Advocates prepare for peace in Oakland in advance of Mehserle verdict
OAKLAND — Advocates around
Oakland are calling for peace even as a share of storefronts in the city
disappeared behind layers of plywood in advance of a verdict in the
Johannes Mehserle trial.
"This is about people coming together,"
said Abel Habtegeorgis, of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.
Thursday, the organization hosted a graduation for the Heal the Streets
program, a yearlong fellowship that teaches young people "what peace
looks like," Habtegeorgis said. It was one of several events aimed at
preventing the kind of violence that erupted in the days after Oscar
Grant III's shooting Jan. 1, 2009, and to show solidarity with his
In addition, business leaders announced the creation of
the Oscar Grant Memorial Fund to benefit Oakland youths.
to make sure Oscar Grant doesn't happen again in the days, months and
years after this. It's about a movement," Habtegeorgis said. "We're not
telling people they have to be quiet and stay home. But violence is not
Meanwhile, the Ella Baker Center, Youth UpRising and the
Urban Peace Movement hosted an emergency leadership forum Thursday.
point is that there are deep-down issues," he said, citing
unemployment, racial profiling, incarceration rates, lack of education
opportunities and police brutality. "People are looking to channel
Community advocates and city officials have blamed the
violence on "outside agitators" who stoked the anger and frustration of young people
who have had few outlets for their own experience with those problems.
Councilmember and mayoral candidate Jean Quan said three-quarters of the
90 people arrested in the wake of the January 2009 unrest came from
"We're not going to tolerate violence," said
Quan during a peace vigil in the Dimond district held regularly since
2005. On Thursday evening, the gathering was dedicated to Grant, who
worked at Farmer Joe's Marketplace less than a block away from the
gathering point in Quan's council district. Quan said Grant sold her
meat just two weeks before he was shot to death at the Fruitvale BART
station in Oakland.
Cars zooming by the intersection of MacArthur
Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue honked at the crowd consisting of about 20
neighbors. Neighbors held signs reading, "Love," "Paz! Justice!" and "No
Violence! Don't be like the cops." Quan said Oakland police Chief
Anthony Batts promised that officers will protect property but allow
crowds to protest peacefully.
"We are united around our young
people," Quan said.
The vigil organizer, Molly Kenefick, said she
hoped the positive messages and effort to reach out "makes us less
fearful of each other "... especially now that people are worried about
Anyone wishing to contribute to the Oscar
Grant Memorial Fund can do so at any Wells Fargo Bank branch.