, apologized moments after joking that the meeting was keeping people from the National Football League playoffs. ""

Seriously. She said that. Read the article. This young man is killed, never to see his child again, robbing his family, ruining a particular time of year for all of them likely for the rest of their lives, and she's making jokes about this entirely belated, almost insultingly poorly-handled meeting keeping people from a football game.

Sick.
posted by batmonkey at 11:20 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mercury News: "The BART police investigation into an officer's fatal shooting of an unarmed passenger, criticized by many as slow-moving, will be concluded this week and turned over to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office to decide whether to file charges, BART police Chief Gary Gee said Sunday.

"We are close to wrapping things up," said Gee after BART managers and its board committee conducted a three-hour community forum in Oakland. "
posted by cashman at 9:23 AM on January 12, 2009


(Sorry, that was in batmonkey's article also)
posted by cashman at 9:26 AM on January 12, 2009


(cashman: useful, since I was too blinded by rage to mention the productive part)

Today's news
brings promises of a major announcement later, the proposal to build an oversight committee, and notice that the DoJ is on their way to check things out.

SFist has been chewed out by readers for an article regarding Mehserle's dad's internet ranting.

New protest
is planned for 5pm PST - this time across the Bay in SF.
posted by batmonkey at 12:36 PM on January 12, 2009


The investigation is finished:
(01-12) 14:40 PST Oakland --

BART police wrapped up their preliminary investigation today of the officer-involved shooting early New Year's Day of an unarmed man in Oakland and have forwarded the case to the Alameda County district attorney's office, officials said.

"Now it is the district attorney's responsibility to decide whether to file charges in this case," Dugger said at a hastily arranged news conference at BART headquarters in Oakland. "We urge the district attorney to expeditiously review all the evidence available to him and bring this investigation to a conclusion."
Also from the article:
Today's announcement came as BART's board of directors was scheduled to appoint a committee to figure out ways to avoid such shootings in the future.

In a statement, the union that represents BART's 296 police officers and other personnel said today, "It is our hope that this brings everyone one step closer to finding out all relevant details and ensuring this type of incident never repeats itself." The union also said that establishing the new committee "is an appropriate course of action."
The article says they interviewed 40 people, including police officers.
posted by cashman at 3:48 PM on January 12, 2009


I really can not understand how there can be a "decision to file charges in this case." The fucker clearly executed the guy. There is no other interpretation: a face-down handcuffed prisoner does not represent a threat in any way, shape or form. He was flat-out murdered.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:47 PM on January 12, 2009


“In one of his posts on the forum, "tjsails1" reveals his support for authoritarian regimes:
"A Big Brother is what we need in this country with all of you having your heads so far in the sand about the real dangers this country is facing..." “

Well, there’s no accounting for bigtime stupid.
Still...wow. Either he has no clue what it is he's saying or in his bizarre fantasy he'd be inner party. But even that'd be hell. Well, to anyone human.

"Now it is the district attorney's responsibility to decide whether to file charges in this case,"

I’d like to see one of those Wilfred Brimley badmotherfucker style DA’s in a sort of Absence of Malice sorta vein:

“I'll tell you what we're gonna do. We're gonna sit here and talk about it. If you get tired of talking here, Mr Elving Patrick there will hand you a subpoena and we'll
go talk in front of the grand jury.
We'll talk all day if you want to. But come sundown, there's gonna be two things true that ain't true now. One is that the United States Department of Justice is gonna know what in the good Christ (excuse me,
Angie) is going on around here. And the other's I'm gonna have somebody's ass in my briefcase.”

