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Tue, 11.02.2010

Police brutality protest in Oakland, CA

*On this date in 2010 the Black community in Oakland, California protested and verdict in the death of another black man by an Oakland police officer.

Police made more than 150 arrests as a crowd broke windows and knocked down fences. The Los Angeles Superior Court decision sentenced a former white transit officer to the minimum term for fatally shooting unarmed Oscar Grant. The unrest was the latest in the case against defendant Johannes Mehserle, which has provoked periodic racial strife in Oakland since he shot and killed Grant while trying to arrest him on an Oakland train platform nearly two years ago.

After Los Angeles Judge Robert Perry sentenced Mehserle to a two-year prison sentence, immediate anger erupted from the victim's family and friends who demanded a much harsher punishment. "Oh my!" Grant's mother Wanda Johnson shouted. She burst out of the courtroom saying, "He got nothing! He got nothing!" Grant's uncle, Bobby Cephus Johnson, said outside court: "I do believe it's a racist criminal justice system." But he added that the family was reacting calmly. An Oakland rally billed as a tribute to Grant turned into a march through the downtown area with residences nearby, where demonstrators broke car and bus windows. Some carried a banner reading "Justice for Oscar Grant." Police helicopters hovered above, shining spotlights on the crowd. Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts said the protest was declared an illegal assembly after one officer had his gun taken from him in a fight and another officer was hit by a car and suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Officers began making arrests about 8 p.m. and had detained and handcuffed 152 people by the time the protest had died down about 90 minutes later.

Police spokesman Jeff Thomason said officers checking the backpacks of several of those arrested found hammers, pepper spray, switchblades and anti-freeze. Some residents of the area expressed empathy with the protesters but wished the demonstrators hadn't taken out it on their neighborhood. Mehserle, 28, had faced a possible 14-year maximum term after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter. At the time of the shooting, Mehserle was a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer responding to a report of a fight. In making his decision during the highly charged, 3 1/2-hour hearing, Perry threw out a gun enhancement that could have added as much as 10 years in prison and said there was overwhelming evidence that it was an accidental shooting. Perry said race would not factor into his decision and although Mehserle had shown "tons of remorse" for killing Grant, he would have to account that a "young man needlessly died." "I did the best I could with this case," Perry told the courtroom. "My decisions today will not be well-received by many people. I'm sorry for that."

(then) Mayor Ron Dellums said, "It is still my hope that people will express their anger, will express their disappointment, their outrage, their pain in a manner that is nonviolent, in a manner that is not destructive to our community."

With Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, George Floyd and countless other Blacks, protest for reform are ongoing.

Reference: Associated Press Los Angeles
AP writers Trevor Hunnicutt in Oakland
John Rogers in Los Angeles contributed to this article

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