Friday, November 5, 2010

It Is Announced in my Neighborhood: Johannes Mehserle Sentencing

It is a beautiful November night. Today I wore flip-flops all day, even in the night, in the hills, when I walked with the dogs on the hill paths. Tonight, at 7:45 p.m., the windows are open, and through them drifts in the sound of helicopters whirring. There are three helicopters, to be exact. They are looking—

When I came down from the hills and reached 580, three fire trucks, one by one, turned in front of me, and made their way silently down Park Boulevard. Then, they turned on their lights, so in front of me arose, as I drove, a yellow train of turning lights. My neighborhood.

Then, the helicopters, their motors audible from here, and those spinning blades. Out my window I see one moving a few streets over from here: red and white and blue. The white blade of its searchlight beaming down into the black city rotates as the machine makes a radius. As in the shape of a beautiful circle. They are looking—Hunting for something. Someone. Someone has run, someone has run from downtown, someone has done something, or not. Here in the western section behind the western edge of the lake, Lake Merritt. I walk down and around it almost every day. A white chain of lights around it. Choked, they have choked them into a space.
They started at 12th St. in the city center. They walked here. Across the street, my neighbor walks up his long red cement steps, carrying a pizza. It is normal for our area.

Normal, but different. It was announced. The one who killed the one who was on the ground. Hands bound behind him, the one on the ground. The one who took the gun from his hip and fired at the back in front of him. That one, the one on the ground, shot shot. Around him, people called out. The people did not rush the one who had shot the one on the ground who was tied up. The people took photos.

Then, the people fled. The people are somewhere, here, in Oakland, they have been cornered in my neighborhood. It was announced. Today. You know already that the one on the ground died. The one who had his arms bound. The one who was waiting for the verdict. It was announced today what happened in the court. To that one, the one on top, who pulled the gun, that shot. Who wouldn’t be angry? I was angry. Incredulous. That cop. Not quite a cop.

They have been cornered behind the lake. It was a gorgeous day in Oakland today, I wore flip-flops all day. I also fell in love with you, and meanwhile, in the court, the verdict was announced. The sentencing.

When I drove up in the hills, the orange sun of sunset struck low across the redwoods, turning the shredded bark burnt orange, as in the pastoral paintings of California from the 1920’s, the golden age of light, where fairies danced, but they were people.

The truth is that— They are searching. The whirring of the blades is loud, it is almost overhead. The dog’s ears are pressed flat back against her head, she is frightened. They only are getting louder, over here, the blades, we feel we might be in them, the mechanism. At some point the night will be over, but now it is high, and near. Fear. There is an impulse to want them to be found, just so that the whirring will stop and—

The sentencing. Today it was announced. The man. The one who fired the shot to kill the man on the ground. It was announced, the years. He will dwell in—

Two. Two for killing one man. And I thought, how little. Doesn’t it seem small?

If you kill five, you go for ten years? It almost seems a bargain. Someone is getting a bargain.

Whenever I take the BART train to the airport, we always stop at the stop where the man—where it happened. Fruitvale, the sign reads, in bold letters, and we pause at the platform, the platform where the man laid down, was shot, and never got up again. New Year’s. There it was, I think, and I look out of the door, and look onto the platform, and I can see it. They have cleaned up the blood from the platform. Someone, himself perhaps from Oakland, took a mop and cleaned the blood.

When he was shot and died, the people, who were celebrating the sparks of the new year, began, astonished, to yell out. They took their photos and then they scattered.

Two years. I was thinking five, or seven, or—Two. It seems so small. Doesn’t it?

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