Op-Ed: Families of Police Victims Are Energizing the Movement


By Cephus ‘Uncle Bobby’ Johnson,


On Jan. 1, 2009 at 2:11 a.m. on the Fruitvale Bart Station platform, my life was drastically changed forever. Bart Police Officer Johannes Mehserle upholstered and shot his SIG Sauer P226 weapon, murdering my nephew Oscar Grant.

When I received the news, I fell to the ground in my mother’s home. Though I was furious, I was so grateful for the last text message I had sent to Oscar before he died: “Uncle Love You, God Love you, and God Loves your family,”


The shot that took Oscar’s life an hour and a half later has energized us all to advocate for an end to police brutality in Oakland.


Police terrorism is not new to Oakland or the Bay Area. Following the influx of Blacks during the World War II industrial era, the Oakland Police Department began openly recruiting police officers from the Deep South to impose unofficial Jim Crow injustice.


In 1950, the antagonism and brutality led the California State Assembly Committee on Crime and Correction to host hearings on police brutality in Oakland.


These hearings were part of a larger, community-based struggle against police brutality in the Bay Area. The civil rights activism in the 1940s and 1950s, especially the organizing against police brutality, shaped the emergence of 1960s activism in the Bay Area and of the Black Panther Party in Oakland in 1966.


While today’s activism in Oakland builds upon these legacies, what is crucial in the current movement is the advocacy of family members affected by police brutality.


Our family’s activism led to the first time in California policing history that a police officer who killed an innocent Black person while on duty was charged, arrested, convicted, and sent to jail.


Families around the country are demanding that elected officials, media and others join their fight for justice for their slain loved ones. Today, the emphasis on the family’s role in activism is critical.


Families of victims of police terrorism will gather in Oakland on Saturday, Feb. 27, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, 3701 Telegraph Ave., Oakland.


These families will discuss policing in the 21st century and the devastating impact police terrorism has had on their lives. Please join the families of Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Mario Woods, Sean Bell, Rekia Boyd, Oscar Grant, and others, as well as legendary Oakland Black Panther leaders for this important discussion.


This is a call to action for all people of conscience to help us get justice and end police terrorism.


Cephus ‘Uncle Bobby’ Johnson is the uncle of Oscar Grant. For more information, contact him at [email protected] or visit Eventbrite at www.eventbrite.com/e/policing-in-the-21st-century-where-do-we-go-from-here-tickets-21286127380


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