The family of Oscar Grant, who was killed at a BART train station by police almost a decade ago, would like the station to be renamed in his honor.
Grant’s relatives appeared in front of BART’s Board of Directors on Thursday to make their case. The family wants Fruitvale Station in Oakland, California, to become Fruitvale-Grant station.
Grant was killed on New Years Day in 2009 after he was detained following a fight in Fruitvale Station. BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed the 21-year-old while he was pinned down by another officer. Mehserle said he mistook his handgun for a taser during the incident. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison. Mehserle was released in June 2011 after serving 11 months, according to NBC News.
"It would be an atonement; it would be part of BART saying yes this happened here, we vow that it won't happen again and we vow to work with the communities and ensure that all people are treated equally," Wanda Johnson, Oscar Grant's mother, told ABC17.
The family hoped the name change would commemorate Grant’s death, but it might be a long shot.
BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the name change isn’t going to happen and plugged a mural BART commissioned to honor Oscar Grant.
"Our policy is stations cannot be named after individuals; it has to be tied to a location. So it is location based. What we are doing, and we are working closely with the family, is BART has commissioned a mural, and it's going to go up at the Fruitvale station. It's going to honor Oscar Grant," Trost said.
The mural is still in the planning stages but has already caused some controversy. BART Board Director Debora Allen angered Grant’s family after she asked for opinions of the project and station renaming on her Facebook page, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
“Should BART ever memorialize or name stations after individuals?” Allen inquired to followers. “Your thoughts?”
She later deleted the post.
“I am totally offended, Ms. Allen,” Johnson told her during the meeting. “I think you did this for your own motive to divide communities further — for racial motives.” Johnson plans to show up to every board meeting until Allen resigns.
Allen apologized but tried to justify the post.
“I often ask questions of my followers and of the public,” Allen said. “My intent was to talk about policy, and there was no hidden motive to divide people.”
In addition to the station renaming and mural, the family wants a plaque erected at the station and the bus side street to be renamed for Grant. Cephus Johnson, Grant’s uncle, submitted paperwork for the changes on Thursday.
“Oscar Grant has positively impacted the lives of a nation and the world,” Cephus wrote in the documents.
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