Plug of chaw. Sitting on the desk. The whole nine yards.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:49 PM on January 12, 2009


He's been arrested.
posted by batmonkey at 11:24 PM on January 13, 2009


On a fugitive warrant, no less!
posted by billysumday at 5:37 AM on January 14, 2009


Finally!
"Mehserle's attorney, Christopher W. Miller of Sacramento, confirmed early today that his client was arrested on suspicion of murder. He said he would not comment further until a news conference today."*

"Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff is expected to announce details of the arrest Wednesday. There was no immediate word on what the charges of Mehserle faces." *
In addition to a charge of murder, I wonder if there will be civil rights violations, etc. levied against Mehserle.
posted by ericb at 6:01 AM on January 14, 2009


I could not be more (pleasantly) surprised at this cop's arrest for murder. This never happens, folks. We are in uncharted territory. probably slight exaggeration, but still...
posted by telstar at 7:00 AM on January 14, 2009


I'm enthused. Let's see where this goes from here.
posted by cashman at 8:34 AM on January 14, 2009


I'm just hope that the justice system takes this seriously. I'd be worried about the effect a slap on the wrist type sentence might have.

"$50 and time served."
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:53 AM on January 14, 2009


I could not be more (pleasantly) surprised at this cop's arrest for murder.

Suspicion of murder. Videos can be faked! Maybe it was an evil twin! Maybe he was possessed by carbs!

Maybe the defense will blame poor training, passing the buck to the higher-ups. That might be kind of good, since it could potentially inject some sanity where it counts (transit cops with guns? really?), but it'd probably just result in everyone scot-free and some easy PR about a "need for changes"--changes that will ultimately never come.

What's encouraging about this case though, is that it's a cop from one force (BART) being investigated by another force (OPD). With the arrest in Nevada, maybe the Feds will muscle in, too. Hopefully this will translate into less Loyal Lenience.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


With the arrest in Nevada, maybe the Feds will muscle in, too.

Yeah ... folks had been asking State AG Jerry Brown to request that "the US Department of Justice launch an independent investigation into the conduct of the local authorities." Brown "has assigned a prosecutor to monitor the case, and the U.S. Department of Justice has dispatched mediators to help avert violent protests such as one in Oakland last week."
posted by ericb at 10:06 AM on January 14, 2009


Interesting to note this at Huffington Post: " (This version [of our article] CORRECTS the nature of arrest warrant to homicide, instead of murder, per the sheriff's office.)
posted by ericb at 10:08 AM on January 14, 2009


Transit officer waives extradition in train station shooting.
posted by ericb at 10:10 AM on January 14, 2009


FYI -- "A protest is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday outside Oakland's City Hall."
posted by ericb at 10:11 AM on January 14, 2009


jock@law Well, its time for me to admit that I was totally and completely wrong. You were right, there was absolutely no need, except from a crazed cop hating viewpoint, to arrest the noble and upstanding Officer Mehserle. He was completely not a flight risk, as proven by the fact that when the slow but sure hand of justice chose to arrest him 12 days after he committed murder in plain sight of dozens of witnesses he was home in California and had not fled the state.

Wait. No, he ran to Nevada, fleeing the state, and *was* a flight risk after all? Who ever could possibly have guessed such a thing?

TWELVE FRACKING DAYS before any of the highly trained and not at all corrupt and cop coddling legal professionals felt there was any need to do anything at all about the fact that a cop murdered an unarmed, subdued, civilian in cold blood. Boy, I'm sure glad we have such objective professionals on the job, why if they really were a bunch of corrupt cop coddling civil rights hating thugs they'd have waited thirteen days or so, but since it only took twelve days that proves that the system works, right?

But, no, I'm being shrill and cop hating again, right jock@law? I mean, if a civilian shot a cop in plain sight of dozens of witnesses, and several other cops, I'm *sure* that he'd have been allowed to wander around for twelve days before being arrested, right? I'm *sure* that he wouldn't have been beaten and otherwise tortured "while resisting arrest", right?

I think I said something earlier about double standards, and you sneerlingly told me that I had to be some sort of evil cop hating miscreant to even suspect our noble, upstanding, and perfect criminal justice system might possibly display preferential treatment to cops suspected of crimes.

