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Callin Out Names- “Vote Or Watch Us Die” Real Justice For Oscar Grant

November 11, 2010 Front Page, Power, Problems No Comments

Article by Anthony Springer Jr.

Originally posted at thewellversed.com

Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Bernard Monroe, Timothy Stansbury, Jr.

All black men. All unarmed. All killed by police. None received justice.

On Friday, we sadly added Oscar Grant’s name to the long list of black men shot and killed by officers of the law. After taking a certain number of L’s in the justice system, it’s easy to want to give up, throw a middle finger to the sky and remain angry and reactive.

By now, the circumstances surrounding Grant’s death and the aftermath are well known but worth recounting. Grant was shot and killed early New Year’s Day in 2009. He was defenseless, handcuffed and lying face down after being pulled off a Bay Area Rapid Transit car. His killer, Johannes Mehserle was sentenced to two years in prison.

Two years in prison for killing an unarmed man.

Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months for killing dogs. TI got one year for being a felon and simply having a firearm an entire arsenal. Former NFL player Plaxico Burress got two years for shooting himself carrying a gun into a nightclub.

Common sense dictates that the life of an innocent man is worth more than all those sentences—combined. What makes the Grant case so particularly egregious is that not only were there witnesses, but that the shooting was captured on tape for the world to see.

What we know for sure: Incidents like this will happen again. The future victim is unknown and the details will be revealed in due time. The outcome—that the offending officer or officers will walk away acquitted or with a slap on the wrist—is nearly a given.

After everything blacks as a community have gone through, it’d be easy for me to give up on the justice system.

I haven’t.

If you want justice for Oscar Grant, you want to do something that will keep his memory alive? You want to make sure tragedies like these are dealt with and the impacted communities and families walk away with a sense of justice? You need to do one thing—and one thing only.


With youth and people of color voter participation dropped well below 2008 levels, it is nothing short of appalling to me that so few people have connected justice for Grant and others like him to active participation at the ballot box. This isn’t a “vote or die” message, but if you vote, rest assured that fewer of us might die at the hands of the police. Don’t believe me? Consider the following:

EVERY person responsible for Grant’s killer walking—from the federal to the local level—can be terminated fired. You want to talk presidential politics? The president appoints the Attorney General aka. The Top Cop. An AG sympathetic to issues effecting black and brown people make the difference between a focus on civil rights versus a focus about things we don’t really care about.

At the state level, we elect our Attorney General—the first person likely to step in after a questionable decision.

We elect our District Attorney—the person who can elect to file charges when an officer shoots an unarmed citizen in the back. This same person can also elect to sit on his or her hands.

We can elect to vote them out.

We elect our sheriffs—who can set a tone that police brutality and racial profiling aren’t acceptable. That officers should actually protect and serve, be a part of the communities they police, not apart from it.

More often than not, we elect the judges who hand down these less than stellar, questionable decisions that leave our communities searching for answers and asking why.

One more reason to vote: Jury pools are often—but not always—pulled from registered voter databases.

Months before Grant was senselessly murdered at the hands of Johannes Mehserle, I ran into Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee in Houston. I asked the Congresswoman why our votes mattered. Her response rings louder today than it did that hot summer day.

Jackson-Lee looked directly at me as she spoke, delivering her response as though she’d been asked this question by cynical young voters a thousand times: “The votes make a difference in people’s lives,” she told me. “Voters [who stayed home] in 2000 and 2004 might have put a different US Attorney in Gena, Louisiana that might have prevented Mychal Bell from going to jail. The vote might not be seen today, but it will be seen when you need it with civil rights laws, better judges and people who have an understanding of the judiciary system.”

You want to do something for Oscar Grant? Get educated about the local officials in your area and take your ass to the polls on Election Day.

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