Ask any long-term Oakland resident about the events of March 21, 2009, and you’ll get a response that is tinted either with chagrin or thrill. “Oh, yeah, I remember that day.” Referred to as the bloodiest day in police history in Oakland, March 21 is the day that Lovell Mixon, a 26-year-old parolee from Oakland, shot and killed four police officers.

Given Oakland’s long standing anti-police mentality, which dates back to the days of the Black Panthers and continues on today, most recently with protesters scrawling such things as “FTP” and “Die Piggy, Die” all over Oakland during last July’s Trayvon Martin verdict protests, the story of March 21 is a fascinating story.

http://youtu.be/4NcG6HXXpWU

It only makes sense that independent filmmakers Cronistas have partnered with wecopwatch.org to produce The Ghosts of March 21st, a film delving into the events of March 21 in an attempt to demystify a narrative that has largely been co-opted by the agenda of mainstream media and pro-police news outlets. In the film, director and writer Sam Stoker says, “Determining the rationale of his actions isn’t a matter of morality, of what one considers to be right or wrong, it is a matter of understanding what is and is not real.”

Before March 21, Mixon’s story is typical of individuals who become embroiled with the contradictions of the prison-industrial complex and the fight to survive in the face of dwindling job opportunities and an insufficient educational system. Mixon first landed in prison in 2002 for charges of assault with a deadly weapon. He got out in late 2007, but within a few months, he was picked up again for possession of a stolen laptop and a drug scale. Later, when Mixon got out of prison, he tried to reintegrate into society, but was thwarted by the rigamarole of the post-incarceration system, oftentimes with a parole officer who canceled appointments and was overworked by the system.

On March 21, 2009, Mixon was pulled over for a routine traffic stop, when he pulled the trigger, shot two cops, and fled to 74th Avenue. There, a SWAT team was called to extract Mixon, and, after he killed two more officers, Mixon was himself shot.

To add to the complexity of this narrative, after Mixon was killed, he was also accused of committing two rapes before the shooting spree. However, ’til this day, it is unclear what happened with those rapes, and Mixon has not been proven guilty of rape.

Stoker comments,“What we do know is that he wasn’t charged or convicted of rape, which in this country makes him legally innocent, and that he doesn’t have a record of sexual offenses. We also know there is a long history of labeling Black men as rapists in the United States.” The question of Mixon’s guilt in the rape case adds another horrific detail to the March 21 events, and the inconclusiveness also adds an element of confusion.

The aspects of reality that this film tackles go beyond the set events of March 21, but dive into the culture of the Oakland Police Department, being Black in Oakland and a psychological approach to the motivation behind Mixon’s actions. Surely, this is a controversial approach to take when addressing what some would consider to be objectively heinous events, but given that these topics are so often overlooked in the mainstream narrative, this film offers viewers a chance to analyze the events of March 21, free from the onus of a thought process that has been predetermined by the Oakland Police Department.

Popular media outlets have described Mixon as a “savage” and a “monster,” but, with this film, Mixon is humanized rather than demonized. Stoker grasps the effect of racism and white supremacy within the police system, which in the film is about “addressing racial inequality [as] primarily a process of demystification, of making visible what the state has made invisible, which in this case is principally Lovelle Mixon himself.”

Stoker’s goal isn’t to instill his own opinions on the events of March 21 and the character of Lovell Mixon, but he says, “My hope is the film helps people understand the construction and political nature of hegemonic thought, and can understand it as the racist, oppressive force that it is.”

While this film is sure to stir up divisive emotions among its viewers, it is an important film, and an important perspective for Oakland residents to consider, especially given our current state of unprecedented police surveillance. “I anticipate that many people will disagree, and as far as that goes, my only hope is, for their own sake, they actually understand why,” Stoker says.

http://youtu.be/4NcG6HXXpWU

Stoker plans to debut the film in March 2014 throughout Oakland. For more information on the film, check out the Cronistas website.

