OAKLAND, California— Officials with the city of Oakland have been urging calm for its residents in the wake of the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old Bay Area father and the subsequent protests that sparked up last week over his death at the hands of a local police officer. But Oakland rapper [artist id=”2355192″]Mistah F.A.B[/artist] wants more than peace — he wants justice. “It was a malicious attack, an act of cruelty,” he said of the New Year’s Day shooting of Oscar Grant by a local transit agency police officer. “So we are not even asking for justice anymore. We are out here demanding it.”
The rising star in the Bay’s hyphy scene should have been in Los Angeles continuing the recording of his debut album, but instead he talked to MTV News on Friday (January 9) by phone from near Oakland’s City Hall, where he was joining a third day of protests over the killing. Grant was killed after he and a group of other young men were pulled off a Bay Area Rapid Transit train following a fight in the early hours of January 1. He was shot while lying face-down with his hands behind his head by a BART police officer, Johannes Mehserle. The shooting was captured on cell phone video by train passengers observing the scuffle and broadcast by the local news station, KTVU.
“I’m on the front lines, homey, because I am a member of this community and we are not going to stand for these assassinations anymore,” F.A.B. told us. “I wish [today’s protest] was more consistent, though — there’s only, like, a couple of dozen people here right now and dwindling. But I can understand, given what happened Wednesday night.”
On Wednesday, hours after Grant was laid to rest and Mehserle resigned from his position, thousands of people staged a vocal but peaceful afternoon protest in downtown Oakland. By nighttime, it turned into a destructive, angry uprising that left the windows and doorways of many local minority businesses smashed and trash cans set ablaze. It also tarnished the idea that the citizens of the East Bay Area could have their voices heard in a cogent, rational activist setting.
“We have a history of being a city and community known for organizing and for our activism,” F.A.B. said. “So it was disheartening that a few people used the protest to get out their frustrations. A lot of those people [causing the damage] didn’t know what the rally was for, and had nothing to do with the original protest and had no interest in Oscar Grant’s situation. It takes away from what we’re battling and the justice we want done.
“But they’re frustrated. People are frustrated. I don’t condone the burning down of minority businesses or destroying city property — that makes Oakland look bad. But Oscar Grant was not the first young man to be shot and killed by a police officer in Oakland in the last year. The Oakland police do not have a good relationship with the community — especially the young people of this community — so I understand some of that frustration.”
F.A.B. hopes that more people in Oakland — specifically, young people — and nationwide will stand with him and the other protesters over Grant’s killing. He and others want the officer tried as a murderer and the mayor and the police department to recognize that there is a problem between police officers in the Bay Area and the communities they are policing. He believes that Grant’s killing has touched a nerve nationwide.
“You know, when people hear or read that an officer killed someone, they’re almost immune to it. But when you actually see it happen like on the news, and how senseless it seemed … Imagine if Sean Bell’s murder [in New York last year] was captured on video. You can only shake your head.”