Police Targeting of People of Color in Oakland
When Oscar Grant III was murdered by BART transit police on January 1, 2009, Oakland residents and allies expressed their outrage with multiple demonstrations and riots. The community had had enough of police profiling, brutality, and murders of people of color.
But Oscar Grant was not the only one to die at the hands of the police, and it’s important that we demand justice for all the victims. In recent years the Bay Area has seen too much blood spilled. Here in Oakland some examples of people murdered by the police are Jody “Mack” Woodfox III (who was killed by police and unarmed), Andrew Moppin (who had a warrant for not paying BART fare and was unarmed), Anita Gay (who was drunk in her home and unarmed), Derrick Jones (who owned a barber shop and was unarmed), Kerry Baxter (who was beaten to death by the two cops who had been involved in his earlier wrongful prosecution in court), Obataiye Edwards (who was 19 years old), Fred Collins (who was shot by at least five cops), Parnell Smith (who supposedly fit the description of a rape suspect), just to name a few. Then there’s Jelvon Helton from San Francisco (who was shot while celebrating the Giants victory this year), Guy Jarreau Jr in Vallejo (who was doing security for a video shoot), and Leanord Bradley Jr. in Richmond (who was shot in the yard of a high school), to list a couple more in the surrounding Oakland area. And it’s not a specific Bay Area issue; it’s happening everywhere.
There is also now a new gang injunction in the North Oakland neighborhood. It’s designated to target 19 specific gang members in designated “safe zones” of the city, but the reality of the injunction is that it criminalizes everyday activities of anyone suspected of being a gang member, meaning black and Hispanic youths. There are gang injunctions in other places, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, which have proven to be unsuccessful and racist.
Despite the blatant racist and brutal actions of the Oakland Police, people are taking matters into their own hands to protect their communities. People in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland have created a People Patrol, a group of sober, unarmed people who patrol neighborhoods for police stops and monitor them to make sure the cops do nothing illegal. There are also Copwatch groups in Oakland and Berkeley which monitor police activity and educate people about their rights. Protests are frequently happening against the gang injunctions, the murder of Oscar Grant, and the murder of Derrick Jones. Local unions are organizing as well as supporting a lot of these actions. Street art is abundant and beautiful, addressing and educating viewers on the issues at hand. Papers like the San Francisco Bayview do continuous research to keep people up to date and offer a refreshing alternative to the other local news sources. This cruel racism and abuse by the police has got to stop, and it will take support and action from all of us to accomplish that.