A side street west of the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland will soon take the name of Oscar Grant, the man killed on the platform by a transit police officer more than a decade ago.
BART directors unanimously approved the request from Grant’s family at a board meeting Thursday. Friends, relatives and community supporters originally wanted the entire station to be renamed in Grant’s honor — which they say remains a goal.
Wanda Johnson, Grant’s mother, said she was grateful for the vote and called the action a form of “atonement” by the agency.
“We’re going to take one step at a time,” she said. “We just have to continue to press, continue to chip away. You’re going to reach your destination in due season.”
More on Oscar Grant
Former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle shot unarmed Grant in the back while he was pinned down by a second officer early on New Year’s Day in 2009. Mehserle argued that he thought he was firing his Taser and was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Not long after Grant’s death, family members started pushing for police accountability legislation in Sacramento and locally. BART directors said at Thursday’s meeting that police reforms the agency implemented after the shooting have made a substantive difference in how riders are treated and law enforcement misconduct is handled.
But at the same time, family members had little success trying to secure various memorials at the station. Johnson brought with her to the BART meeting a plaque adorned with her son’s name and face that she hopes will one day be installed at the spot where he was shot.
The family first began inquiring about the street dedication in 2010. The side street, which is two blocks long and has no name, will be called Oscar Grant Way. Family members said they hope the road signage will be put in place on March 23, the day a mural of Grant next to the station is set to be unveiled.
Attempts to name the street had been delayed in recent weeks because of confusion over who owned the road, said Cephus Johnson, Grant’s uncle.
“There was thought that it belonged to the city of Oakland, and we went to them,” Cephus Johnson said. “And then BART claimed they didn’t own it, and then they did own it. It was going back and forth.”
Believing it was in their jurisdiction, Oakland City Council members drafted legislation to rename the street but, once they realized they did not have that power, passed a resolution last month urging BART directors to take the step.
Former Councilwoman Desley Brooks, who wrote the measure along with Council President Rebecca Kaplan, chided BART directors at Thursday’s meeting, saying they and their staff knew all along that the road was in their purview but led her to believe it was in the city’s.
“In the 10 years since Oscar was killed, nothing has been done by this board or by BART voluntarily,” Brooks said. “It has been done because the community has pushed and demanded BART simply do what is correct.”
BART board members voiced support for the renaming and approved it 8-0, with Director Debora Allen absent. She had posed a question on Facebook about whether the agency should memorialize individuals, then deleted the post amid backlash.
Directors said Thursday that honoring Grant with a street name and public art may be comforting to the family, but the police reforms enacted years ago were also meaningful efforts to recognize him.
“Many will say, ‘Oh, it’s been 10 years and it’s a little street.’ I am so proud that this community, this particular family, has decided to work so closely with government,” said Director Lateefah Simon. “You refused not just to stay silent — you refused to not make systemic change in this agency.”
Source : https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/BART-to-name-street-next-to-Fruitvale-station-13617390.php