They executed Alan Blueford

May 16, 2012

Adam Balogh reports on the Oakland police shooting of an unarmed teenager.

MORE THAN 100 San Francisco Bay Area activists and members of the Black community in Oakland, Calif., came together May 12 for a march for justice for Alan DeWayne Blueford, an 18-year-old high school senior gunned down by Oakland police officers at midnight on May 6.

The march was led by several members of Alan's family and began with a solemn moment of prayer led by his uncle, an ordained minister. But as soon as the march got underway, the tone turned immediately to righteous outrage.

With raised fists and a wheelchair-rigged sound system, marchers called out the racist and murderous practices of the Oakland Police Department (OPD), which has an infamous history of terrorizing Oakland's Black communities. Chants of "Justice for Alan!" were interrupted by calls to "Jail the killer cops--now!" and to "Stop the war...on the Black community!" as well as "OPD, you can't hide! We charge you with genocide!"

Under the blaring mid-afternoon sun, the march traveled 20 blocks from the intersection of 92nd Avenue and Birch Street, the site of the police attack that cost Alan his life, to the Eastmont Mall Police Sub-Station at 73rd Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard.

Protesters speak out for justice for Alan Blueford outside an Oakland police station
Protesters speak out for justice for Alan Blueford outside an Oakland police station (Wendy Kenin)

Marchers handed out fliers about Alan's case to neighbors and stopped motorists along the way, and the motorists responded with a deluge of horn honks in solidarity. A rally was held outside the glass doors of the station, in which family members addressed the multiracial crowd about Alan's life, the facts of the case and the state of racist police brutality in Black communities.

ALAN WAS a student at Oakland's Skyline High School. After watching the Mayweather-Cotto boxing match, he and his friends were hanging out at 90th Avenue and Birch Street when two police officers, driving with their lights off, approached the three young men with their firearms drawn.

Fearing a confrontation, Alan ran about two blocks down Birch Street and stopped by a lamppost around some well-lit houses. The police officers fired three times into Alan's body--including his stomach and leg. After those initial shots, witnesses report hearing a fourth shot. One police officer sustained a bullet wound to the foot and was rushed to the hospital.

The official OPD story changed several times. Initially, OPD-sponsored witnesses said "the suspect" was shooting at police, and that they "believed the young men had a concealed weapon." Other stories included the claim that Alan died on the porch steps of a house, shooting into the air, and another that he was running down the street, firing randomly. It was later shown that Alan was killed under the lamppost where he had stopped.

The OPD also claimed that a gun was found 30 feet from the body, but forensics tests show Alan never fired a gun. The OPD's website later admitted that the injured police officer's wound was self-inflicted. He shot himself in the foot and was rushed to the hospital.

The original OPD story stated that Alan was also rushed to the hospital and succumbed to his wounds there, but the reality is that he was left in the street for more than four hours. Police detained the two men who were with Alan for six hours, and when they were released, the two had the horrifying task of notifying their friend's family of Alan's death.

The OPD still has not released the name of Alan's killer, who is now on paid leave.

In the aftermath of Alan's death, the Oakland police and the media immediately ramped up the character defamation machine. They originally referred to Alan as a "suspect" and a convicted felon on probation as a way to justify the police officers' street execution of a young unarmed person of color.

By all accounts, Alan was a good student and a beloved friend, classmate and family member. At a vigil called by the family and attended by more than 100 people on May 11 in front of the Oakland police main station downtown, MC Hammer, a close friend of the family, spoke about the tragedy and his response to the comments about Alan's history:

When the character assassination begins, it won't stand. Alan was a great kid. None of us profess perfection, but execution? Execution? That is about as barbaric as you can get. To see our own kids continuously shot down. Lives devalued. To see [the OPD] take a position to not even give an answer to this mother and this father. We will not tolerate it.

On the night of Alan's death, his family was watching a breaking story on the news that a "suspect" was killed in a police shootout. According to one family member, they thought, "That's not him. He just hasn't called yet."

ALAN BLUEFORD'S family has committed itself to building a movement to fight for justice for Alan. They've called on supporters to join them, and they've teamed up with the families of other victims of racist police violence, like the families of Oscar Grant III and Kenneth Harding, both of whom were killed by Bay Area police officers.

During Saturday's post-march rally, the family continued its calls for justice. Alan's cousin, Tanesha Blye, said:

The chief of police [Howard Jordan] yesterday, after he was silent since May 6, finally decided to speak, and what he said was that he is "fairly certain that his police officer followed proper protocol."

Now, let's stop and think, all my intelligent people. At the very least, he was incompetent because he shot himself. But he continues to speak to us like we're stupid. Howard Jordan is a Black man. How dare he succumb to whatever pressures he is facing by that organization? And finally speak as a Black man and say that he is "fairly certain that the police officer followed proper protocol"? How stupid does he think we are?

"[The OPD] can say whatever they want," Alan's mother, Jeralynn Blueford, said, "but we want justice for our baby!"

The family's criticism extended beyond the conditions of Alan's case, drawing ties to the greater attack on Black communities. "Our homes are being invaded," said Alan's uncle. "Our streets are being run over. There is no justice. It's trial and execution."

Alan's murder comes on the heels of recent protests following the racist murder of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch vigilante George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. In the Bay Area, Johannes Mehserle, the police officer who killed Oscar Grant III on a BART platform on New Year's Day 2009, recently appealed to have the involuntary manslaughter conviction he received for the incident removed from his record in order to return to law enforcement. As one of Alan's family members said:

We watched them shoot Oscar in the back--just six inches from his back and shot him dead. And yet Mehserle is walking free. We watched them shoot down Trayvon Martin in Florida. And yet they gave [George Zimmerman] a $150,000 bail and second-degree murder. Before they even asked him what was his reason. We cannot let this happen. Stand up for yourselves, Black men! Black people! Everybody who's been bruised and abused by the police of Oakland!

Alan Blueford's family was clear that, in order to get justice for their own family member, for all victims of racist murder and for the Black community in general, people of color and their allies must build a movement for justice.

Perhaps Alan's grandmother said it best: "I grew up in the 1960s, and this is a repeat history. I want you all to know that we won before, and we'll win again. What we need is unity and prayer. You cannot get complacent. My generation fought for the right. You have to fight for your rights!"

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