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Seeking Empathy at Johannes Mehserle - Oscar Grant Demonstrations in
Walnut Creek, CA


On July 19, 2010 a rally was held in Walnut Creek, California to support the BART Police Officer, Johannes Mehserle who was convicted of shooting Oscar Grant. A counter rally was also held and a heated confrontation between the two sides ensued. I went to talk with participants on all sides about their views and experience of the value of empathy.  The following video gives an overview of the event and below are the full interviews.

 

 

Seeking Empathy at Johannes Mehserle - Oscar Grant Rally in Walnut Creek, CA

(On Youtube: Seeking Empathy at Johannes Mehserle - Oscar Grant Support Rally in Walnut Creek)

"I just came back from the Walnut Creek pro Mehserle rally. There was actually a larger counter rally there as well and a heated shouting match between the two sides which were actually standing toe to toe in some cases. I and Sherry went to all sides, and directly between the sides, asking about empathy, as well as, listened to what people had to say.   A lot of people actually started in heated dialog between each other. An anarchist and a Richmond City off duty woman police officer for example. It was good and amazing to see people getting into dialog.  I could see a natural innate tendency of many people to want dialog.  When I asked people how we can build a culture of empathy they often said 'get all sides together to talk in a less charged environment'.  Unfortunately, here's just not a lot of forums where that can happen.  Several black protesters talked about the lack of trust in the police, but they wanted the police to come to their churches to engage in dialogue and get to know each other. The Richmond Police Officer said she was willing to talk with anyone anytime." Edwin

 

 

Article on Tikkun Magazine Blog about the Video

"This remarkable video captures the scene at an unusual demonstration: one where the police make no attempt to separate the two sides. Those defending a convicted policemanís reputation and those attacking the system as racist are vehemently opposed to each other. Without police lines between them, people engage at close quarters, shout insults and even talk and answer each otherís points, nose to nose."
 


Below are Full Individual Interviews and Transcripts


 

Interview 1 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    • we need to suspend judgment

    • we don't know what people's experience are

    • to empathize you need to walk a mile in their shoes

    • as a culture we need to learn more to put aside judgment

    • that will create more empathy

    • go into others communities

    • like wife swap? Do community swaps

    • It's to say, "I want to know someone's perspective

     

Interview 2 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    • we need to talk about everything openly and honesty

    • especially here in walnut creek

    • not have the argument they're having here

    • usually in the middle is the truth

 

Interview 3 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    •  there's your empathy right there

    • compare the crowds

    • this was a peaceful gathering, we're not screaming,

    • this was a tragedy on both sides

    • your going to see an empathetic response on this side

    • but not on that side

    • they're throwing the word racism

    • I took a day off work to be here

    • how many of them are on welfare, section 8, they're living off our tax dollars

    • I support their right to be here

    • there's no empathy over there

  • How to create a Culture of Empathy?

    • lose the culture of entitlement

    • come on - the culture of entitlement - this is America

    • If I loose my job tomorrow and have to work the fields

    • I have to do that, I have responsibilities to my family and community

  • People are taking advantage and not being empathic?

    • Bill Cosby said it and they ran him out of town

    • children stand on their own, compete

    • racism cuts both ways - it's wrong

    • this was a tragedy on both sides

 

Interview 4 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    •  we're focused on the wrong thing, I'm guilty of that too

    • there's an excuse that's looked for from all sides

    • maybe just put it aside your differences for even a day or 2

    • and come together like human beings and talk things out

    • forget this thing about race, class, caste

    • have to be a humanitarian refocus

    • I feel for Johannes Mehserle, he was where he was supposed to be

    • Was Grant where he was supposed to be

    • young people live without fear

    • Johannes will have a Karmic punishment

    • responsibilities and choices go hand in hand

    • the empathy comes from within

 

Interview 5 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    •  it is unjust to presume his guilt or innocence

    • we want justice

  • How does that relate to empathy?

    • we should have empathy for both sides

    • the Grant and Mehserle families

    • any reasonable person would thing this was a horrible accident

    • Empathy for both sides would support justice

    • Justice is relative

 

Interview 6 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    •  this is a sad situation

    • tragic for both sides

    • we believe the officer made a mistake

 

Interview 7 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    • I'm here to support law enforcement

    • they don't get the empathy and respect

  • How to create more Empathy?

    • more awareness of the job of the police

    • everyday all the decisions they make

    • and they make mistakes

    •  

 

Interview 8 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    • I have empathy for Oscar Grant

    • and his family

    • it's appalling to come out in support of Mehserle

      • they're supporting what he did

    • I don't have empathy for someone that shot a man in cold blood

    • there should be no empathy for Mehserle

  • You want him to suffer?

    • yes

    • he should be responsible for what he did

    • involuntary manslaughter was not the correct verdict

  • How to create more Empathy for everybody?

