Hundreds gathered Thursday at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland to remember Oscar Grant III who was shot to death at the station on New Year's Day in 2009 by a BART police officer.
Grant's mother, the Rev. Wanda Johnson, spoke at the 6th annual vigil for Grant, which was organized by the Oscar Grant Foundation. People held signs that read "We Are All Oscar Grant," and "Grant Station" and "Black Lives Matter," which has become a fixture in recent demonstrations protesting grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York.
"I'm saddened but I'm excited because I know Oscar will be looking down and smiling to see this whole sea of people gathered together to celebrate him and his life," Johnson said. "We don't know what's going to happen when we leave this place and go to our respective homes, but one thing we can do while we are here is share the love we have for one another."
She told NBC Bay Area that one of the things that has changed her "is a fight to bring about an awareness that black lives — all lives — matter ... That all lives should be treated equally."
Photograph of Thursday's vigil by Michael Horn
Local politicians, artists, community leaders and youth speakers attended the event, speaking out against violence. Grant's friends and family remembered him, thanking the crowd for "keeping his name alive." The young men who were with Grant the day he was shot, were also present at the vigil.
"The abolitionists in 1850 were doing what you're doing today. They were saying, 'No justice, no peace,'" Oakland City Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney said. "This movement is to say let that be history that will not repeat itself."
Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson said he came out of respect.
"It is a multi-dimensional approach — yes, we are focused on police but we also have to look at the conditions under which people live," he said.
"Fruitvale Station," by writer and director Ryan Coogler, tells the story of how 22-year-old Grant was shot by former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on Jan. 1, 2009.
Mehserle said that he meant to use his Taser gun instead of the service revolver he used to shoot Grant. Mehserle faced murder charges but was ultimately convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2010 and sentenced to two years in prison. He was released from custody in 2011.
NBC Bay Area's Christie Smith and Bay City News contributed to this report.