My only question is: have the scales of bullshit fallen from your eyes thanks to the blatant corruption and asscovering by the police in this case, or are you going to continue to lie and claim that the system treats criminal cops exactly the same as other suspects?
posted by sotonohito at 10:39 AM on January 14, 2009 [7 favorites]


Regarding the HP correction, does anyone know if California has a "criminally negligent homicide" statute?
posted by moonbiter at 11:59 AM on January 14, 2009


Maybe the defense will blame poor training, passing the buck to the higher-ups.

I'd be willing to bet large amounts of money that a significant part of the defense's case will be in portraying Oscar Grant as an evil, arrest-resisting hoodlum. They'll dig up any dirt they can on him to make him seem like a less sympathetic victim, regardless of what actually caused the shooting.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:28 PM on January 14, 2009


District Attorney says lesser charge of manslaughter not warranted.
"[Alameda County District Attorney Tom] Orloff said his office decided to charge Mehserle with murder because there is evidence of an unlawful, intentional killing. However, Orloff repeated several times that the charge does not specify the degree of murder, and refused to speculate on what the final charge would be.

In answer to [a] question why Mehserle wasn’t charged with a lesser crime, such as manslaughter, Orloff said the facts of the investigation did not speak to that.

...Orloff denied that the timing of the arrest and pressing of charges have anything to do with the expected large rally scheduled for today in downtown Oakland."
posted by ericb at 12:43 PM on January 14, 2009


A candlelight vigil for Oscar Grant has been scheduled for tonight in L.A.
posted by ericb at 12:46 PM on January 14, 2009


Regarding the HP correction, does anyone know if California has a "criminally negligent homicide" statute?

They do indeed - also known as 'manslaughter.' Pick your term; either one is utterly inapplicable to an officer of the law who shoots a defenseless, restrained, prone man in the back while that person presents no risk to anyone. If this is 'negligent homicide,' then every conviction for 'murder' in the state needs to be overturned post haste, because if this doesn't rise to it, then gunning someone down in a drug deal gone bad certainly doesn't either.

This man deserves to rot in a cell for the rest of his life. To their credit, the DA's office might actually feel the same way this time around.
posted by Mayor West at 12:50 PM on January 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


he ran to Nevada, fleeing the state, and *was* a flight risk after all?

The warrant was signed yesterday; he was arrested this morning. Maybe he really, really sucks at fleeing, or maybe he'd kept the police informed where he was, or maybe it's something else. Right now, we don't know.

I'd agree that if he hadn't been told so much as not to leave the state that that represents a gross inequity, but it seems premature at this point to accuse him of having tried to flee.
posted by Zed at 3:20 PM on January 14, 2009


...he ran to Nevada, fleeing the state, and *was* a flight risk after all?

Not really the case. The Oakland police knew where he was -- at a family friend's house in Nevada.
"[Mehserle] was arrested Tuesday night at a home in Zephyr Cove and held in Douglas County Jail without bail. Undersheriff Paul Howell said he believed Mehserle went to Nevada for his own safety. 'He just wanted to get out of the Bay Area due to the magnitude of the incident,” Howell said. “He wasn’t trying to run.'

...Mehserle was arrested at 6:20 p.m. Tuesday on a fugitive warrant at a Zephyr Cove home belonging to friends, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office was informed early Tuesday by the Oakland Police Department that Mehserle was believed to be in the Zephyr Cove area.

Officials contacted Mehserle’s attorney and advised him Mehserle was at the residence. According to reports, the attorney telephoned Mehserle who surrendered without incident."*
posted by ericb at 3:36 PM on January 14, 2009


...a defenseless, restrained, prone man in the back while that person presents no risk to anyone.

Filing: Man Was Restrained When Shot by BART Cop.
"A new court filing alleges that the 22-year-old man killed by a Bay Area transit officer had his hands behind his back and another officer was kneeling on his neck when he was shot.

The allegations were contained in an Oakland police officer's request Tuesday to issue an arrest warrant for Johannes Mehserle.