Editor’s Note: Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. For guidelines, see:http://bit.ly/1aE2OLf

About The Author

Pilar Vree is an East Bay native who bartends at Penrose. She runs the blog Oakand Alcohol, Fuck Feast, and the Instagram account @oaklandalcohol.

13 Responses

  1. R2D2II

    “Given Oakland’s long standing anti-police mentality…”

    Nope. There are some people who hate cops in Oakland. There are many people with complex, nuanced views about government, policing, the justice system, police reform, the responsibility of elected officials, etc.

    “With protesters scrawling such things as “FTP” and “Die Piggy, Die” all over Oakland during last July’s Trayvon Martin verdict protests…”

    And the evidence that the “protestors” were Oakland residents is…?

    “Director and writer Sam Stoker says, “Determining the rationale of his actions isn’t a matter of morality, of what one considers to be right or wrong, it is a matter of understanding what is and is not real.”

    Uh-huh. Somebody pulled the trigger and killed some other people in cold
    blood. That’s real.

    “After Mixon was killed, he was also accused of committing two rapes before the shooting spree. However, ’til this day, it is unclear what happened with those rapes, and Mixon has not been proven guilty of rape.”

    Nor has Mixon been proven guilty of murder, despite the inconvenient fact that he killed four people.

    “My hope is the film helps people understand the construction and political nature of hegemonic thought, and can understand it as the racist, oppressive force that it is.”

    Racism is very bad. So is murder.

    Reply
  2. livegreen

    Well said R2D2. The author seems to be projecting her views & those of people who hate police (without being able to distinguish good from bad) onto everyone in the City of Oakland. Then she supports the producers of the movie in excusing every horrible crime perpetuated by Lovell Mixon as either caused by the prison industrial complex, racism or never happened at all.

    Lovell Mixon might have had a hard life. Not everybody who’s had a hard life or personal challenges goes out and murders four anybodies, destroys their families and is suspected of raping two girls (of any color).

    So much for personal responsibility. Bravo Oakland Local, you just reached a new low.

    Reply
  3. Susan Mernit

    LIvegreen, we’re committed to publishing diverse voices and sadly, there is always someone who is going to really get another person mad. But the reality is that there is a strong thread of people who feel Mixon was demonized by the police and who have done considerable work–like this documentary–to get their views out, and they are Oakland residents whose work deserves coverage as part of a broader spectrum of stories.

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  4. Oakie

    I agree with Susan and hope OL continues to offer all points of view to encourage thought and reflection (and offers the comment section for responses).

    It is a fact, there are people in our city who think Lovell Mixon was demonized, that he was “typical of individuals who become embroiled” in a world that they have no responsibility for (even murder), that the primary cause of why they do the things they do is because of “dwindling job opportunities and an insufficient educational system” while they and their own parents have no responsibility for, they fall for the excuse that “he tried to reintegrate into society, but was thwarted by the rigamarole” after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and theft and drug dealing, and subsequently carries a loaded weapon driving the streets of Oakland and when pulled over immediately shoot and kills two cops, implying he would have become a model citizen if it were not for the system that thwarted him. By taking “a psychological approach to the motivation behind Mixon’s actions” you see, he is only a victim of the insidious plotting of the evil PD and “hegemonic thought, and can understand it as the racist, oppressive force that it is.”

    The best disinfectant is exposure to light. As more and more liberals get mugged in Oakland, some of them may start to come to their senses and stop making excuses for the actions of people who behave like Mixon and the enablers we have in our midst.

    I might be willing to go see it so I can better understand their argument (if it offers anything I haven’t already heard). I guess I just have to get that hegemonic thought out of my head. I’m sure they would agree.

    Reply
  5. R2D2II

    Oakie sez: By taking “a psychological approach to the motivation behind Mixon’s actions” you see, he is only a victim of the insidious plotting of the evil PD and “hegemonic thought, and can understand it as the racist, oppressive force that it is.”

    I would suggest that the major flaw in the effort to humanize Mixon is that it is NOT psychologically-oriented, at least in terms of current thinking about the influence of trauma on those who live in violent environments. Such environments include parts, if not much, of Oakland, the war zones of the Middle East and the prisons of the U.S. “justice” system. The relevant term is “PTSD” which means that individuals like Mixon, and many Oakland youngsters, cannot develop cognitively–they have a very hard time becoming adults. Just like many soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have great trouble returning to ordinary civilian life.

