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Police arrested 152 people Friday evening following protests sparked by the sentencing of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who fatally shot unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III.

Peaceful protests in response to the sentence–two years in state prison–started to deteriorate when protesters in front of City Hall decided to move their group to a different location at about 6 p.m.

At 10:20 p.m., protestors filled at least three sheriff’s jail buses, which each hold about 35 people, an Oakland police officer said. The suspects were arrested for unlawful assembly and vandalism.

“I think you have a very aggressive crowd that’s out of line, and we should hold that crowd accountable,” police Chief Anthony Batts said at a news conference earlier that night.

After this afternoon’s peaceful demonstration, protestors planned to move to a location that had been prearranged with police, but instead they went the opposite direction, according to police.

After the group left City Hall, one or two suspects grabbed a gun from an officer’s holster and pointed it at the officer, Batts said.

Other protestors jumped on taxicabs, and several car windows were broken. A police officer was run over by a citizen while following protestors in what seemed to be an accident, Batts said. The officer’s condition is unknown.

The demonstrators were corralled on 6th Avenue between 17th Street and 18th Street, and the crowd was eventually declared an illegal assembly.

“The majority of arrests this evening were for unlawful assembly,” police spokesman Officer Jeff Thomason said.

He said there were no other incidents related to the protests as of 11 p.m.
“There aren’t any other groups causing problems right now,” he said.

Police officers contained the havoc to that area, Batts said, and did their best to ensure the mayhem didn’t escalate.

“Is it out of control? No. Did it take a while to flank them? Yes,” he said of the crowd.

Mehserle, 28, was convicted on July 8 of involuntary manslaughter for fatally shooting 22-year-old Grant, a Hayward man who was unarmed, at BART’s Fruitvale station in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009.

Protests on the evening of the conviction started peacefully, but there was looting and vandalism later that night. At least 78 people were arrested in connection to the protests.
Several establishments near City Hall were closed because of the sentencing today.

Saul Sugarman, Bay City News

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