...The court filing said it appeared from cell phone video that 'Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant while Grant was restrained and unarmed.'"
posted by ericb at 3:39 PM on January 14, 2009


thomask hawk found a forum where cops talk about this case. predictable opinions but if you really want a discussion, I'd suggest talking to them there.

it's too bad that they talk among themselves and we talk among ourselves. that we do not communicate with each other makes this somewhat masturbatory.
posted by krautland at 4:00 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well that thread confirmed every negative thing I've ever thought about cops.
posted by empath at 4:11 PM on January 14, 2009


From a twitter feed of someone at the latest protest in downtown Oakland:

Just rcvd a flier naming targets 4 2nite. Footlocker, citi bank.,

1.) Anyone who thinks a Footlocker franchise has played a part in this whole business is a moron; 2) anyone who advertises their targets on a piece of paper that is passed out is doubly so.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:19 PM on January 14, 2009


Much of the problems this killing has caused would have been prevented had the other cops simply arrested the offending officer right there and then.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:18 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Much of the problems this killing has caused would have been prevented had the other cops simply arrested the offending officer right there and then.

But, but, fff, he's a cop.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:30 PM on January 14, 2009


I know, but it's not like I'm saying he has to stay arrested. Just act out an arrest, without actually arresting him, so that the teeming masses are mollified and thus the riots are avoided. I know the "pigs are dumb" meme is popular and all, but surely they can see the wisdom of putting on a good show.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:14 PM on January 14, 2009


I improved BART's logo to reflect their get-tough approach to crime.
posted by mattdidthat at 10:39 PM on January 14, 2009


Mehserle may or may not have roughed this guy up six weeks before shooting Oscar Grant.

FTA:
"BART spokesman Linton Johnson noted that Carrethers has not filed a formal complaint of police abuse against BART, and he questioned Carrethers' timing and his motivation for coming forward.

"Would he have done so if Mehserle's name had never surfaced?" Johnson said. "I don't know."
"

Considering how out of tune BART officials are coming off compared to the rest of the world, maybe he doesn't know that additional victims of crimes often come forward once an arrest has been made. Authorities often solicit just these sorts of reports in order to bring a solid case against a perpetrator. If you've ever done anything questionable (or just plain wrong) in your life, you know you're starting out with a credibility issue which may marginalise your case, but these vulnerabilities may be mitigated by adding your situation to an investigation already under way.

Or, maybe he's right. Perhaps Kenneth Carrethers is leaving out his attack of Mehserle from the story for a payday and somehow earned or deserved those chest and face bruises. Something makes me doubt it, though.
posted by batmonkey at 12:54 AM on January 15, 2009


Mehserle has been charged with murder; there's a range of possible verdicts.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:13 AM on January 15, 2009


Perhaps Kenneth Carrethers is leaving out his attack of Mehserle from the story for a payday and somehow earned or deserved those chest and face bruises. Something makes me doubt it, though.

Did he do something to provoke Mehserle? Probably. Did he deserve to be beaten? No. The officer's job is not to punish people.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:25 AM on January 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Mehserle has been charged with murder

Good.

From the article:
"Orloff said Wednesday that the videos shot by BART passengers - including "very valuable" footage that the public hasn't seen - show an apparently unlawful and intentional killing, the textbook definition of murder.

"The videos are very powerful on what act was committed," the district attorney said. "The issue likely to be in this case is, what was the mental state at the time that act was committed?"
It's still scary to me that Mehserle & his lawyers haven't said offered a single, solitary word about what happened. I mean those are his rights, but it's still chilling to think a cop might just shoot you dead and never say a thing about it.

I just hate it because he says nothing and thus never contradicts himself, never offers up anything that is refuted later. It's like just biding your time to get your story completely straight, to get the least amount of time possible, or no time at all. But those are his rights. At least he's been charged.

