Sunday, June 13, 2010


Citizens from the Bay Area and the Central Valley Rally on the Steps of the State Capitol and bring justice to our neighborhoods

On New Year’s Day 2009 a young black man named Oscar Grant was pulled out of a Bay Area Rapid Transit car, beaten, and forced face-down on the cement by local police officers. Then the unthinkable happened. While Oscar was unarmed, not resisting, face-down and hand-cuffed a BART officer named Johannes Mehserle pulled out his gun and shot him in back, killing him. Although this incident was caught on many cell phone videos from several different angles, it took Alameda County DA Tom Orloff more than 2 weeks to take any kind of action against the officer. In fact, it was only after Bay Area residents took to the streets of downtown Oakland in protest and rebellion did the DA charge Mehserle with the murder of Oscar Grant III.
In response the Bay Area began organizing, starting with weekly townhall meetings to discuss plans of action to ensure justice for Oscar Grant and take a deeper look into how and why these tragedies happen in our communities. The result was a coalition of community, religious, and political leaders who decided to take these issues to the people who should be solving them: California Law Makers. With the slogan “All Roads Lead to Sacramento” the Caravan for Justice was born. The intent was to lobby members of the California government to take a look at police abuse in communities of color, unequal arrest rates, unfair prison sentences, the 3 strikes law, school underfunding, and prison overcrowding, gangs, drugs, and poverty.
The first caravan took place on Thursday, February 19th on the steps of the State Capitol building in Sacramento. Minister Christopher Muhammad of San Francisco welcomed the crowd as he enthusiastically exclaimed “We didn’t come here to play!” Mr. Muhammad and others went on to speak about the crisis that exists in poor communities of color. “If dogs, blue whales, or spotted owls were dying at the rate of young black and brown men, we would have congressional hearings going on!” stated Muhammad, “Why are our representatives silent? They’re silent because they haven’t heard from us, so we’re here to introduce ourselves.” Despite the heavy police presence (roof snipers, helicopters, dogs, and hundreds of officers on bike, horse, car, and foot) the Caravan has returned to Sacramento twice on Wednesday April 8th and Tuesday May 26th drawing a crowd of thousands. Caravan for Justice IV is in the making, check out for the latest information.
Other speakers at the Caravans for Justice included California State Assemblymen Sandre Swanson and Joe Coto, prisoner rights advocate Barbara Becnel, the President of NAACP-Sacramento Betty Williams, San Francisco Archbishop Franzo King, Oakland Minister Keith Muhammad, the New Black Panthers, immigrant rights activist Renee Salcedo, rapper/producer J.T. the Bigga Figga, United Playaz of the Bay Area, Native American activists Valerie Tulier and Mike Ali, Stockton’s ESPINO (Escuelas Si, Pintos No), Modesto resident and original Black Panther Juanita Jackson, and members of Modesto CopWatch.
Three strikes law, racial and gang profiling are major in the Central Valley. There is no doubt in the Latino and Black communities that police take advantage of their position and abuse their power. More often than not we are the target and the rich white communities are those they really serve and protect.
In April 09 the NAACP hosted town hall meetings at the King Kennedy Center where over 100 community members came to tell their experience with surrounding police departments such as MPD, SPD, CPD, and TPD. The stories were serious accounts of police brutality. The sister of Richie Robles ,“sword man” as the Modesto bee and Modesto PD continue to address him, was present to tell the REAL story about how the police handled the situation.
It was obvious that local police departments are out of control and lack accountability to our communities. Modesto Copwatch and other community organizations like Aztlan Rising, Project Lazarus, Modesto Brown Berets, the NAACP Youth Council, Modesto Anarcho , Radical Mental Health, Grayson Neighborhood Council, and the Freedom Bound Center/ Sol collective along with local hip hop projects such as the Revolutionary Hip Hop Report Magazine, Juggernaut Records, K- Cizzl Productions, and Pen Point Entertainment, came together to further address these issues in a much more fun way. On Oct 11 they hosted a Hip Hop Festival that included hip hop performances from JT the Bigga Figga, Sherman Austin, Sacrifice, Cobalt, True to Life, Nikfuq, Los Punks and many more!Film screenings of Black and Gold, a film that addresses gang activity for the better, other films about immigration rallies from LA to the BAY, and other local projects like the Yolo County Community Copwatch addressed issues that are most important to us. A big hit was the graffiti wall and the jumper house and of course free food and Prizes are also part of the attraction.
Around 300 people from LA, the Bay, Sacramento, Stockton, Manteca, Merced, Los Banos, and of course Modesto attended the 7 hour long event without a single act of violence, drama, or set-trippin.’
This is our way of taking our community back to empower ourselves against the system that is obviously formatted to incarcerate and criminalize urban youth and people of color. Show your support and share your stories with us. Let’s change the Central Valley for the sake of our children’s future. Stop Police Brutality! End racist laws like the Three Strikes! Squash the beef!

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