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Mayor Dellums And Congresswoman Lee Snubbed At Oakland Police Funeral; Black Oaklanders Are Asking Why.

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John Burris is a well-known Oakland attorney representing the family of Oscar Grant in the wake of the shooting of Grant by Johannes Mehserle on New Year's Day. Burris attended the funeral last Friday, March 27th of the four Oakland Police Officers who were murdered by Lovell Mixon on Saturday March 21st in Oakland. I unfortunately did not attend the event as I was sick, but I did watch it on television.

Burris brings up a point that I noticed but given the weight of the matter, put on the back-burner of my mind because I didn't want to think the unthinkable: that not only was the Mayor of Oakland not allowed to speak but Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who was in attendance, was not even acknoweldged by the presenters.

That's a huge no-no. Congresswoman Lee is the head of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Both are African American. All of the elected officials who were allowed to speak were white.

Burris took fingers to computer and wrote this email, which Oakland Business man Geoffrey Peete sent to me about an hour ago. Here it is:

As an Oaklander watching the memorial services for the four slain Oakland police officers, I was astonished and disturbed when Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums did not speak at the service. I could not imagine a situation where the entire nation is watching and law enforcement officers are attending in force yet the Mayor of the City in mourning does not speak. I later came to understand that several of the officers' families requested that the Mayor not participate in the ceremony and that the Mayor honored their wishes. It was disappointing to learn that such a request was made.

At a time of such public tragedy, it is unfortunate that the families and or members of the Department would encourage and condone such a public humiliation of the Mayor. After all, this was a public event, paid for with public funds attended by thousands many of whom came from across the country to pay respect for their fellow officers. To expressly preclude the Mayor, whose eloquence is unmatched, from speaking was essentially a public slap in the face. How could this happen, particularly when comments from family, friends and fellow officers stated how much the fallen officers loved being Oakland police officers.

I can only imagine that the men must have expressed their discontent with the Mayor's policies toward the Department. Notwithstanding such expressions, this was truly a time for healing and not for carrying out political and personal vendettas. The better angels in those families and their advisors should have ensured that this is a time for healing, and that everyone in the City, especially the Mayor should be embraced.

This public slight was even more pronounced when state-wide political leaders such as Attorney General Jerry Brown, and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer were given prominent speaking roles during the ceremony yet Oakland's highest ranking public officials, the Mayor and Congresswoman Barbara Lee did not speak. To add insult to injury, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the Chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, was present on the platform yet she also did not speak, nor was she even acknowledged. To their credit both the Mayor and the Congresswoman stayed for the entire ceremony.

The memorial service was a fine tribute to the officers' who lost their lives while working for the people of Oakland. Of course the planners of the event were certainly entitled to have the ceremony of their choice, particularly if it was paid for with private funds; but to the extent that public funds were being utilized there should have been acknowledgment of the City's leaders who made it possible.

This was a golden opportunity to bridge the gap between the Oakland police department, the community and Oakland public officials, particularly at a time when everyone in the city is feeling the pain of this tragedy. Ron Dellums is Oakland's Mayor in both the good and bad times and he should have been allowed to bring greetings and to express his thoughts on behalf of the residents of Oakland. Unfortunately this was a lost opportunity.

John Burris,
Attorney and Oakland Resident


Undoubtedly, some will argue that I'm "playing the race card" here by presenting Burris letter in the way I did, but race is not a card to be played. Racism is a form of rejection; these two Black elected officials who have done much to help Oakland over the years were rejected and at a high moment in Oakland's community history. Questions must be raised. Dellums and Lee deserve better treatment than that. It's one thing for one of the families to not want Mayor Dellums to speak, but Congresswoman Lee? There's no excuse for that at all. Burris was right to issue this email letter, and it needs to see the light of day.
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