Earlier today a group of friends and compatriots, part of the San Jose chapter of Justice for Trayvon Martin, protested against racial bias in the legal system and with respect to law enforcement. Several of them are familiar due to my affiliation with Occupy San Jose during the fall and winter of 2011. The San Francisco Bay Area has had a long history of racial tension and protest- from the 1960s in Oakland emerged the Black Panthers, one of the most influential protest groups to emerge from the decade. A critically-acclaimed movie, Fruitvale Station, was just released, about the deeply controversial shooting of Oscar Grant on January 1st, 2009.
Last year I attended a march in downtown Oakland during the turmoil that followed the Martin shooting-which I described in detail in this post (where I felt it distasteful to be dominated by white, hard-line Communists). The shooting and the activism since is part of a larger need to make law enforcement more transparent, and end racial biases in sentencing. One of the biggest determinants of which people receive the death penalty for murder is the race of the victim. The laws used to prosecute gangs also lead to high recidivism and much collateral damage- an proposed California proposition in 2008 would have created a world where ex-gang members could violate parole just for living in their old neighborhood. There is still much to be done.
I didn’t make this protest, but I stand in solidarity with those that did. Never give up, never surrender.