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Images + Words: Oscar Grant posters in downtown Oakland, California

I took these photos in downtown Oakland about a year or so after the tragic shooting death of Oscar Grant. The black & white posters had been spray-painted, layered and torn, showing the scars of violent protests, peaceful expression, and the passage of time.
Scroll down for the story behind these images …

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Oscar Grant III

Oscar Juliuss Grant III, (February 27, 1986 – January 1, 2009)
Oscar Grant III was fatally shot by BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California, United States, in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009. Responding to reports of a fight on a crowded Bay Area Rapid Transit train returning from San Francisco, BART Police officers detained Grant and several other passengers on the platform at the Fruitvale BART Station. Officer Johannes Mehserle and another officer were restraining Grant, who was lying face down and allegedly resisting arrest. Officer Mehserle stood and, according to his attorney, said: “Get back, I’m gonna Tase him.” Then Mehserle drew his gun and shot Grant once in the back. During his court testimony, Mehserle said that Grant then exclaimed, “You shot me!” Grant was unarmed; he was pronounced dead the next morning at Highland Hospital in Oakland.

The events were captured on multiple digital video and cell phone cameras. The footage was disseminated to media outlets and to various websites, where it was watched millions of times. The following days saw both peaceful and violent protests.


Protesters holding signs while walking in the streets on January 8, 2009.

Police in riot gear were dispatched and made efforts to disperse the crowds. During the course of the evening, among other peaceful protest, some of the protesters turned to rioting and rampant property vandalism. Black Bloc and other rioters smashed hundreds of car and shop windows, several private cars and numerous trash containers, and dumpsters. Public buildings such as the Oakland Police Internal Affairs office and the almost restored Fox Theatre were heavily vandalized. The rioting wound down later in the evening and resulted in at least 105 arrests for suspicion of various offenses. Over 300 businesses were affected by the vandalism.

Protests, both peaceful and violent, continued through the trial of the BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. On November 5, 2010, Mehserle was sentenced to two years with double credit for time already served, reducing his term by 292 days for the 146 days he has already spent in jail. The judge overturned the gun enhancement, which could have added an additional 3 to 10 years to the sentence. He was released from prison at 12:01 am on June 13, 2011.

In popular culture

In January 2013, filmmaker Ryan Coogler premiered Fruitvale (later retitled Fruitvale Station), a dramatization of the last 24 hours in Grant’s life; the film incorporates some of the footage shot by eyewitnesses during the BART confrontation, and principal photography also included locations in Oakland, San Francisco, San Leandro, and San Quentin State Prison. The film initially screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 19. On January 26, 2013, the film won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize as well as the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Fergus Mason published a book about the events in 2013.

Additionally, the Oakland, California indie rock band Rogue Wave reference the incident in the song “Solitary Gun” on their 2010 album Permalight. “Stepped off the train and looked for Fruitvale signs. The January air it whips across my spine.”

In 2009, a short time before his own death, the rapper Dolla created a song titled “Oscar Grant” and it is dedicated to him.

Read more about the circumstances around the tragic death of Oscar Grant here >

  Poster images: © deb davies thorkelson | iPhone photos
Text Source: Wikipedia “The Free Encyclopedia”

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