    There is another very important aspect to all this, which I suggested already. It’s not just wayward cops who are ethically responsible for doing damage to people like Mixon. There are many individuals to blame. Think about George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and all the political monsters who got us involved in the Middle East. In Oakland we have our own political monsters in our stupid, disconnected, irresponsible elected officials who are ultimately responsible for the behavior of OPD. We have social networks in Oakland (“gangs”) which maintain our cultures of violence. We also have a poorly-informed, ideologically-driven electorate here which elects and re-elects the same old incompetent George Bush/Dick Cheney clones to office. Last, but not least, we have a quite amazing lack of good journalism/media which could help explore our current problems so that we might come up with ways of moving beyond them.

    Plenty of blame everywhere in Oakland. It’s not just the cops and the crooks.

    Reply
  6. Animal Mother

    He was hopped on coke, committed rapes, one of them a 12 year old child, and yea DNA did link him to the rapes, was pimpin teenage girls on the side, got pulled over and did not want to go back to prison. THAT is why he killed the cops. Give me a fucking break. 4 officers wife & children lost their family not to mention the amount of women he pimped and/or raped will never be the same. He was the PIG not the cops. And anyone who defends him is disgusting and pathetic as he was. You cant humanize a monster.

    Reply
  7. BigRandall

    I’m on the fence as far as the views of Mixon, coming from the general public. I understand some Oaklanders (or any inner city citizens of color for that matter) hatred for cops, but if you’ve done bad and you get pulled over by chance, then you’re supposed to face the consequences, not “make it” the outcome that you force it to be.

    On the other side of the coin, I would’ve loved for one of those cops to have been Mehserle….

    Reply
  8. OaklandNative

    Those who simplistically demonize Mixon are defending the status quo that created him and led to this situation. They are part of the problem.

    Thank you Pilar and the filmmaker.

    Reply
  9. A

    “Those who simplistically demonize Mixon are defending the status quo that created him and led to this situation. They are part of the problem.”

    Oh please. People who give passes for intolerable behavior and somehow blame everyone but the person committing these crimes is the problem. The man raped, murdered, and destroyed several people lives. There are countless people who grew up in harder situations that did/do not commit the crimes the he did. To somehow waive his personal responsibility in the way he lived is pathetic at best.

    Based on this logic we could make a movie about Bush or Cheney and humanize them and say it’s okay for them to act the way they did because they’re victims of their situation, right?

    Reply
  10. OaklandNative

    A,
    Please re-read my comment. At no point did I give anyone a pass–neither Mixon or his demonizers.

    What I did say was that Mixon was a symptom of a bigger problem. I also wrote that many of his demonizers (like you?) distract from the real problem and continue the cycle.

    Maybe you can explain how you brought Bush and Cheney into the discussion instead of looking in our own backyard.

    Reply
  11. A

    I used Bush and Cheney as an example to show that it can work both ways. Do you not hold them accountable for their actions? Do you not agree that those political leaders (loose term) are a symptom of a much larger problem with our country and society? Should we somehow overlook that when we characterize their actions and say that they’re just a victim of circumstance or the system?

    If you consider holding someone accountable for their personal actions as a much bigger problem than there’s really not to say. Mixon had free will. Who chose to rape? Who chose to murder someone? Who chose to enter a life of crime to be part of the prison complex? You can rant and rave about the “system” but like I said before there have been many people who have/had it harder that did not choose to take those paths in life.

    Reply
  12. OaklandNative

    A,
    Mixon is accountable and so are you. You are dependent on each other.

    There are many more Mixons out there. Do you believe your namecalling will make them change their minds? Or will their mutual hatred/anger for you encourage them to do more damage?

    Or does they give you an excuse to express your “outrage”? Then you can feel good about yourself. Or perhaps it gives you a chance to show us what a good person you are.

    Reply

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