The trial of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, charged with murder for the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant III, is coming to a close this week. The lawyers in the case will present their closing arguments on Thursday and jury deliberations are expected to begin Friday. Local police forces, businesses, and BART, itself is preparing for rallies or protests leading up to and following the verdict — and it’s probably a good idea for you to get prepared, too.
Oakland city officials and business owners are preparing for a potential bout of civil unrest regardless of the verdict. Protests that erupted when Oscar Grant was killed in 2009 reached riot level and culminated in the damage of many downtown Oakland businesses, police cars, and other property. To practice for a repeat of this, the Police Department has held several training drills.
BART is also preparing for the worst. Service disruptions are likely if public reaction reaches levels similar to the previous riot. In a statement released by BART Board President James Fang (you can read the whole thing here), he says BART is calling “for calm and peaceful response to the upcoming verdict in the Johannes Mehserle trial” noting that “neither, BART, the City of Oakland, its residents or its businesses have control over the outcome of the People versus Mehserle trial.”
Interestingly, Fang also says that “While we respect the judicial process, I personally would have liked to have seen African-Americans seated on jury and I am deeply disappointed that there are none.”
In addition to releasing this statement distancing themselves from the trial, beginning Wednesday, BART will post updates to their website, wireless, text message, e-mail alert and phone system to update riders on what, if any, changes they are making to train service. Adjustments to service may be made short notice and entire stations might need to be closed.
If you don’t have a fancy phone, the updates are accessible via BART’s free email and text messaging service, which you can sign up for here.
Without signing up for anything, you can request arrival info and advisories by texting BART at 878787, followed by a specific command like “bart 12th” for times or “bart svc” for updates. Check out BART’s website for a list of commands.
If you prefer to be old school then you can receive the information by calling the BART customer service line at 510-265-BART (2278). BART also has a Twitter and a Facebook page (who doesn’t these days?).
Last but not least, there is always the bus. Check out www.511.org to find information on alternate commuting options.