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Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said today he understood the community’s angry reactions to former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle’s two-year prison sentence for fatally shooting Oscar Grant III but called for nonviolent protest.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge sentenced Mehserle today to two years in state prison for involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of the 22-year-old Hayward man, who was an unarmed passenger.

A jury convicted Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter, with a gun enhancement, July 8 for the shooting at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009.

Oakland police Chief Anthony Batts said at a news conference, “a large number” of uniformed and plainclothes officers will be deployed throughout the city to monitor protests and any possible violence or law breaking.

There were about 200 peaceful protesters at 14th Street and Broadway at about 3:30 p.m., Oakland Police Department spokeswoman Holly Joshi said.

Mehserle, 28, resigned from BART a week after he shot Grant. The former officer says he mistakenly used his gun instead of his Taser.

Dellums said he would, “look to the (Grant) family to determine whether the standard of justice has been met” with today’s sentence.

“It’s very clear to me,” he said, in observing the reaction of the family and their representative, “that this judgment was met with disappointment, was met with great pain and extraordinary hurt. One can draw from that … that the test of justice was not met.
“I understand the anger, I understand the pain, I understand the hurt, and the disappointment.”

Dellums said the reaction spoke to the community’s “historical experiences,” “cynicism,” and “everyday reality.”

Still, Dellums said he hopes that people would express their anger and their disappointment “in a manner that is nonviolent, in a manner that is not destructive to our community.”

Batts said police will work to ensure that people have the right to free speech and protest, but he warned that anyone damaging property or otherwise breaking the law would be arrested.

He said officers have been trained to try to identify those responsible using video cameras, and also to remove lawbreakers from within the crowd of people while still allowing peaceful protests to continue.

No incidents had been reported so far this afternoon, Batts said.

“It is quiet, and hopefully we stay that way,” he said.

Mehserle could have faced anything from probation up to 14 years in state prison.

When Judge Robert Perry sentenced Mehserle, he first ruled on a motion by Mehserle’s lawyer, Michael Rains, asking that his client be granted a new trial. That motion was denied.

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