Seminary of the Street

Call to Lament

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On July 8, the day the verdict of involuntary manslaughter for Johannes Mehserle was announced,Seminary of the Street joined with a coalition of nonviolence organizations as a nonviolent presence at the planned gathering in downtown Oakland. Many of the collaborating organizations were predominantly white, and the following call addresses this reality.


We name that there is a nonviolent peace movement in the Bay Area: people who have been trained in nonviolence and who have been active for years in movements for peace, justice, and environmental sustainability. We recognize both the gifts and the limitations of the organizations with which we are involved, which are disproportionately comprised of middle-class, white people.

We further recognize that our lack of stronger ties with working class people of color is linked through systems of privilege and oppression to the failure of the policing and criminal justice system to serve Oscar Grant, and we confess and lament our participation in these systems. We confess that efforts by white progressives to “fix” broken systems without actively involving people of color have replicated injustice.

We give voice to our deep longing to redress these wrongs, to cross the divides created and sustained by white supremacy, and to participate, alongside brothers and sisters of color, in the transformation of the unjust systems that disproportionately hurt communities of color. As we await a verdict in the court case against Johannes Mehserle, we wish to humbly offer our solidarity to the African American community, which is responding not only to the killing of Oscar Grant, but also to the history of violence, inequity, and brutality which has been inflicted in that community.

We offer our presence not because we think we can fix anything, but because we want to listen, be in solidarity, and learn what we don’t know that we don’t know. We trust the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., who taught us that “Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice,” and we commit ourselves to following up this symbolic action with ongoing efforts to cultivate relationships across lines of difference.

We embrace King’s Principles of Nonviolence*: to actively resist evil and to defeat injustice; to love instead of hate; to suffer and take on the suffering of others in a spirit of redemption and transformation; to give willingly, knowing that the return might be hostility, and because we believe that nonviolent love restores community and resists injustice.

We know there can be no peace without justice. We join with our African American brothers and sisters in Oakland and across this country who in their daily lives bear the weight of racist structures and systems. We offer ourselves in service.

An Invitation to Respond to the Verdict with Active Nonviolence

Where: The corner of 14th and Broadway
When: 5:00 pm the day the verdict is announced, OR if the verdict is announced after 5:00 pm, gather as soon as you hear the verdict is public. To receive a text message to your cell phone when the verdict is announced, send "follow justiceforoscar" as a text message to 40404. (Note: This signs you up for text message updates from the Justice for Oscar Grant campaign and may result in a large number of texts on the night of the protest and during subsequent days and weeks. If you do not want to receive those, do not send this text and instead watch your email from a message from Seminary of the Street.)

Dress in a White T-shirt: Please use a thick, black marker and write in large, CAPITAL letters on the front of the shirt: HERE TO LISTEN and on the back of the shirt, IF YOU WANT PEACE, WORK FOR JUSTICE.

You may also want to bring earplugs to protect you against possible police use of a sonic crowd control device and to write the following legal aid phone number on your body to assist anyone who is arrested: 415-285-1011.

How: There are many ways to offer a nonviolent presence. We welcome those who wish to pray, to offer empathy**, to engage with the police, to respond nonviolently to whatever arises. We urge people to commit to the following guidelines:

Nonviolence Guidelines

* Our attitude will be one of openness, friendliness, and respect toward all whom we encounter as we engage in our witness.

* We will use no violence, verbal or physical, toward any person.

* We will not damage property.

* We will not bring or use any drugs or alcohol other than for medicinal purposes.

* We will not run – it creates panic.

* We will carry no weapons.

(from ¡Basta! – A Pledge of Resistance Handbook © 1986)

  **Training in Empathic Response in Charged Political Situations

There will be a special training by Bay Area Nonviolent Communication co-founder Miki Kashtan focusing on empathic response to charged political situations. The training is designed for people whose hearts are full with the impending news about the jury's verdict in the Oscar Grant/Mehserle case, and are drawn to support the nonviolent response in downtown Oakland after the verdict is announced:

Monday, July 5

7:00-8:30 pm

2713 Ellsworth St

Debriefing the Action Afterward
If you participate on the evening of the verdict and want to debrief afterward, join us at Urban Blend, 333 Broadway, which is walking/biking distance from the gathering. You may want to avoid bringing a car into the area; cars could be vandalized if rioting occurs. At this gathering, we'll share experiences and unpack the feelings, beliefs, and assumptions that surfaced during the event.

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