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“Fruitvale,” the new movie about Oscar Grant, gets rave reviews at Sundance UPDATE 2

8:24 pm in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol


A protest at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland. Flickr photo courtesy of Michael Mees.

Updated to add: Fruitvale just won both the Grand Jury Prize (“the big enchilada, as the announcer said) and the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic film at the Sundance Awards!

On Democracy Now this morning, Amy Goodman interviewed filmmaker Ryan Coogler about his debut film, Fruitvale, which tells the story of the murder of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer. The film stars Michael B. Jordan as Oscar and Octavia Spencer as Oscar’s mother, Wanda, and was produced by Forest Whitaker, among others. The movie has been a standout at the Sundance Film Festival. It reportedly was the subject of a bidding war; distribution rights were acquired by the Weinstein Company, which means that it should be playing in a movie theater near you later this year.

The two short clips that Amy Goodman showed during the interview, along with Coogler’s description of what it was like to make this movie, left me in tears. It reminded me that Oscar’s death is still an open wound that will never heal until Oakland stops marginalizing and brutalizing and killing young men of color. I’ve written fairly extensively about Oscar and police brutality in Oakland. This is one of the first FDL diaries I ever wrote, in anticipation of the Mehserle verdict back in July 2010 (which would turn out to be involuntary manslaughter instead of murder). This diary was written a year ago, on the third anniversary of Oscar’s death.

Ryan Coogler, the filmmaker whose day job is counselor at a San Francisco juvenile detention center, was compelled to make this movie because in the cell phone videos of the murder, Oscar was the same age as Coogler and “looked like he could have been any one of us.” And because he was angry and frustrated; the killing of an unarmed black man by police was, unfortunately, nothing new to Coogler as an African-American resident of the East Bay. Fruitvale (named after the BART station where Oscar was killed) begins with those cell phone videos and then flashes back to what Oscar was doing earlier that day.

I’ve read a lot of reviews of the movie; some of them focus on the fact that Oscar is portrayed in such a positive light. For those of us who are Friday Night Lights fans, the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Oscar is genius. For me, he’s a good match for the Oscar Grant that I have concocted in my head. I didn’t know Oscar, and it’s tempting to turn Oscar into some larger-than-life person. He wasn’t. But he was loved by his family and friends. He was Tatiana’s dad and Wanda’s son and Uncle Bobby’s nephew—we do know Oscar’s family now, because they have become tireless advocates for justice, not just for Oscar but for every victim of police brutality. Oscar was a young man who was trying to make the most of a hard day that New Year’s Eve and he did not deserve to be shot in the back on that cold fucking BART platform by a monster like Mehserle. If this movie does nothing else, perhaps it will help people to see that the cops are not always right, or righteous, and that until we really hold them accountable for these young lives they’ve taken, they’ll keep shooting first and asking questions later, as they did with Oscar and as they did in the case of Alan Blueford.

Unfortunately, the Oakland Police Department doesn’t seem to have any intention of changing its ways. Alan Blueford’s father, Adam, was back in front of the Oakland City Council this past Tuesday. Mr. Blueford was speaking out against the hiring of superpig and global security mogul William Bratton by OPD as part of a $250,000 consulting package. Bratton is worthy of a whole ‘nother diary, but suffice it to say that the last thing Oakland needs is more outsiders encouraging their cops to Stop & Frisk.

Police Chief Howard Jordan promised that racial profiling would not be a part of OPD policy. Nobody believed him, least of all OO livestreamer Bella Eiko/Jessica Hollie (below), who was another of the more than 200 people who addressed the City Council about Bratton during that marathon session on Tuesday. At 2 AM, the council voted 7-1 in favor of hiring Bratton. (The video that Jessica is referring to but that never makes it onscreen at the meeting is this one.)


Oakland: A City in Pieces (An Update on Alan Blueford)

1:57 am in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol

Image: greendoula / Flickr

Background: Two weeks ago, the family of Alan Blueford and their supporters sought answers from the Oakland City Council about Alan’s death — answers they have been seeking since their 18-year-old son was murdered by Oakland police officer Miguel Masso on May 6, 2012. Answers were not forthcoming. The council attempted to move on to other city business, including a resolution proclaiming Oakland an “International City of Peace.” The community rose up in anguish and distress and said: No Justice, No Peace.