I have a feeling that this will not end well. The nightmare ending for me is if he never utters a word, the defense never explains a thing, and yet somehow he's given the benefit of the doubt, and gets off with a really light, less-than-Michael-Vick sentence. Good thing Mehserle shot a black man to death - he would have faced real vitriol had he harmed a pit bull. *
posted by cashman at 11:15 AM on January 15, 2009


Good thing Mehserle shot a black man to death - he would have faced real vitriol had he harmed a pit bull. *

I'm not sure what the point of the * link is. There's been a lot more outcry about this. I don't remember riots about Vick. And those investigations took a lot longer than two weeks, and they had a ton of evidence. I guess I don't like what I see as you minimizing Vick's punishment in order to make a point about what's going on now.
posted by inigo2 at 11:48 AM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


1. Cop beats or shoots someone for no good reason
2. Event gets posted as an FPP
3. jock@law comes out to defend the justice system and our good friend Officer Friendly
4. Rinse and repeat.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:53 AM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


There were definitely bigtime demonstrations about Vick. I linked jonmc's comment because even with the disgust, it still seems that people were ready to flat out kill Michael Vick than are issuing similar statements about Mehserle. I mean we know some people are completely upfront that they get more upset about the deaths of animals or pets than humans - add in who Grant was, and I think it adds even another level. No matter how you slice it, it's still sick to me that you can kill a prone, defenseless man and get less vitriol directed at you by a lot of people, than if you fight pit bulls.
posted by cashman at 11:55 AM on January 15, 2009


Also, Michael Vick is black.
I think an unpleasantly large percentage of Americans still values a pit bull's life more than they do a black guy's- at very least, they're more scandalized when a famous black guy does nasty stuff to poor doggy woggys than when a white cop shoots a helpless black man in the back.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:07 PM on January 15, 2009


they're more scandalized when a famous black guy does nasty stuff to poor doggy woggys than when a white cop shoots a helpless black man in the back.

In the above sentence, which is the crucial difference between the two cases: black or famous?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:43 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by dunkadunc I think an unpleasantly large percentage of Americans still values a pit bull's life more than they do a black guy's- at very least, they're more scandalized when a famous black guy does nasty stuff to poor doggy woggys than when a white cop shoots a helpless black man in the back.

Probably because the unpleasantly large percentage of Americans to which you refer are white, and both of the cases you mention involve a black man running afoul of the law and facing the consequences.
posted by mattdidthat at 1:21 PM on January 15, 2009


When the verdict comes back as involuntary manslaughter will there be additional rioting?
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:25 PM on January 15, 2009


Probably because the unpleasantly large percentage of Americans to which you refer are white, and both of the cases you mention involve a black man running afoul of the law and facing the consequences.

Wait, so Oscar Grant "ran afoul of the law and faced the consequences"? Really? What the fuck is wrong with you?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:47 PM on January 15, 2009


I think an unpleasantly large percentage of Americans still values a pit bull's life more than they do a black guy's

Oh for fuck's sake. I sure don't remember riots and national coverage for Peyton Strickland, killed while answering his door; the cop wasn't even charged with a crime.

These injected hypotheticals about race are predictable, if secondary to the cause of Oscar Grant's death. Police introduce deadly force routinely and automatically into any number of interactions with the public, and are rarely held accountable for its consequences. Whether Mehserle's weapon misfired, or whether he'd intended to taser Grant (still lethal force), or whether he executed Grant in cold blood before a crowd of witnesses, the intersecting fact is the escalation of force with no reasonable explanation or intermediary steps.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:53 AM on January 16, 2009


posted by Pope Guilty Wait, so Oscar Grant "ran afoul of the law and faced the consequences"? Really? What the fuck is wrong with you?

Excuse me, I should have phrased that as, "The unpleasantly large majority of Americans to which you refer are white, and as far as they (the unpleasantly large majority of Americans) are concerned, both cases involve a black man running afoul of the law and facing the consequences.

I am not one of those Americans. Hope that clears things up.
posted by mattdidthat at 3:14 AM on January 16, 2009


When the verdict comes back as involuntary manslaughter will there be additional rioting?

See Milk, Harvey
posted by telstar at 9:29 PM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


AP Video - Mehserle's efense using the "oops, meant to grab the taser!" defense. Judge set bail set at 3 million saying Mehserle was a flight risk.
posted by cashman at 9:42 AM on February 1, 2009


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