Friday, July 09, 2010

Oakland Police Arrest Demonstrators Against Involuntary Manslaughter Verdict of White Transit Cop for the Killing of Oscar Grant III

Oakland Police Take Several People Into Custody

Police take several people into custody as they move in on protesters in Oakland's downtown

The Associated Press

Oakland police have begun taking people into custody as they move in on a crowd protesting the verdict in the case of a former transit officer.

Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter on Thursday in the shooting death of an unarmed black man.

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts said two to four people had been arrested, but he expected the number to rise.

The arrests come after protesters broke into a Foot Locker near the city's downtown.

Protesters have also set some garbage cans on fire.

Batts said earlier Thursday that one person suffered a leg injury when rocks and bottles were thrown.

A small incendiary device was also set off near police department's downtown station, but caused no damage or injuries.

Protesters break into Oakland store

The Associated Press
07/08/2010 08:41:50 PM PDT

OAKLAND, Calif.—The first sign of trouble in Oakland is brewing as protesters broke into an athletic store near the city's downtown.

Police say a crowd forced their way into a Foot Locker store and began taking items from the store.

Before the incident, Oakland's police chief had said things were mostly peaceful in Oakland after the verdict in the Johannes Mehserle case was announced earlier Thursday.

Chief Anthony Batts said during an earlier press briefing protesters had been mostly peaceful.

Batts did say one person suffered a leg injury when what he described as "a small portion of the crowd" started throwing rocks and bottles.

Batts also said a small incendiary device was set off near police department's downtown station, but caused no damage or injuries.

BART verdict: Marchers, extra police pour into downtown Oakland

July 8, 2010 | 6:56 pm

Hundreds of people have gathered in downtown Oakland near 14th Street and Broadway, angered that a former BART officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter instead of a more severe second-degree murder conviction.

The crowd is tense, holding up signs decrying the verdict, and some holding up pieces of paper with the photo of Oscar J. Grant III, the unarmed black man who was fatally shot by white BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland.

But there are no reports of violence, according to local television reports. Workers in downtown Oakland cleared out late this afternoon, hoping to avoid a possible disturbance. Oakland police were on the scene in riot gear.

Additional police officers were coming in from other cities, including Hayward and Fremont. Merchants boarded up their storefronts earlier this afternoon.

Oakland police and city leaders have feared the possibility of violence following the verdict. In June, the city Police Department simulated a riot to help officers prepare for unrest. Meeting areas were planned to be set up for residents to peacefully express their feelings about the verdict. And preachers have agreed to urge calm.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Some skirmishes but reaction mostly peaceful

Matthai Kuruvila, Kevin Fagan, Jill Tucker,Nanette Asimov, Chronicle Staff Writers

Thursday, July 8, 2010

(07-08) 20:16 PDT OAKLAND -- Word of the Johannes Mehserle involuntary manslaughter verdict utterly transformed downtown Oakland in a matter of hours from a quiet enclave of office workers into a crush of more than 1,000 angry protesters, some of whom briefly skirmished with police.

Sporatic conflicts were quelled quickly as night fell Thusday. Mayor Ron Dellums and others called for nonviolence, and throughout the afternoon most of the rage from those who thought the verdict was too light was confined to loudspeakers and animated conversations on the asphalt.

Tony Coleman, a community organizer with New Years Movement 4 Justice for Oscar Grant - the black man shot on Jan. 1, 2009, by then-BART Police Officer Mehserle, who is white - was one of first speakers at the podium as hundreds gathered at 14th Street and Broadway.

"I'm angry as hell, but he was found guilty of something," he said into a microphone. "It ain't over yet."

Rocks and bottles

The confrontations were quick: At about 5:30 p.m., protesters surrounded police officers at 13th and Broadway and at 12th and Broadway, pelting officers with rocks and bottles and pulling down police barricades. Police quelled the disturbances quickly.

A large, angry mob then formed and blocked a bus near 12th and Broadway. When a police car rolled in to move the protesters out of the way, the car was surrounded, and as it backed up it apparently ran over a woman's leg by mistake. The woman, who in her 20s and reportedly deaf, fell to the ground and lay in the crosswalk surrounded by a crowd. She was later able to stand up.

