New America Media, News Report, Thandisizwe Chimurenga
LOS ANGELES -- Members of the Los Angeles Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant appealed to a United States Congresswoman for support in the continuing effort to secure justice for Grant and his family.
About a dozen members of the group called on Representative Maxine Waters (CA-35) to lend her voice to the effort for the U.S. Justice Department to file federal civil rights charges against convicted killer Johannes Mehserle. Mehserle, a former Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer, was found guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter in the death of Grant by a Los Angeles jury on July 8.
Many people in the Bay Area and elsewhere felt that the verdict was too lenient for the crime, as Grant was unarmed and laying on his stomach when he was shot in the back by Mehserle on an Oakland rail platform Jan. 1, 2009.
Jubilee Shine, a representative of the L.A. Coalition, contends that Mehserle should receive the maximum amount of time possible when he is sentenced Nov. 5 - 14 years total. “We also feel that federal charges of civil rights violations should be filed against him and the other officers that were present on the Fruitvale platform that morning, such as Tony Pirone and Marysol Domenici,” he said. “That’s why we’re asking for Congresswoman Waters’ support.”
The visit to Waters’ office at 2 p.m. coincided with a support rally for Mehserle and all law enforcement officers, called by an unknown individual (http://bit.ly/czusvK) and promoted primarily through Facebook, held at the same time at the Walnut Creek courthouse.
Over 200 representatives of various Bay Area efforts to secure justice for Grant staged a counter demonstration directly in front of the Mehserle supporters at the courthouse on Ygnacio Valley Road. Media reports say that the rally remained peaceful though loudly vocal amid a heavy police presence.
Bay Area Congresswoman Barbara Lee has called for a federal investigation into the Mehserle shooting and the U.S. Justice Department issued a statement on July 9 saying that it had opened an investigation.
According to Shine, Waters contacted him by phone the same day and expressed support for the federal effort. “She told me we would receive a written statement affirming her pledge to publicly encourage the Justice Department to review the case,” he said.
As of July 23 however, the statement had not been made available to the public and April Lawrence, a field representative for Waters, stated that her office was “making inquiries,” but that they did not have a date when the statement would be available.