BART to Name Street Near Fruitvale Station for Oscar Grant

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The Fruitvale BART Station and busway in March 2018.  (Wikimedia Commons)

BART officials on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favor of naming a street next to Oakland's Fruitvale Station in honor of Oscar Grant, a young black man killed by a police officer a decade ago.

All eight BART directors attending the board meeting approved the request from Grant’s family to name the side street "Oscar Grant Way.” The currently unnamed roadway, located on BART property, between 33rd and 35th streets, sits in the shadow of the station where Grant was shot.

"You can't continue to move forward until you atone," BART board Director Lateefah Simon told Grant's family members and other supporters who attended the meeting. "I believe we want to and we are going to do that. Government is absolutely responsible for the safety and security of all folk, and it's difficult, and it's complicated, but the very least we can do is name this street 'Oscar Grant Way.' "

Grant, a 22-year-old from Hayward, was unarmed when he was fatally shot in the back by a BART police officer as he lay face down on the station's platform in the early hours of New Year's Day 2009.

The shooting was caught on video from multiple angles and shared widely through social media and news outlets, fueling angry protests against police violence and racial profiling. The incident heightened demands for greater police accountability and became a precursor to the Black Lives Matter movement.


"As we go forward, we have to come together to end police brutality in our city and our society," Wanda Johnson, Grant's mother, said at the meeting. "My family and my life will never be the same again"

Debora Allen, the only BART Director who did not attend Thursday’s meeting, stirred up controversy several months ago when she questioned, in a post on Facebook, if BART should memorialize individuals. The post drew strong backlash and was subsequently removed.

BART's decision follows a unanimous vote by the Oakland City Council last month in support of the name change.

Demonstrators march in Oakland in January 2009 to protest the BART police killing of Oscar Grant. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Grant's shooting highlighted major shortcomings in BART’s Police Department, including insufficient training and lax oversight, and led to institutional reform efforts.

Johannes Mehserle, the officer who shot Grant, claimed he intended to use his taser but instead drew his gun accidentally. Grant was rushed to Highland Hospital in Oakland and pronounced dead later that day.

Mehserle, who was charged with murder and convicted of involuntary manslaughter, was sentenced to prison for two years and released in 2011 -- a punishment that protesters decried as far too lenient.

Thursday's BART meeting was also attended by local youth advocates who are pushing to create a "youth empowerment zone" near the station.

"Naming the street 'Oscar Grant Way' is going to help us teach future generations that this can never happen again," said José Luis Pavón, an organizer with Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice.

KQED's Kate Wolffe contributed to this report.