Demonstrations following the trial of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, who shot and killed an unarmed man last New Year’s Day, turned ugly. While no incidents were reported in San Francisco, things got lawless in Oakland resulting in a large number of people getting arrested and an even larger number of businesses damaged.
The rallies took place in downtown Oakland, out of support and remembrance for the victim Oscar Grant, and anger for the sentence given to Mehserle. At some point the protesting turned violent. Sushi bars and coffee shops got their windows smashed in, people looted, trashcans burned. According to SFGate, 100 downtown businesses suffered property damage.
Only 9 of them were actually charged, 7 with felonies ranging from arson to property damage and 2 with misdemeanors. The remaining were cited for failing to disperse under officers’ orders and then released. Of those charged, Alameda County’s DA and Oakland’s city attorney are both exploring the possibility of suing those found guilty for some of the damage.
At the urging of Chron columnist Chip Johnson, BART also says they are looking into ways to financially help with the damage. “I don’t know where we are in terms of what we’re going to do, but we want to do something,” BART spokesperson Linton Johnson said.
But that’s not good enough for Chip Johnson (no relation, who says:
Twice now, street demonstrations related to Grant’s death have caused property damage at local businesses. And all of it came about because of Mehserle’s criminally negligent judgment, and the behavior of fellow officers who responded to the report of a fight on board a train.
What do you think? Does BART have a financial obligation to help with property damage caused by looters? Tell us in the comments below.