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Oscar Grant

Remembering the many killed, during National Day Against Police Brutality

on October 23, 2021

Across the street from Oscar Grant III Way, a sea of candles lit up the Fruitvale BART Station on Friday evening.

Families from across the Bay Area placed these candles in front of an Oscar Grant mural to mark National Day Against Police Brutality. Every Oct. 22, families and community members across the country remember and honor people who were killed by police officers.

The event was started in 1996 by the October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. The goal was for organizations across the country to discuss solutions to the national epidemic of police brutality and to recognize the amount of lives that have been lost.

In Oakland, the event was organized by Cephus “Uncle Bobby X” Johnson from the Love not Blood Campaign, which allows families affected by police killings to lead the movement to be free from such violence. Johnson is also the uncle of Oscar Grant, who was killed by BART police on Jan. 1 2009. Johnson wanted to commemorate the lives of people killed by police since Grant’s death by naming each one.

In California alone, more than 900 people have been killed by police in the past six years, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

“We wanted to light up the universe,” Johnson said.

The event opened up with a libation ceremony, where water was tossed on the ground to memorialize the relatives. It was followed by a prayer from a group representing the Indigenous Mexica people. The group guided the crowd to face north, south, east and west, while blowing a conch shell to acknowledge the lost lives and to remember the happy moments that they brought to the families.

“May these memories never be lost. Because once we forget about them, then that is when they actually die,” said Alex Garcia, who was a part of the Mexica group. “We can see sadness, but we can also see happiness. We can also see a purpose for why we’re here.”

The purpose Garcia mentioned is the community showing support for each other, something that Johnson appreciates.

“Really, it was the community that stood with us, embraced us, loved on us, cried with us, went back and forth to court with us, but most importantly, said that ‘I am Oscar Grant,’” Johnson said.

National day against brutality
At the Fruitvale BART station, photos of those killed by police. (William Jenkins)

The event ended with a reading of the names of 2,000 people killed by police in California, including Erik Salgado and Kenneth Ross Jr, who were killed in the past year. Family members placed candles in front of pictures of loved ones each time a name was called.

Tatiana Grant, who was 4 years old when her father was killed, appreciated the community support for her and her father.

“I feel like if we were to do it by ourselves, we wouldn’t have gotten over,” she said. “And then having everyone come out as a community, we’re getting somewhere.” 

The event was also was for future generations, Johnson said. 

“This is about saving our babies so that they can have real freedom, justice, and equality,” he said.

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