Fourteen years is the maximum sentence that killer pig Johannes Mehserle can receive. Fourteen years. This is an obvious slap in the face not only to the family of Oscar Grant, but to the black and brown communities that struggle daily with the issue of police brutality. (Compare this insufficient maximum sentence with that just handed down to the pig who murdered Grigoropoulos in Greece.)
This occupying police force, which is predominately composed of officers from the affluent suburbs around the Bay Area, is sent in to control and pacify working class people of color who are struggling daily–especially in this period of economic crisis–to carve out a life for themselves and their families. With job opportunities dwindling and the imposition of massive cuts of services that are essential to many working class people of color, more and more people are forced into the informal economy where they become increasingly susceptible to this type of profiling and police terror.
Similarly, as we have seen with our recent struggles within the university, the cuts and fee increases that are voted on by the mostly white Regents and implemented by predominately white administrators have disproportionately affected people of color. Just this semester alone at UC Berkeley there was a 12% drop in Latin@ enrollment. Additionally, the university has used the bureaucratic logic of Operational Excellence to justify their attacks on the Ethnic Studies Department and their refusal to sufficiently fund critical resources and spaces that assist in the retention and recruitment of underrepresented minorities. Meanwhile, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau is publicly applauding the diversity of the UC.
We must stop looking at these seemingly disconnected attacks and cuts in isolation and view them for what they are: direct acts of state violence against working class people of color. The officials of the state — the bureaucrats and the pigs — with their abilities to formulate policies and enact violence, are integral actors in the imposition of austerity measures that prioritize the needs of greedy capitalists over poor people and people of color’s ability to merely survive.
Our response to this is simple: Fuck that.
One thing that we have learned from the tragic murder of Oscar Grant is that militant organizing and actions, accomplished by people of color and their allies works. Rather than groveling at the feet of elected officials and low-level bureaucrats, the black and brown youth of Oakland took power into their own hands and rose up in rebellion. These youth of color and other community members attacked not only the pigs, but they also took out their anger on the local chain stores and banks that they recognized as fundamentally oppressive. It is not a coincidence that the level of damage and disruption that this rebellion caused coincided with Mehserle being the first pig in California to stand on trial for murder charges.
Through manipulation of the judicial system the state and the defense were able to secure, with the assistance of a predominately white jury, the lesser verdict of involuntary manslaughter. While public outrage once again found an outlet in the form of rebellions, many of us knew all along that this racist capitalist system is unable to grant justice for Oscar. Only we, through our collective action and activity, can determine whether justice is served or not.
Let’s take heed of this lesson, on the day of the sentencing and beyond, in our struggles against state violence, racial oppression and class domination in our communities, schools and beyond. Victory can only be achieved if we collectively stand up and take back and manage what is already ours.
See you in the streets on Friday…