* * *

In an attempt to avoid facing an onslaught of distraught citizens again this evening, city administrators held behind-the scenes meeting where they discussed limiting the number of people who would be allowed in council chambers. It’s comforting that they were able to focus on such matters while violence continued unabated on the mean streets of their city; five people were shot to death in the last couple of days.

Although such restrictive policies were not yet supposed to be in place for tonight’s meeting, dozens, if not hundreds, of people were barred from entering the council chambers. Balcony seating was closed. I didn’t attend, but I watched the livestreams and chatted online with people who were there. A friend who made it inside said that at the beginning of the meeting, there were only about 75 people present and many seats were empty. (There is seating for 216 and standing room for many more.)

According to media reports (which almost always underestimate crowds), about 100 people took part in the Interfaith March for Alan Blueford, which began at the Alameda County Courthouse and continued to City Hall for the meeting. Interfaith member and fearless Occupier Nichola Torbett says that the group blocked the streets at rush hour, without a permit. (Whose streets? Our streets!) Once they arrived at City Hall, many of these people were denied entrance to the council meeting by the police.

Read the rest of this entry →

Oakland City Council: “We’re gonna party like it’s 1984.”

11:19 pm in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol

It’s deja vu all over again.

Back in May, I wrote a diary about Alan Blueford, the African-American high school student who was murdered by Officer Miguel Masso of the Oakland Police Department. Initially, OPD said that Officer Masso and Blueford had been in a “gun battle.” That’s what Blueford’s parents were told hours after they arrived at police headquarters seeking answers. They’d been notified by Alan’s friends (as opposed to police) that their son was dead. Police informed them that their son (and the officer that he supposedly shot at) had been rushed to Highland Hospital. Those were lies. It turns out that Officer Masso shot himself in the foot. Alan was apparently left to die in the street and was never transported to the hospital. The coroner found that Alan had not fired a gun. Officer Masso’s credibility has been further undermined by revelations that he may have been hired by OPD while he was still under investigation in a civils rights lawsuit filed against him when he was a New York city cop.

On May 15, the Bluefords appeared before the Oakland City Council asking for help in finding out what had really happened to their child. Chief Jordan was missing in action and the council had no answers for the Bluefords that evening, although one of them helpfully proposed that a more efficient next-of-kin notification protocol might be in order the next time the pigs blow a black teenager to Kingdom Come.

On September 18, frustrated by more than four long months of obfuscation and stonewalling by the City and OPD, Alan’s family once again appealed to the City Council, asking them to produce the police report on Alan’s death. Once again, the council promised that Chief of Police Howard Jordan would materialize. And once again, after a “10-minute break” that lasted more than a half hour, HoJo was a no-show.

Council chambers were packed with hundreds of supporters of the Blueford family from all segments of the community, including—but by no means limited to—members of Occupy Oakland. When it became obvious that no police report was forthcoming, the crowd began to chant, “Where’s Howard Jordan?” The council attempted to reconvene and introduce the next item, which was a resolution to name Oakland as an “International City of Peace.” Although the irony may have been lost on the council, it was not lost on the crowd. The next chant became the familiar standby: “No justice, no peace.” Council president Larry Reid abruptly adjourned the meeting, leaving the Blueford family without answers and the remainder of city business undone. A few days later, OPD leaked a “new” report that Alan Blueford’s fingerprints had been found on a gun at the scene. The Blueford family quickly responded, saying that OPD was continuing to slander their son and that the timing of the leak was suspicious and self-serving, given OPD’s ongoing inability to produce a police report.

The Bluefords and their supporters—in particular, members of the interfaith community—have vowed to return to the next city council meeting on Tuesday, October 2nd. Anticipating that another large crowd of people might show up and demand accountability from their elected representatives, City Administrator Deanna Santana is attempting to limit the number of people allowed to attend the meeting. In a series of off-the-record meetings with other high-level city officials, Ms. Antoinette Santana has proposed that the balcony area of the chambers be closed, reducing the current 214 seats by about half. She also wants to bar citizens from standing in the chambers or congregating immediately outside the doors, which has been a longstanding tradition. Instead, overflow crowds would be diverted to rooms with video feeds (and, of course, no access to the council members safely ensconced in chambers with a manageable group of 100 or so).

Edited to add this lovely bit of doublespeak:

“The primary goal is to make sure the city’s business moves forward and the public has a chance to participate in the political process,” city spokeswoman Karen Boyd said.

You can imagine how Oakland is reacting to this latest fascist fantasy dreamed up by the gang that brought you Scott Olsen. Stay tuned for an update on Tuesday.