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Oscar Grant Friends, Family Keep His Memory Alive Amid Other Police Shootings

KCBS_740OAKLAND (KCBS) -- In this country, we don't have martyrs - at least that's not what we call them.

A long list of people have been killed by Bay Area police officers since the 2009 New Year's Day shooting of Oscar Grant, including Mario Woods, Alex Nieto, Anthony Nuñez, Richard Perkins, and Jessica Williams.

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"I got a tattoo of Oscar Grant," said Jack Bryson, whose son was on the platform when Grant was shot by BART police.

The portrait tattoo was inked for free by Bryson's tattoo artist who told him, "When someone asks you, 'who's that on your arm? You can tell explain his legacy and you can keep his legacy alive that way,'" Bryson said.

The effects of a police shooting run deep for those close to Oscar Grant: daughter Tatiana, his mother, Wanda Johnson, his friends, two of which have died since the shooting.

"Tatiana would hide in the car when she see police coming because she think they're going to kill her like they killed her daddy," Johnson told KCBS.

There are issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. But there's also the empowerment of keeping his legacy alive.

"Oscar was a very giving young man and that is part of his legacy that we give back to the community," Johnson said.

Of course the pain never goes away.

"When I see these other incidents occur, I relive it over and over again," Johnson said.

So, Johnson, Bryson and their supporters find some comfort in fighting the injustices they perceive that led to Oscar's killing by a BART police officer.

"Society does not trust law enforcement because they have put themselves on a pedestal to make us believe that everything they do is justified, when in fact it is not justified," Johnson said.

Hoping to affect change in a real way, Bryson was instrumental in starting the Justice for Oscar Grant Committee. Much like the shooting of 17-year-old Matthew Johnson Jr. in Hunter's Point in 1966 that help trigger the Black Panther movement, outrage following the Oscar Grant shooting led in large part to the Black Lives Matter movement.

"Without that power of protest, I'm not certain they would have prosecuted the officer," Grant family attorney John Burris said.

With her activity on the Oscar Grant Committee, the Bay Area chapter of Black Lives Matter, and the Oscar Grant Foundation, Johnson is making a difference on a personal level.

"It's okay for us to cry. It's okay to talk about our child. It's okay for us to encourage each other and continue to fight," Johnson said.

They're mothers of the movement and they get together at least once a year.

"And to see that he was killed senselessly. I mean it's just – uh, it's indescribable. I didn't expect to bury my child. I expected my child to bury me."


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