Posts Tagged ‘civil rights’


Activists up the anti with campaign calling on the Justice Department to charge the Bay Area Rapid Transit police with civil rights violations over the killing of an unarmed African American man in 2009

LOS ANGELES – California activists have launched a national campaign calling on the Justice Department to charge Bay Area transit police with civil rights violations over the murder of an unarmed African American man in 2009.

Johannes Mehserle, a former police officer for the Bay Area Rapid Transit police (BART), fatally shot Oscar Grant as the 22-year-old African-American father lay face down and unarmed on a train platform in Oakland, Calif on New Years Day, 2009.

Mehserle claims that he shot Grant accidentally after confusing his pistol for his stun gun. Last summer, a jury with no African Americans convicted Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to two years in prison. Due to “good time” credits, the former police officer was released from Los Angeles County Jail on June 13, 2011, after spending less than a year behind bars. Activists believe that Mehserle should have been charged with murder for killing Grant and served significantly more time.

The campaign calls on the U.S. Justice Department to charge Mehserle and colleagues—such as Tony Pirone, who spewed racial slurs during the incident—with violating Grant’s civil rights. Hundreds of supporters from across the country have joined the campaign since it was launched two weeks ago on, the world’s fastest-growing platform for social change.

Last year, Justice Department officials announced that they would investigate the events that led to Grant’s killing, but so far have made none of their findings public.

Activists have held several protests outside of the federal Justice Department building in Los Angeles and sit-down meetings with Justice Department officials in Oakland to encourage action.

“The Justice Department has reported that they’re investigating, but that’s as far as they’re committing themselves,” said Jubilee Shine, a representative of the Los Angeles Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant. “The legal system has given Mehserle every soft landing they technically can. It falls on us to organize and enact justice.” campaigner Nadra Kareem Nittle said that the call for the Justice Department to take action against BART police has reached a fever pitch since Mehserle’s release from jail.
“The fact that a police officer can serve less than a year in jail for taking the life of a young black man has galvanized the communities of the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond,” said Nittle. “The primary avenue for justice now is for the federal government to take action against Mehserle, his colleagues and the Bay Area Rapid Transit police department overall. We are eagerly anticipating how the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department responds to the hundreds of human rights activists who’ve demanded its officials to act against those who played a role in Oscar Grant’s death.”

View the petition targeting the Justice Department: