Saturday, January 17, 2009

Murder on the Disorient Express

The following is part of an e-mail message from that landed in my in-box this morning. After taking the liberty of editing it for clarity and continuity, I took the liberty of posting it here. Yeah, it's that important!

"On New Year's Eve, Oscar Grant was shot execution-style by transit police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California. He was shot in the back while lying face down on a subway platform, unarmed and restrained by other officers.

Despite damning video evidence, it took nearly two weeks for the District Attorney to arrest Mehserle and charge him with murder. The DA admitted that it was only due to massive public pressure, including more than 20,000 ColorofChange members speaking up, that he moved even at that pace.

That's why it's so important for each of us to commit to staying involved. Johannes Mehserle's arrest is important, but it's only the first step. In cases like this, history has repeatedly shown that as soon as the public eye turns away the prospect of justice fades.

In 14 years as Alameda County District Attorney, Tom Orloff had never before charged a police officer for an on-duty shooting. And when asked, several legal experts were unable to come up with any examples of officer-involved shootings becoming murder cases in California.

But overwhelming public pressure made it impossible for Orloff to ignore Oscar Grant's murder. He said that "because of the intense public interest I think more resources were put into wrapping this up than would be put in in other situations." Orloff made it clear that because enough ordinary people spoke out, he poured investigative resources into this case that his record tells us he never would have, otherwise.

We've exposed a chink in the armor of a system that protects trigger-happy cops instead of regular folks. Now there's a real opportunity to create systemic changes that would introduce transparency and accountability to police forces across California, and especially to the BART Police Department. We need to keep the pressure on Tom Orloff to make sure he keeps devoting time and energy to Mehserle's prosecution.

We need you--and so does Oscar Grant's family. Making sure the prosecution does its job and pushing for much-needed reforms requires your voice. Help honor the memory of Oscar Grant and others who have fallen victim to police violence."

Please, join me in standing up for justice in the murder of Oscar Grant.