On Dec. 31, 2009 Oscar Grant, an African-American male, was celebrating New Year’s Eve with his prior girlfriend Sophina Mesa. Grant and Mesa took the BART train to their destination because his mother, Wanda Johnson, thought it would be Grant’s safest route back home to his young daughter. By the end of the night, Grant and four others were detained for starting an argument and as a result the five of them were escorted off Fruit vale station in Oakland, California. According to ABC 7 News,witnesses of the arrest stated that arresting officers, Officer Anthony Pirone and his partner Officer Johanne Mehserle, were yelling slurs and harassing Grant. Pirone stated that his reasoning behind his treatment of Grant was because he was threatened by Grant’s advancements.
“Grant started advancing toward me using cursing words,” said Pirone. “I feared at that point that Grant was my next threat.”
According to NBC Bay Area, his previous statement was concluded to be false by multiple witnesses and recordings that were released in 2014. There were multiple angles of the footage that was released where it was visible that Piorne and Mehserle were kneeing, kicking and pushing Grant.
Many of the passengers were frightened seeing the officers harassing a young unarmed man. Mehserle had reached for his right pocket where his taser was placed and mistook his 2.4 pound gun for a 1 pound taser.
Pirone said he was “fighting for [his] life” and Mehserle pulled out a gun and directly shot Grant. Mehserle admitted to shooting the victim in self defense due to Grant’s unwanted “advancements”. Grant died from the single bullet that was shot by Mehserle. During the time of the case, there was no conviction and that currently holds true.
During his career, Mehserle was reported more than four times for using excessive force. When this information came to light, protestors started the national movement that called out the U.S. system stating that it lacks equality.
There were countless witnesses as well as footage to back up their claims. The president of the Peace Officers Research Assn. of California, which funded Mehserle’s defense, said that Mehserle received no special treatment from the court system. Mehserle is appealing his conviction according to Los Angeles time.
Mehserle was charged for involuntary manslaughter to the second degree when there was various footage demonstrating he drew the gun more than once. Mehserle served eleven months in jail and was freed with no criminal charges. This was not an unusual jail sentence, as there have been other cases where a white man murdered a person of color and received either a small amount of time in jail or no criminal charges. In comparison, if a person of color were to have committed a smaller crime like Michiel Vick, a person of color who beat their dog, or participated in dog fighting, they would have received a larger sentencing. For these charges, Vick was sentenced 21 months in federal prison.
As the result of this case, Pirone was fired but never faced criminal charges.
“Justice has not been served and I’m sure that it will not be served on this side of earth because our judicial system is not set up for people of color,” Johnson said.
Having a voice for those who cannot speak is a factor in creating change. The Black Lives Matter movement has grown stronger over the years and is very strong currently.
“Over the years the Black Lives matter movement has increased in following but it’s this year that has had the largest following,” sophomore Danna Ruiz Cruz said. “It’s great more people are finally being aware of major issues.”
It took a decade for Grant’s case to be reopened. Similar cases like Grant’s have increased by a large percentage. Students feel it should not be okay for police to serve small amounts of time behind bars for the crimes that they commit, they should be tried equally, just as anyone else.
San Marin students have joined the Black Lives Matter movement which has impacted a variety of police brutality cases and allowed victims to be heard.
“There have been multiple cases without justice,” Ruiz said. “It’s unfair.What disturbs me is that they falsely accuse individuals because they were there at the wrong place at the wrong time. In some cases they don’t even have physical evidence or what occurs sometimes is they don’t test the DNA.”