Thursday, July 01, 2010


The most likely outcome of the trial of Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who murdered Oscar Grant on the morning of January 1st 2009, is a manslaughter conviction. Why is this likely? Because convicting Mehserle of manslaughter is the best way for the state to protect itself by sacrificing one of its own. To the police, manslaughter simply means: be careful when you kill. To the people, manslaughter means: you got a conviction, what more do you want? Or in other words: don’t riot, don’t rebel, no public outcry necessary.

On the other hand, a murder conviction would not be tolerated by the police and their unions, and even the most opportunistic of political leaders see a murder conviction as tying their hands in the future: they need the police, and police need to be able to kill.

Not that it matters what the state or its leaders think about murder: white supremacy and cop culture will ensure that Mehserle won’t get what's coming to him. We have already seen both in the disgusting jury selection process, which yielded a jury which includes three relatives of police officers but not one single Black person. And Michael Rains feeds on this, deploying an ingenious out-of-court strategy of defaming Oscar Grant and manipulating public opinion by leaking selective information to the press—a press which eats it up like an organic delicacy.

And if Mehserle is convicted of manslaughter, the arguments being put forward in his defense suggest that this will not even be “voluntary” manslaughter. Rather, it will be “involuntary,” allegedly the result of a tragic mistake of judgment, where a 9-pound Sig is mistaken for a 3-pound Taser.

Involuntary manslaughter in California carries a determinate sentence ranging from 2 to four years. Mehserle’s race, his former profession, the teary-eyed stories of his youth, and his lack of a criminal record, will all be presented to guarantee the lowest possible sentence (and we wouldn't want to guarantee that will even be as much as 2 years).

2 short years for cold-blooded murder of Oscar Grant.

2 short years for permanently traumatizing Grant's friends who witnessed the murder.

2 short years of taking one for the team and ensuring that the genocidal system of policing and imprisonment in California can go unchecked, unrestricted, unquestioned.

For Mehserle’s 2 short years we have 2 short words: FUCK THAT.

We fully expect and hope that Oakland will respond to a manslaughter conviction as it would respond to an acquittal: with an expression of creative rage that transforms our political landscape beyond all possible recognition.

With love and rage, we’ll see you in the streets,



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