Fruitvale Station screening, discussion on race and class

Chelsea Jones | 2/24/2014, 5:58 a.m.
The injustices that affect children residing in low-income neighborhoods was the topic of discussion during a free public screening of ...
From left, Michael James, Michael B. Jordan, Trestin George, Thomas Wright, Kevin Durand and Alejandra Nolasco in a scene from Fruitvale Station. Ron Koeberer of The Weinstein Company

Pirone and Domenici detain Grant’s friends. Pirone forces Grant off the train, but not the prison enemy. Grant and his friends are instructed to sit up against a wall.

They repeatedly say that they’re innocent. However, Pirone and Mehserle ignore their statements and rough-handle them and threaten them with arrest. They make efforts to explain to the officers how the fight occurred; yet the officers provoke them with racial slurs.

Grant attempts to stand, but Pirone and Mehserle pin him to the floor. Pirone presses Grant’s face to the floor using his knee.

Eventually, Mehserle shoots Grant in the back. Commuters watching and taping the event shriek loudly with disapproval.

Pirone gets the train moving and clears the platform. Panting, Grant iterates to Pirone and Mehserle he has a daughter. The ambulance arrives and takes Grant to the hospital.

Grant’s mother, friends and girlfriend frantically rush to the hospital. They nervously wait as Grant undergoes surgery. The next morning, they’re informed that Grant has died.

Sophina picks up Tatiana. Tatiana asks Sophina where her dad is, but Sophina just stares at her. The movie ends.

Actual footage recorded by commuters present at the incident was shown in the film. The film also provided a glimpse of a vigil held in Grant’s honor at Fruitvale Station last year on New Year’s Day.

Following Grant’s death, Mehserle, Pirone and Domenici were fired. The general manager and chief of BART police stepped down. Mehserle was charged with first-degree murder.

During the trial, after Mehserle claimed he mistook his gun for his taser, the jury found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to two years in prison and released in 11 months.

The discussion

A panel discussion addressing issues of race and class and their impact on educational opportunity followed the screening. Grant’s uncle, Cephus Johnson, and Collette Flanagan, founder of Dallas-based Mother’s Against Police Brutality, served as panelists.

Grant’s mother is Johnson’s younger sister. Johnson, a systems engineer and founder and CEO of the Oscar Grant Foundation, operates as the spokesperson for Grant’s family. He has spoken before many audiences and was influential in the creation of BART police’s new oversight committee.

Flanagan, a Dallas resident and former IBM executive, founded MAPB, an organization that advocates against police brutality, when her son, Clinton Allen, 25, was shot seven times and killed by Dallas police officer, Clark Staller, last March. Allen was also unarmed.

Starting the discussion, the moderator asked Johnson what Grant was like as a person. Johnson responded Grant was his first nephew and was like a son to him. He described Grant as being a loving person and mentioned the movie provided an accurate portrayal.

“What you see in the movie was him. We give much love to Michael B. Jordan for really internalizing Oscar’s spirit and portraying it on the screen because it was Oscar. His character throughout the movie was just groundbreaking,” Johnson said.

The moderator then asked Johnson how the court trial affected his family. Johnson began by explaining that the criminal justice system has always harbored racism toward minorities, and added that the court process was painful.