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    After Ten Years, Oscar Grant Honored

    By Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember At-Large–

    Oscar Grant III was a 22-year-old African-American man who was fatally shot in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009 by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California. On a crowded BART train returning from San Francisco, BART Police officers detained Grant and several other passengers on the platform at the Fruitvale BART Station. Two officers, including Mehserle, forced the unarmed Grant to lie face down on the platform. Mehserle drew his pistol and shot Grant in the back. Grant was rushed to Highland Hospital in Oakland and was pronounced dead later that day. 

    The events were captured on multiple official and private digital video and privately-owned cell phone cameras. Owners disseminated their footage to media outlets and to various websites where it became viral. Numerous protests of police actions took place in the following days.

    On January 22 at the Oakland City Council Meeting, the Resolution introduced by former Councilmember Desley Brooks, and co-authored by me, to rename the unnamed road adjacent to the west side of the Fruitvale BART Station to “Oscar Grant Way” was heard after passing Life Enrichment on Tuesday, January 15.

    In committee I stated: “We are here today to honor a life that was tragically cut short at the Fruitvale BART station. The activism of the family and the community sparked an international movement. We need to honor the life of Oscar Grant, the activism his death has sparked, and we need to continue to fight for a world where black men and boys are not targets of these types of killings.”

    It was determined that the street to be named is the property of BART, so I called my longtime friends on the BART Board and asked them if they would consider renaming the street, to which they agreed. The Life Enrichment Committee heard from BART Board President Bevan Dufty and BART Director Lateefah Simon, who did come and speak on the Resolution.

    Said Dufty: “I want to thank Oscar’s mother for working with me. I want to apologize to the community, and to take accountability for the delays that have occurred in naming this road. I am 100 percent in support and am committed to working with my colleague Lateefah Simon to correct this at the upcoming BART Board meeting on February 14.”

    Simon, in turn, said, “We are ten years too late. I apologize to the community. The BART Board will move mountains to name this street after Oscar Grant. We will organize like Oscar’s mother has organized internationally. We will do this. We have no choice.”

    Oscar’s Uncle Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson thanked former member Brooks for bringing this resolution forward and thanked the community for keeping vigilant for 10 years. “I have been saying it is because of the community and political figures and clergy and activists in the streets that prayed with and for us and speaking on behalf of us for Oscar’s name never to be forgotten. Thank you. We will do what we’ve got to do to name this street.”

    Said Oscar’s mother Wanda Johnson: “I would first like to thank God and the BART Directors for carrying this forward. I am so grateful today that you all see that Oscar’s life lost was not in vain. His death has sparked a movement. One of the atonements is for BART to name the street after my son, Oscar Grant. Thank you for seeing this injustice and not ignoring it but acting.”

    Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan was elected in 2008 to serve as Oakland’s citywide Councilmember; she was re-elected in 2016. She also serves on the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC). Follow Councilmember Kaplan on Twitter @Kaplan4Oakland ( https://twitter.com/Kaplan4Oakland ) and Facebook                                                                                   ( https://www.facebook.com/Kaplan4Oakland/ ).