The standoff between police and protesters intensified moments later as riot police lined up at 11th and Broadway. Officers in riot gear blocked the street as members of the crowd yelled and swore.

Nearby, in front of City Hall, a separate group of ministers and community leaders set up their own event with loudspeakers.

Public gatherings also took place at five community centers throughout Oakland designated as "speakout centers" where people could vent their feelings. The mood was often hostile.

About 100 people at Youth UpRising, one of the speakout centers, watched Oscar Grant's uncle Cephus Johnson on television from Los Angeles saying that he felt the family had "been slapped in the face by this system that has denied us true justice."

To some, the words appeared to invite outrage, perhaps violence.

"Damn," said Youth UpRising Director Olis Simmons, "He just opened the door. Kicked it open. I don't think he meant to but he did it."

Back downtown, another relative of Grant's - his grandfather - appealed for calm.

"Please let's keep peace," grandfather Oscar Grant, 65, said on a loudspeaker at the intersection of 14th and Broadway. "I know what went on down there was wrong. Please don't tear up the Bay Area.

"Don't dishonor my grandson's death by tearing up Oakland. I know the verdict was wrong."


Early in the afternoon, when word spilled out around 2:30 p.m. that a verdict would be read at 4 p.m., Oakland experienced an exodus just a few ticks short of panic.

Downtown streets suddenly were flooded with people rushing out of their workplaces to go home. BART trains streaming in and out of downtown were jammed, and nearby Interstates 880 and 980 filled.

At the downtown federal building, announcements were made over loudspeakers telling workers to go home. At many of the big businesses throughout the area, internal e-mails and other notices went out advising the same.

Community groups, police and city leaders had been laying plans for months to keep reaction protests peaceful. But many were still leery, considering the riots that broke out in Oakland in January 2009 in reaction to Grant's killing by Mehserle. Several businesses downtown were boarded up in anticipation of trouble.

By 2:30 p.m., police had blocked off 11th and Clay streets and other key intersections with cars and barricades. Argus, the Oakland police helicopter that had been grounded because of budget cuts unless there was an emergency, was buzzing in the air.

A dozen people sat on barstools in stunned silence watching television at the Pacific Coast Brewery in downtown Oakland when the verdict was read. One man booed.

"Oh, that's bad," said Ivan Davis, 43, of Oakland, who is African American. "That's bad."

As much as many wanted a conviction on a more serious charge, downtown protester Scott Larockwell, 32, said he took heart that Mehserle was at least convicted of something.

"It's a clear-cut case of murder," said Larockwell who joined the growing group at 14th Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland. "He's (Mehserle) a police officer. He should know better. Justice should be served, but it's a baby step and a precedent.

"Cops never get convicted," he said. "At least there's some type of conviction."

Calls for calm

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, flanked by other city and police officials, held a press conference at 5 p.m. to call for nonviolent demonstrations.

He said that like the Grant family, he disagreed with the verdict, but emphasized that the federal government can now be turned to for further prosecution.

"The journey to justice does not have to end here," he said. He then asked his fellow citizens to join him in pursuing the case further - and in the meantime, to protest the verdict peacefully.

"Our request is very straightforward," he said. "Realizing the pain, understanding the anger, let's express ourselves today in a manner that is profoundly respectful of this young man who died way too soon. Find a way to seek the best of ourselves, to rise to the highest in ourselves and to show this nation that Oakland can respond to adversity in a manner that reflects the greatest in the human spirit."

Across the bay in San Francisco, police fanned out downtown by foot, motorcycle and cruisers as the streets jammed with cars trying to get out of town.

Several businesses on Powell Street, including Walgreens drug store, boarded up windows as the commute hour began. At the International Wholesale Jeweler shop, security guard Malcolm Otis said he was barricading his glass because "We think he's going to walk, and it's gonna be hell."

This story was written and reported in San Francisco by Chronicle Staff Writer Kevin Fagan with reporting from Oakland and San Francisco by staffers Matthai Kuruvila, Jill Tucker, Nanette Asimov, Peter Fimrite, Drew Joseph, Carolyn Jones, Henry K. Lee, Jaxon Van Derbeken, Erin Allday and Will Kane.

E-mail the writers at, and

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