Open Letter to the Justice for Oscar Grant Movement: Suggestions on Next Steps, Strategy and Unity Building
By Kali Akuno
National Organizer - Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Director of Education, Training, and Field Operations ? US Human Rights Network
The righteous anger and indignation on graphic
display in Oakland, California Thursday, July 8th
at the mockery of justice rewarded to Johannes
Mehserle for murdering Oscar Grant and the open
collaboration of several non-profit organizations
with the government to contain and delegitimatize
the people?s resistance is a clarion call. It?s a
call not just for justice for Oscar Grant and the
countless victims of police terror, but for
radical, systemic change. The anger, and its
focus, indicates a heightened awareness on behalf
of a new generation of working class Black,
Latino and Asian youth of the intractable
contradictions between the imperialist state and
oppressed peoples and the willingness to challenge them.
A new phase of development and a new set of
challenges now confront the movement to win
justice for Oscar Grant. The inexperience of the
youth forces engaged and the current weaknesses
and fragmentation of the left make this a very,
very delicate time. If certain conversations
aren?t had, if certain lessons of the past and
present aren?t incorporated, and if certain
contradictions aren?t addressed, then all of the
radiant energy on display July 8th could easily
fade, or just as easily turn its wrath in upon
itself and miss its true target.
This small contribution is an attempt to help
ignite conversation, share reflections from
critical movements of the past, and offer
suggestions in the hope of helping to facilitate
strategic and programmatic development within the movement.
On Next Steps and Organizing Orientation
1. Joint Reflection: to move the Justice for
Oscar Grant Movement forward progressive forces
focused on building the democratic mass movement,
should join forces and come together to assess
the strengths and weaknesses of the Justice for
Oscar Grant Movement over the past year and half.
One of the two main objectives of such a
collaboration, in the short term, would be to
produce a joint assessment and a unified set of
demands, both tactical and strategic, to help
anchor the movement in its next phase of struggle.
2. Joint Assessment: This assessment should be
issued as a statement and/or document that
provides a clear analysis of the movements
weaknesses and errors and some strong points of
orientation to try and anchor, sustain, and guide
it going forward. Some key points of assessment
should include (but not be limited to) the following:
a) A firm condemnation of collaboration and
opportunism; but avoiding personalized
vilification of the social forces that
collaborated (being mindful of the lessons of COINTELPRO)
b) A statement of distinction on the role of
political and community organizations as opposed
to non-profits; and clarity on the reformist
orientation and political limitations of non-profit organizations
c) The function of organization in the movement
to combat infiltration (as appears to have
occurred within the Black Bloc and other formations)
d) The need for strategy to help facilitate
forward development and political advancement of the movement(s)
3. Joint Strategy and Work Plan: The second
primary objective of such a collaboration would
be to draft a one-year strategy and work plan to
realize the unified demands that are put forward
to the movement to democratically accept
(understanding the independence of initiative of
each formation), modify, or categorically reject.
This convergence of forces, although necessarily
centered in California, particularly the Bay Area
and Los Angeles, should seek to build and
consolidate a national and international organizing initiative.
On Demand Expansion and Development
1. The opening of a Federal Investigation by the
Department of Justice (DOJ) can and should be
used as a national organizing opportunity.
However, more self-determining justice
initiatives should be organized simultaneously to
challenge US hegemony (internally and externally)
by internationalizing the struggle. More
concretely, an independent ?people?s or citizens?
commission should be established to conduct an
autonomous examination of the evidence, issue
indictments, and pressure the DOJ and its
process. This commission would ideally consist of
family members, community activists, lawyers,
jurists, etc. and call on various international
bodies within the United Nations (UN) and
International System (such as the Inter-American
Court) to intervene in the case and challenge the
racist policies and practices that enabled it.
2. The demand for resources and economic
development must be supported unequivocally, but
modified in a manner that puts limits on the
controls of City Hall and its near exclusive
access by ?grasstop? forces. A means to
accomplishing this (not without its faults or
limits by any stretch) could be the
institutionalization of participatory budgeting
systems to determine the use of the cities
resources to ensure they are used to address and
service human needs such as adequate housing, health care, education, etc.
