On Jan. 3, about 150 community members gathered at the West Oakland Bay Area Rapid Transit station to protest the killing of Sahleem Ohesehee Tindle by BART police officer Joseph Mateu. The action was held exactly one year after the murder.
The police and prosecutor narrative in this case shamelessly blames Tindle for his own death.
Despite body-camera footage proving that Tindle was unarmed with his hands raised in the air when Mateu shot him three times in the back, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced in October that Mateu would not face criminal charges, adding that he was justified in believing that Tindle posed an “imminent danger” to his life and others.
During the investigation into the shooting, BART police went so far as to consider Mateu for a promotion. Mateu was returned to the force just weeks after the cowardly murder and remains on duty to this day.
The rally, march, and candlelight vigil was organized by Mothers Fight Back, an organization that Tindle’s mother Yolanda Banks-Reed founded a few days after her son was killed. She has been fighting tirelessly to see justice for her son.
Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti-Police Terror Project and recipient of more than 40,000 votes for Oakland Mayor in November 2018, spoke to the members of the crowd: “There was no justice here and so there should be no peace. BART should not have any peace. Joseph Mateu should have no peace. I cannot think of another case where the state so blatantly and egregiously lied.”
At the end of the rally, Tindle’s family members led the action into the BART station for several minutes of singing and chanting before continuing on to the intersection outside the station where he was shot down. While the vigil was taking place across the street, BART police officers closed the gates to the station, stopping service to West Oakland for over an hour.
Instead of stepping back after the action had cleared, BART police, whose own officer bears the responsibility for Tindle’s murder, chose to interrupt the commute of passengers and direct the blame on protesters who no longer remained at the station.
BART passengers reported to Liberation News that they had heard announcements made over train intercoms apologizing to riders that protests had forced police to shut down the station. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a follow-up article to the action that was titled “BART shuts down West Oakland station for ‘protest,’ but woman says it was ‘peaceful rally’”. The woman referenced in the title is Tindle’s mother.
Banks-Reed described the fight for justice for her son: “They will give compensation for the life of my son, my irreplaceable treasure. They will give compensation for the person I gave birth to and for the life they have taken. You have to understand that it’s up to us, the people, to do everything that we can do.”
Black and Brown people in the United States are disproportionately victims of police murder and brutality. Racist state violence is institutionalized through the police, courts, and prisons as a form of social and economic control, keeping oppressed communities divided and aiming to prevent their justified rebellion in response to intolerable conditions of exploitation.
The fight against racism and police brutality is a fight that should be taken up by all progressive and revolutionary organizations and individuals. It is our duty to stand with Oakland’s Black community and other oppressed people as they demand justice, and support every effort to challenge police repression.