152 Arrested In Oakland Demonstration
Johannes Mehserle Sentencing, Oakland’s Reaction, Liveblogged
Two Years Not Enough, Say Protesters
Businesses Brace As Night Falls Over Oakland Demonstration
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums Urges Nonviolent Protest
Many Oakland community members said this afternoon they’re not surprised former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle was sentenced earlier today to two years in state prison for killing unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III.
Mehserle, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the Jan. 1, 2009, fatal shooting on the Fruitvale BART platform, was sentenced by Judge Robert Perry in a Los Angeles courtroom and will get credit for the time he has already served in jail.
He faced a possible sentence ranging from probation to 14 years in state prison.
Less than an hour after the sentencing hit the airwaves at about 1 p.m., a crowd of roughly 30 people had already started to gather at 14th Street and Broadway, near Oakland City Hall, for the Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant event “A Day to Honor Oscar Grant.”
Community members gathered to express anger, recite poetry, and perform music in a safe environment.
By 3:30 p.m., more than 200 people had gathered in front of City Hall for a peaceful demonstration.
Cat Brooks, co-founder of ONYX, an organization that focuses on police conduct and the rights of blacks in Oakland, said the sentencing was a “farce.”
“This sentence is a slap in the face to the family of Oscar Grant,” Brooks said. “People are disgusted, they’re upset, they’re angry.”
Brooks said she was not surprised by the sentence given the history of the treatment of people of color in America.
Oakland resident Sherri Moore had a similar reaction.
“I’m not surprised at what happened,” Moore said. “We’re not supposed to fear people, and we’re not supposed to hate each other.”
Talia Jefferson, an attorney for community organization IamOscarGrant.org, had a slightly different take.
“Today is bittersweet,” Jefferson said. “Never before has a cop been convicted, so it’s a step forward … but it’s not enough. Two years is not enough.”
In Oakland, businesses closed early and boarded up their windows in anticipation of potential violence following the sentencing.
Oakland police were also ready.
Officer Jeff Thomason said police have enough officers to deal with any situation that might arise.
“We have officers on hand here to show a little of our presence,” Thomason said. “But we also have many officers out of sight.”
Thomason said police understand the emotionally charged nature of the event.
“We understand that people are going to be very upset,” he said.
Police remained in groups of two to four officers this afternoon and kept to the crowd’s edges.
“It’s been very peaceful, and we anticipate it’s going to continue to be peaceful,” Thomason said.
In Los Angeles, the Grant family was struggling with the sentence.
John Burris, an attorney for the Grant family, said the family was “stunned.”
“They’re stunned by the judge’s decision,” Burris said by phone.
“I’m disappointed, but not surprised.”
Burris did not have high expectations, he said, based on the role race has historically played in police interactions.
The Grant family had hoped Mehserle would get a harsher sentence.
“They wanted the maximum – 14 years,” Burris said.