    • change how black men are viewed in society

    • we're profiled - negatively viewed in the media

    • we're inherently

  • Your wanting more empathy for black men?

    • yes, that would prevent more events like this from happening

    • it involves everyone - court system, police, community

    • all races

    • get everyone

 

Interview 9 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    • we're support law enforcement and are peaceful

    • these are overstepping boundaries

    • Go to China and see.

  • There's a lack of empathy?

    • the law enforcement put their lives on the line every shift

    • what happened was terrible

    • I grew up without a father

    • my father was killed in the line of duty

    • I know exactly what that little girl is going to go through

    • I have empathy for the little girl

    • but they break into a building and I have no empathy for them

    • they should be taken to the cleaners

  • How to create more Empathy for everybody?

    • be peaceful

    • this side does not want to break into buildings

    • make peace

    • They want to destroy things

    • they're not listening

    • there's a way to handle your frustration

    • if people get away from a situation like this they would be open for dialog

    • get all the people together that are affected by this

    • the store owners, law endowment, firemen, families

    • understanding

    • you can't do it in this situation - it's too volatile

 

Interview 10 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    • I got empathy for the mother of Oscar Grant

    • I got empathy for the police that got slaughtered

    • I got empathy for Mehserle's mother

    • I'm trying to be impartial

    • but they're making it real difficult

    • empathy is not racist

    •  responsibility, accountability, respectability, that's what I value

    • if you have that most likely you won't need emapthy

 

Interview 11 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    • it's empathy for Mehserle

    • a hard working guy

    • and nobody talked about his family

    • he wrote an apology letter

    • it was a mistake

  • How to create more Empathy?

    • it's what each of us is taught,

    • this young man made a mistake

    • it's not a race thing

    • black people have empathy too

 

Interview 12 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    • for empathy, you shouldn't wait until a mother loses her son

    • to a senseless murder

    • you should be talking empathy before.

    •  have dialogue with police to understand our children

    • you can't have empathy if you have strangers governing a community

  • You want empathy before?

    • otherwise it just a band aid

    • empathy, I made a mistake and I got caught doing it

    • how can my people ban together and fix my problem

  • You value Empathy?

    • I value respect

    • if you have respect you won't need empathy most time

    • when someone is murdered that's not the time to say

      • how can I be empathetic

    • it's hard to be empathetic when I have my child murdered

    • if your murdering people in the streets in cold blood

      • don't ask for empathy

    • ask for a justice system that's going to try you as a human being

    • then there will be respect

    • when the police respect our children

    • Then they won't need empathy

    • What is empathy? What is empathy?

    • If I beat up a cop, they're not going to be empathetic

    • respect us and then we can come to a dialog

  • Obama says there's an empathy Deficit?

    • Obama should have told people we need to respect each other as humans

    • If  I respect you, then I can be empathetic to your situation

    • Without respect you can't even have empathy

    • We need to respect the environment

    • we see cops now in riot gear, are they prepared to show empathy?

    • every office should take a humanities course

    • how do I humble myself before a 1,000 angry people

    • that's a skill that should be taught

 

Interview 13 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    • no I'm cool

    • the people I need are here in support of us

  • How can we create a culture of empathy?

    • we can stop the murdering, racist, classist organization called the police

 

Interview 14 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    •  empathy for who?

    • I'm here because I think a man was murdered

    • the justice system failed

  • Laying on the ground, looks like your trying to put yourself in the shoes of Oscar Grant?

    • we're all in his shoes

    • we're under the cops thumbs

    • we're slaves of the Justice system

    • they enforce the law on us,

  • Are you feeling they're not empathizing with you?

    • me, personally, yes

    • I wish the legal system could be reformed so everyone is equal under the law

  • How can we create a culture of empathy?

    • how do we know if a person deserves empathy or not?

    • which side do we take?

    • which side is right?

    • I decide after deep thinking Mehserle was wrong and should be punished

    • When is there not rupture of connection?

    • we need Brotherhood and Equality

 

Interview 15 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    •  there's not  lot of empathy going on now

    • I have empathy for the guy, and Grant and family, and everyone else

    • this killing was well document

    • the police lie

    • I have empathy because i don't think he didn't mean to kill the person

    • If it was me I'd be apologizing

    • I'd tell my supporters to not fight it

    • remorse - maybe not always a legal mater

  • How can we create a culture of empathy?

    • need to train police to be negotiators for peace

    • instead of first action to be violent.

    •  talking - asking "what's the problem"

 

Interview 16 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    •  as an African America woman living in contra Costa I've experienced racism

    • I think that's what's going on here.

