"Am I being arrested? Please stop hurting me! I will cooperate with you."
Mollie Costello, fellow Kossack and Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition member, repeated those words over and over as she was pushed down two stairwells and dragged out of the Alameda County Courthouse. There with her comrades to protest the Alameda County District Attorney's decision not to prosecute Oakland Police Officer Miguel Masso for the murder of Alan Blueford, she was accosted by a silent three hundred pound sheriff's deputy who neither arrested her nor ordered her to leave, just seized and shoved her caveman style down stairs and out into the street.
On March 5th, 2013, the Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition (J4AB) held a major rally outside the Alameda County Courthouse to demand that California's Attorney General, Kamala Harris, open an investigation into the murder of Alan Blueford. Unbeknowst to all but an inner circle, a civil disobedience action was planned to coincide with the rally. A group of people willing to be arrested in order to call attention to J4AB's demands were to proceed to District Attorney Nancy O'Malley offices on the 2nd floor of the courthouse and conduct a peaceful sit in; they would also be protesting O'Malley's farcical report (1) from October, 2012, clearing Masso of wrongdoing when he stood over Alan Blueford on May 6th, 2012 and executed him.
This is one person's inside story of how it all came down.
Mollie Costello has been involved with J4AB since it began. She's been co-emcee of two J4AB events, and has dedicated an office storefront she uses on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland to publicize the Blueford's cause. I spoke with her about her experience a few days ago. She'll be around for questions and comments.
J. How did you get involved with the J4AB Coalition?
M. Through Occupy Oakland. Alan was killed just past midnight on May 6th, and a bunch of us heard the news that same day through the Occupy Oakland grapevine. I went to the first rally and vigil about a week later; I saw the Blueford family and MC Hammer speak. Once the Coalition formed I began attending meetings and helping to organize events.
J. Why did you get involved?
M. I'm half African-American and half white. I've seen racial profiling and discrimination from both sides. I grew up in Tennessee and witnessed desegregation first hand in the early 80's. I've seen police brutality by OPD. I know their history. The murder of yet another young black man... The anguish of his parents. I couldn't stay away.
J. How did the civil disobedience action come to be?
M. We started planning it back in January, in conjunction with the rally. We had just put on a great event in support of Alan Blueford and J4AB featuring Angela Davis (and here). We wanted to send the powers-that-be another message that J4AB wasn't going away, and that if the District Attorney wouldn't do her job, the Attorney General needed to do it for her.
J. What did you think when you heard about the action?
M. "I'm in!"
M. Like I said, I couldn't stay away. Plus I've never been arrested, and I could have put up bail if it came to that. I was an obvious candidate. And this was happening around the 100th anniversary of Rosa Parks birth. I was inspired. It all just came together.
J. You expected to be arrested?
M. Yup. But we didn't think it would happen right away, at 3:00 PM. Probably not until after 5:00 PM when the building closed and we refused to leave. We were thinking we might be there for hours, but it was all to be completely peaceful. We weren't going to resist arrest in any way once it came to that.
J. How did it begin?
M. The plan was to converge outside the DA's office on the 2nd floor of the courthouse building at exactly 3:00 PM. ((the outside rally started at the same time; see Jeralyn Blueford speaking at left -- jp)) I dressed up to look like I was a lawyer, just in case they were hassling people getting in to the building, but none of us had any trouble getting in. One of us even had a big, fold up banner we were able to bring through.
J. Did it work?
M. Yes! All ten of us converged there, along with our legal observers. We unfurled the banner and by 3:01 one of us started to read our demand letter. She only got about half way through...
J. And then?
M. The elevator doors opened, and out poured a mass of Sheriff's Deputies! They told us we could stay there but we couldn't make any noise, and we couldn't film.
McBride is the really big one in the middle.
M. Haha. We all started chanting
MASSO, MASSO, YOU CAN'T HIDE, WE CHARGE YOU WITH HOMICIDE!Well, I wasn't chanting, because I was livestreaming, but everyone else did!
J. What did the deputies do?
M. That's when all hell broke loose. They never declared an illegal assembly. They never said that if we didn't leave we would be arrested. They just started grabbing us and hauling us into the stairwell.
Mollie's livestream video before she is assaulted.
