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Alice Huffman responds to controversy


Last month, Alice Huffman, the president of the NAACP California State Conference, released what some might consider an unsettling statement in response to the murder trial of Johannes Mehserle, accused of killing Oakland resident Oscar Grant.

On New Year’s morning in 2009, Bay Area police responded to reports of a fight on a crowded Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train. Officers detained several train passengers, including Grant, a young African American. Compelling video footage shows unarmed and handcuffed Grant face down on the train platform.

According to the NAACP, it did not appear as if the young man was resisting officers and other witnesses confirm that. However, according to footage, former BART officer Mehserle shot and killed Grant.

Violent and peaceful protests changed the dynamics of the Bay Area for weeks after the shooting.

Mehserle was later charged with the death of Grant, resigned from his position, and pled not guilty. The trial was also subsequently moved from the Bay Area down to Los Angeles, because Mehserle’s lawyers feared he would not find an impartial jury.

The trial began recently, but not without some controversy.

Community members and activists were disturbed to find that the 12-member jury contained no African Americans and two other ethnic minorities (four Latinos, one East Indian). Unsatisfied and afraid the trial would not be fair, protests re-started, and to allay fears, Huffman released the following statement:
“The jury is diverse and is comprised of individuals who understand community-police relations …  I’m very glad how the family is handling this phase of the case. They are the voice of reason. Of course, we would like to have seen African Americans chosen, but the concern must be about the evidence presented and the decision the jury must make, after the presentation of facts.”

According to Huffman, the family is satisfied with the way the trial is being handled and believes the trial will be fair. However, various members of the community have criticized Huffman for her seemingly passive position on the trial, urging the NAACP to push for a more diverse jury with more Black faces.

“I think the criticism is unwarranted. We will always be happy, if there were more African Americans on the jury, but there are other ethnic minorities (in the jury),” Huffman shared. “We need to cool down and let the justice system do what it has to do … I don’t know what we would accomplish, if we continue protesting … It would be different, if the jury was all White.”

Huffman feels that the trial will, without question, rule in favor of the family,, because the evidence is clear.

“I think the man is guilty of murder,” Huffman concluded.

The NAACP plans to file an appeal, if the trial does not go the way the organization expects.