This synthesis is an attempt to combine and
expand on the demands originally articulated by
the African People?s Socialist Party (APSP), By
Any Means Necessary (BAMN) Coalition, and the New Years Movement (NYM).
1. We demand that Officers Pirone and Domenici be indicted for murder.
2. We demand civil restitution and reparations
for the family Oscar Grant, and the victims of
Police violence by the OPD and BART.
3. We demand that BART Police be disarmed and disbanded.
4. We demand that the Police Bill of Rights,
which shields the records of police misconduct,
abuse and murder, be immediately abolished, and
that all police records be made public.
5. We demand that an independent ?peoples
commission?, drawn and determined by the citizens
of Oakland, with international jurists determined
by this commission, be granted oversight into the
Federal Department of Justice investigation of
the murder of Oscar Grant, and systemic
violations of civil and human rights by the Oakland and Transit Police.
6. We demand the termination of all Gang
Injunction laws and policies in Oakland and
throughout California on the grounds of their
unconstitutionality and their violation of civil and international law.
7. We demand that Oakland be declared a sanctuary
city, and that all ICE raids and racial profiling
policies and practices targeting Latino/a, Black,
Asian and other oppressed peoples be terminated immediately.
8. We demand that the City of Oakland, the State
of California, and the Federal Government provide
massive funding for education and jobs in Oakland
that are allocated and distributed via a
transparent and democratic public participatory budgeting process.
One-Year Plan Targets/Tactics
1. Conduct a mass and coordinated non-compliance
action in Oakland and Los Angeles the day after
Mehserle?s sentencing, that calls for Student
walk outs and strike or ?sick out? actions by
Public Sector, Transit, Dock, and other workers
that disrupts the regular flow of ?business? to
raise our demands and demonstrate the power of mass action.
2. Organize broad, neighborhood Police/Copwatch
formations, and work to create ?liberated zones?
in Black, Latino, Asian, and white working class
and poor communities, where the police are
prohibited or curtailed in their activities.
3. Organize a massive local, regional, statewide,
and national ?Justice for Oscar Grant? petition
drive to pressure the DOJ and build support for
the movement?s demands (buttressed by broad
internet and social networking interface to support and broaden reach).
4. Develop a broad people?s media and cultural
workers initiative to provide educational,
motivational, and agitation tools and resources
for the movement and to provide sufficient
analysis and coverage to frame the movement from
its own perspective and counter the reactionary
framing and attacks of the bourgeois media.
5. Hold a People?s Tribunal, with international
observers and jurists, to pressure the DOJ and its deliberations.
6. Utilize Inter-American and United Nations
special action procedures and special rapporteurs
to conduct international investigations,
recommendations, and sanctions on the US
government for its failure to protect the human
rights of Oscar Grant, the victims of police
violence, and the targets of the various racial
profiling laws and policies sanctioned by the government.
7. Organize local, state and national referendum
and legislative initiatives to realize and
support the movement?s demands. A possible start
could entail running progressive candidates in
Oakland who stand on a platform based on the
movement?s demands in the upcoming elections to
help define public debate and pressure the government to comply.
Without a doubt, accomplishing all of this is a
tall order, particularly for a young and
fragmented movement. But, as the history of the
peoples? struggles against white supremacy,
colonialism, and imperialism here and all over
the world demonstrate, no political challenges
are insurmountable. If we dare to win, then we
must dare to struggle against the internal
shortcomings and subjectivities of the movement
that hinder us from building the operational
unity needed to execute initiatives of scale such
as those proposed in this paper. The struggle for
unity does not mean that we should stop
struggling against collaborationist and
opportunist ideas and practices. It simply
implores us to do all we can to seize the
opportunities at hand. With organization,
strategy, discipline, and determination we can and will win!
In Unity and Struggle.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Kali can be contacted via email@example.com.