Protests in downtown Oakland sparked by the verdict in the Johannes Mehserle trial appear to be taking a violent turn.
Oakland City Councilwoman Jane Brunner said shortly before 9 p.m. that she had just left downtown because part of the crowd had turned unruly.
“They were running up and down and it looked like they may have been starting to throw rocks,” Brunner said.
Earlier in the night, Brunner had participated in a small, organized demonstration at the corner of 14th Street and Broadway. She said a microphone had been set up for people to voice their views about Oscar Grant and the verdict.
A band started playing at City Hall Plaza sometime around 8 p.m. and continued to play as the situation began to turn volatile, she said.
A witness reported that an increasing number of protesters are donning bandanas over their faces, and that at least one window at a nearby Subway shop has been broken.
Looting has been reported at a Foot Locker store, and windows are said to have been broken at the Far East National Bank opposite City Hall.
Brunner said she understands why people are upset.
“I know that the family is unhappy, and I support that, but I also believe that this is the first time in people’s memory that a police officer was charged when it had to do with an African American male who was hurt,” Brunner said.
She noted that “with the addition of the gun charge there may be significant time.”
A Los Angeles jury today convicted Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter for Grant’s fatal shooting on New Year’s Day 2009. The jury also found true the allegation that Mehserle deliberately used his gun.
Mehserle now faces between five and 15 years in prison when he is sentenced.