After a minute or two I was one of the last people left. A Deputy McBride came up from behind me and attempted to grab both me and my camera. He got me, but I managed to toss my cameraphone to one of our legal observers who was still there. That's when my livestream went out! Then he dragged me into the stairwell.
M. It was VERY scary. The legal observers were still in the elevator lobby, no one was recording in the stairwell. Most of my comrades were already down to the 1st floor and out. The deputies could have done anything and there would have been no witnesses. McBride was gripping my arm hard, really hard. And yanking it around so my shoulder joint was being traumatized.
M. McBride literally threw me down the stairs! If there hadn't been another deputy I flew into and who caught me I could have been seriously injured. I saw the deputy who caught me look up at McBride with a 'WTF' expression, but then he just handed me back to McBride.
As McBride hauled me further down these steps, another deputy was coming up. There wasn't enough room for all three of us to pass. But McBride just kept tugging at me, even though I asked that he stop so the other deputy could pass. As the deputy approached McBride deliberately pushed me into him! Now I was scared shitless. "OMG! They're going to arrest me for assaulting an officer!" I thought. It's a play we've all seen, those of us involved with Occupy Oakland protests or other demonstrations. Hit someone and then charge them with assault and resisting arrest.
J. Did this kind of thing happen to everyone?
M. Apparently not. I think McBride made me his "special project." The entire time I kept asking "Am I under arrest? Am I under arrest?" He never said a word. I kept telling him "Please stop hurting me. I will cooperate with you." But he just kept squeezing my arm and yanking my shoulder like I was a rag doll.
J. So he dragged you outside? To where the rally was being held?
M. Yes. Past the security screen and out. But then they decided we couldn't stay there either! So they started hauling people down the outside stairs..
M. No. I don't know why. I don't know what he was doing. After the last shove I said "You pushed me!" and he replied (suddenly finding a voice after all this time) "You THINK I pushed you." When I said again "Am I under arrest?" he then retorted "Do you WANT to be under arrest?"
J. Did anything else happen?
M. No, not really. These deputies then formed a blockade to prevent any of us from going back up the stairs to the rally podium, while letting "random" people go up and into the courthouse.
I was dazed and, even though I'd experienced police violence before - on January 28th in Oakland getting up close and personal with tear gas and flash bang grenades - I was still psychologically in shock. And in some serious pain. The rest of the rally was a blur (3). After it ended comrades asked me if I wanted to go get some food, but my arm, shoulder, neck, and back were all so jarred all I could do was go home, take some pain medication and collapse.
J. Are you okay now?
M. Pretty much, thanks. I was out of it mentally and physically for a couple of days. And every time I would move my arm the wrong way I'd get a jolt of pain. But it's better now, and I'm out and about.
J. Any last thoughts?
M. Put in historical perspective, what happened to me is no big deal. Just locally, we all know what happened to Scott Olsen, but I'm reminded of Seamus Collins who went out after Scott, trying to rescue his fellow vet after he had been shot. He got a flash-bang grenade in his face and took a rubber bullet for his efforts. And the Port of Oakland in 2003. All OPD's handiwork, leading up to Alan's murder.
Port of Oakland, 2003 by OPD
trying to rescue Scott Olsen
Think of the civil rights fighters attacked by dogs and firehoses, beaten and shot. Or the Jackson State and Kent State kids who were shot dead protesting a war that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands.
And what happened to me is nothing; nothing compared to what the Blueford family has suffered because of what happened to Alan.
J. Would you do it again? Would you do a sit in?
M. In a heartbeat.
Mollie at the rally after it all came down. Is that really Guy Fawkes?
The Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition confronts the problems of racist police and police violence, focusing on the tragic death of 18 year old Alan Blueford, killed May 6th, 2012 by Oakland Police Officer Miguel Masso as the result of a racially motivated unconstitutional Stop & Frisk.
Scott Johnson, a coalition member, put together this video (2), detailing the Blueford family's search for the truth about their son, and for justice.
- Alyssa (allie123, @alyssa011968) took the rally photos.
- Mollie Costello (missmollie33, @missmollie33) contributed some of her own photos.
- Erik Boswell took the photos of the sit-in.
- The Hoopoe (@thehoopoe) took the photo of Mollie and Guy Fawkes.