Epidemic of police brutality in Oakland continues

Eighteen-year-old Black student killed by cops

Protesters outside Eastmont police station, May 12
Photo: Krissana Limlamai

“My son was shot three times and murdered. We don’t know the timing of the shooting. We don’t know if the police shot himself first, last or when. … We want justice.” These were the words of Adam Blueford, the father of the most recent victim of racist police brutality in the City of Oakland. Adam and his wife, Jeralynn, spoke to the community and the press at a weekend march that began at the site of the killing in East Oakland and ended at the Eastmont Mall Police Station. 

This most recent death at the hands of the Oakland Police Department is one more in a long line of similar killings of young Black men by one of the most repressive police forces in the country. Alan Blueford was an 18-year-old senior at Skyline High School who was expected to attend prom the following week and graduate in June. Instead, a racist cop, whose name has yet to be released, shot Alan three times as he was trying to run away, letting him die under a lamppost on May 6.

Immediately after the shooting, in police playbook fashion, the OPD began spinning information presented to the media—a media that rarely independently verifies such propaganda. Around midnight, and without any evidence, the police claim they decided to detain Alan and his two friends for concealing a firearm. Alan ran from the scene, at which time the OPD reported that they believed Alan posed “an immediate and lethal threat.” Shortly after, three bullets were in Alan’s body and another was in a cop’s leg.

The media portrayed the shooting as a “gun battle” in which Alan, who a supposed witness claimed had a gun, left a cop injured. A couple of days later, it was reported that the cop had injured himself.

Several “witnesses” stated that a gun was found nearby, but the cops have yet to produce the firearm.

The OPD also claimed that they had sent Alan’s body in an ambulance to a local hospital. However, family members discovered, after having to wait two hours in the lobby of a local police station, that Alan had just been left on the street to die.

The OPD did not contact the family after he died even though Alan was carrying his wallet with his school ID. Instead, the Bluefords were called by a friend of Alan’s who heard about the shooting.

Smear campaign

As if distorting the facts about the crime scene were not enough, the police, with the help of the media, have run a smear campaign highlighting that Alan was on juvenile probation for burglary. In many of the reports since the shooting, Alan’s probation is foregrounded even though he had served his time and was completing the community service portion of his probation.

Such blatant character smearing, which carries heavy racist undertones, is meant to dehumanize Alan Blueford and his family while justifying the killing of a young Black male, as if any criminal past under the racist and unjust U.S. legal system justifies the judgment of execution.

Since the murder, Alan’s parents, Adam and Jeralynn Blueford, have demonstrated great courage in demanding justice for their son. A vigil was held on May 11 to raise awareness about the case to the larger Oakland community.

Many groups and individuals who helped build a movement in support of Oscar Grant, another young Black man murdered by the cops, were present and offered their support. Alan’s family repudiated the claims by the police and asked that everyone use their social networking and media skills to spread the word about the loss of their beloved son.

On May 12, a march was called from the scene of the crime at 92nd Avenue and Birch Street. Over 200 people participated in the march and militantly took over the streets and headed to the Eastmont Police Station.

Family members were welcomed with honks of support by many in the neighborhood. Leaflets announcing a May 15 hearing at City Hall were distributed to all the cars that stopped to witness the multinational march.

The chants led by the marchers summarized the sentiments felt by all. Chants of “Justice for Alan! Justice for Oscar Grant!” “Stop the war on the Black community!” and “Jail killer cops, NOW!” echoed through streets of East Oakland. When the march arrived at the Eastmont Police Station, the cops locked the doors and put a sign over the window reading, “Sorry, we're closed.” The family thanked the crowd for their support and vowed to keep on fighting.

On May 15, the Blueford family addressed Oakland City Council. The Council chamber, usually all but empty when in session, was packed with supporters of the Bluefords. Seats in both the main chamber and balcony quickly filled. Other supporters filled the corridors of City Hall, and were blocked from entering the Council chamber by members of the OPD. Inside, supporters held up signs reading, “Justice for Alan Blueford!”

Father at City Council: 'We'll never get our son back.'

The first to speak was Alan’s father. He said,”We want justice. We'll never get our son back. He didn't deserve to die. … We want background checks done on all members of the OPD!”

Jeralynn spoke of the rude and dismissive treatment the family received at the Oakland Police Department while waiting to know Alan's fate. She said: “I work in health care. My job is to take care of my patients. The job of the police is to protect and serve. I got no service. They didn't try to console us. They told me pure lies about my dead son! I want to be explained how and why it happened.”

Then Tenesha Blye, Alan's cousin, addressed the Counsil. She described herself as a “product of Oakland,” who had gone on to become an attorney. She was, she said, “everything that my cousin no longer has a choice to become.” She went on to say that “the police tell us they have six months to file a report.” She continued: “We want the truth now! The people of Oakland are scared to speak out against the police because they're scared of what the OPD will do to them!” She received a standing ovation. The hall echoed with chants of “Justice for Alan!” Outside the chamber, supporters grew so loud that all work of the Council was halted.

The stereotyping of young Black men effectively makes it legal for the cops to kill them with impunity. Such terror represses potential fight-back movements. The division of the working class by racism and other forms of bigotry is a key tool of the 1 percent to maintain their domination. The epidemic of police murder of young men of color is not only immoral but serves to repress the working class as a whole.

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