    • a lot of Caucasian people don't understand African Americans

    • you need to come in our neighborhoods and have coffee with us

    • my son lives in Oakland and has experienced police brutality


Interview 17 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    •  what have they (those in power) done to deserve empathy themselves

    • they are incapable of empathizing with anyone but themselves

    • I don't understand why we should have any empathy for them

  • How can we create a culture of empathy?

    • people will be more empathetic when their paychecks do not depend on them have no empathy

    • we live in a system where empathy is a recipe for not getting ahead

    • our system supports psychopathic behavior

    • the entire of our society teaches us to only look out for ourselves

    • don't help them, your a fool if you help them

    • if we had a society that was not based on competition

    • and struggle to the death

    • capitalism is build on death and exploitation

  • Sounds like you open for a more empathic society, it's just finding the way from here to there?

  • My way is to open up a dialog about it?

    • dialog is good

    • but ultimately for us to have more empathy,

    • we have to stop empathizing with the people oppressing us

    • we are taught to empathize with the people in power who are not empathizing

    • it keeps this society from being empathetic

  • Gloria Steinem say empathy is the most revolutionary feeling, and the means are the end.

    • if you empathize with a psychopath

    • you will empathize yourself to death and accomplish nothing

    • the people who are running the show are psychopaths

    • they have no regard for anyone but themselves

    • they have demonstrated this time and time again

 

Interview 18 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    •  show cross cultural concern

    • for plight of someone and family

    • the protest to support Mehserle is anti empathy

    • to even have a protest like this

    • show compassion for family

    • do something  so this doesn't happen again

  • How can we create a culture of empathy?

    • historically African Americans have mistrust of police

    • need leaders, police to together with people in churches to create a level of trust.

    • have a dialog between community and the police

  • If we create a forum for discussion you'd come to it?

    • yes.

 

Interview 19 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    • no personal views

    • the officers  have conducted themselves professionally

    • empathetic or not they need to stay neutral

    • crowed have done well too

    • law enforcement tries to develop relationship with community

 

Interview 20 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    • if you're an Officer you are trained

    • you need to be held accountable

    • the time given - with the seriousness of the crime

      • I don't believe it's fair

    • the value of empathy?

    • he's not empathetic if you shoot someone in the back

    • there's no cause for that

    • 2 years is not enough

    • if you're an Officer, you need to be empathetic

    • and protect people

    • shooting in the back with a tazer or pistol is unacceptable

       

Interview 21 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    •  anyone whose lost a family member can be saddened by it

    • have to face the fact that Police go out everyday

      • put their life on the line

    • Mehserle was  doing his job

      • he's paying a high price

    • I have a lot of empathy because I have family in the police department

    • except for the grace of god it could happen to anybody

    • tragedies do happen

  • You have family in the police department?

    • I know what it's like to be scared and put your life on the line

      • try to make a difference in the world

    • I worry at night every time I hear the phone ring

      • will it be someone telling me it's my son

  • How to create a Culture of Empathy?

    • that's happening slowly but surely

    • groups of people will try to stir up the pot

    • no one was asking for this.

 

Interview 22 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • you assault me again and your ass will go to jail, I guarantee it!

  • Tell Me about Empathy?

    • I have empathy for the police department

    • I don't have empathy for someone that has a knee on someone's neck and shoots him

  • Empathy's important to you?

    • It's kinda, sorta important

    • any officer in this group will tell you

    • when you have a knee on his back he's not going to get up

  • How can we create more empathy?

    • we can have these officers understand that

    • every person that looks like me, talks like me, walks like is not a hoodlum

  • You want to be seen for the human being that you are?

    • right! I'm a motorcycle rider

    • they look at black people and the see black people

    • they look at me an see Hells Angels

    • I'm tired of that, these people are brothers and sisters

    • we love each other

    • And we love the police, he just made a big screw up

    • my empathy is for the police

    • I've seem people shot to death in Vietnam

  • How can we create more empathy?

    • we need people with cool heads

    • I'm dieing, I have only 6 month to live

    • I'm like to see police officers and people like this here

    • and sit down in a room and let them talk

    • until they have some understanding

  • Have people get together and have a dialog so they can understand

    • yes

    • I  saw shooting on TV

    • It could have been an accident

    • what hurts me the most is Grants family will not have him there

    • When I came home from Vietnam I was spat on

    • I know how a lot  of these people feel

    • I'll tell you about empathy

    • my friend was shot in Vietnam

    • imagine?

    • Both sides are in pain

 

 

Interview 23 - Seeking Empathy at Walnut Creek Johannes Mehserle Support Rally

  • Is there any empathy here?

    • no,

    • there's a lot of anger and no empathy

    • I'm not empathetic now

    • I've been here 2 hours

    • I'm shocked people are out here

 

2010-07-19 - Walnut Creek - Full Anarchist and Police Discussion


 

2010-07-19 - Walnut Creek - Full 2 Men in Discussion