justice-for-oscar-grant.jpgAs jury deliberations in the Johannes
Mehserle murder trial continue,
Police Chief George Gascon held a press conference Tuesday afternoon,
where he, other SFPD officers and pastors of local faith-based organizations
pushed for a peaceful response from the Bay Area community once the verdict is

Avoiding the controversy surrounding this case, the chief
instead emphasized how this event can be seen as an opportunity for growth for
the future.  “One of the things we
want to convey today is a message of peace, and it’s a message of peace not
only for today, but a message of peace for tomorrow and during the summer and
going on forward,” said Gascon. 

The case of Mehserle, the former BART police officer accused of
murdering unarmed 22-year-old Oscar Grant on the Fruitvale subway platform on
New Year’s Day 2009, has already led to civil unrest in Oakland.  The
outcome of the racially-charged trial remains a contentious issue that some
fear will cause further riots
. Gascon denied that he expected disturbances, saying
there is “absolutely no evidence…that will lead us to believe there will be any
problems here.”

The SFPD offered a number of community events where Gascon
hopes people can “take this tragic event and turn it into something positive.”  Commanding Officer, Captain John
Sanford, Jr., announced a three-day outreach engagement event, where young
people will have the opportunity be heard.  Located today at the Joseph Lee Recreation Center,
Wednesday at the Ella Hill
Hutch Community Center
and Thursday at Visitacion
Middle School
, these events run from noon to 6pm and will feature free food
and drink, open mic forums, athletic events, and outlets for creative

Also, in the wake of the jury’s verdict, the SFPD will also
be opening up two community engagement centers, at Ella Hill Hutch Community Center
and SF
City College Southeast Campus
, where members of police dept and other
organizations invite all members of the community to come out and voice their

In addition to engagement centers, the SFPD announced that
they created partnerships with faith-based centers at 14-16 locations.  These pockets are yet another place
where members can drop in to engage ministers, church, family and the like.

Revs. Roland Gordon, Lawrence Hart and Amos Brown praised the work of the SFPD. Brown, San Francisco
NAACP’s president, was hospitalized this weekend with a stroke, but still
spoke, calling the SFPD as a “dream team, no where in the world will you find a
team like this one.”

He also spoke
powerfully about historical racial tensions and how they were best overcome
peacefully, referring to Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment.  He advised to people to avoid focusing
on the verdict because this case will not answer or resolve the common
challenges that have been present in comparable occurrences over the years.

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
It has been dark for African Americans when it comes to the scales of justice
being weighed…and [this case] is dark because a young man’s life was lost and a
officer’s career was challenged….but don’t be duped into reacting,” Brown

Gascon and others echoed the same sentiment, pushing for the
most favorable feedback for everyone through the outreach is widely available
through the SFPD and other community members. 

“Peace and tranquility should not be the subject of only one
day or because of one event, needs to be the subject of persons everyday,”
Gascon said.

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