Oakland, CA- On Tuesday, leadership and members of ColorOfChange.org will confront Tom Orloff, the Alameda County District Attorney responsible for prosecuting crimes related to the police killing of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California.
The group claims Orloff is failing to uphold California law in his refusal to bring charges against BART police officer Tony Pirone who is seen striking Oscar Grant in the face, apparently unprovoked, in video captured by BART passengers.
The group will gather in front of the René C. Davidson Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland, CA on Tuesday, February 10th to deliver over 20,000 petition signatures to Orloff. James Rucker, ColorOfChange's executive director, will give brief remarks before carrying the petitions to the District Attorney's office alongside ColorOfChange members.
The petition specifically demands that Orloff explain his refusal to charge Pirone. The group charges that Orloff's lack of action against Pirone further calls into question his commitment to pursuing justice in the murder of Oscar Grant.
The petition signatures directed at Orloff were collected in less than two weeks and come on the heels of nearly 40,000 additional signatures the group collected on similar petitions expressing outrage, demanding justice, and pledging vigilance in the Oscar Grant murder case.
"It was only after two weeks of enormous public pressure that District Attorney Orloff did the right thing and charged Johannes Mehserle with murder," said James Rucker. "Now it appears he is ignoring another serious crime committed by another police officer against Grant. This casts serious doubt on his commitment to justice for Oscar Grant, undermining confidence in his handling of the entire case. Thomas Orloff needs to bring charges against Pirone or explain to the public why he won't."
Bay Area legal scholars, after viewing the footage of Officer Pirone punching Grant, have called it a clear use of excessive force and questioned why Orloff has not pursued charges. Law professor Peter Keane from UC Hastings College of the Law told KTVU, "If the district attorney is saying he's not going to charge any officer except Mehserle, in my opinion he's not doing his job." In his press conference announcing murder charges against Mehserle, Orloff declared that he was "not actively pursuing" charges against other officers, despite the fact that the footage of Pirone assaulting Grant had already been widely circulated.
Professor Keane disputed the notion that Orloff might be withholding charges against Pirone—who had his knee on Grant's neck when Mehserle shot the 22-year-old—in exchange for Pirone's cooperation against Mehserle. Keane noted that in his public statements through his attorney, Pirone's story seeks to buoy Mehserle's claim that he meant to use his Taser, not his gun, on Grant. "It appears that both Mehserle and Pirone's interests are to enforce each others' stories," Keane told ColorOfChange. "I think their interests now are in lock step together."
With more than a half million members, ColorOfChange.org is the largest African-American online political organization in the country.
What: ColorOfChange.org confronts District Attorney Orloff and delivers more than 25,000 petitions
Where: Alameda County District Attorney's Office, 1225 Fallon Street in Oakland
When: Tuesday, February 10th at 10am