A federal judge has given preliminary approval to a $1 million settlement in a lawsuit filed against the city of Oakland and Alameda County on behalf of 150 people who were arrested during a 2010 protest related to the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant III.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco tentatively approved the settlement in a June 13 order and will hold a final approval hearing on Sept. 9.
The people were arrested during a march protesting the sentencing of former BART officer Johannes Mehserle, who fatally shot Grant, 22, of Hayward, at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland early on New Year’s Day in 2009.
Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced in November 2010 to two years in prison. He was given credit for time served and was released in June 2011.
The civil rights lawsuit was filed in 2011 by four protesters as a class action on behalf of the approximately 150 marchers arrested during a demonstration on Nov. 5, 2010.
Under the agreement, the four named plaintiffs will each receive $9,000; other class members who file approved claims will be given an estimated $4,500 to $5,000 each; and attorneys working with the National Lawyers Guild will be awarded $350,000 for fees and costs.
In a court filing, both sides told the judge, “It is undisputed that the 150 class members were not given an order or opportunity to disperse before being penned in by police lines in the residential Oakland East Lake neighborhood, and arrested.”
The protesters were placed in sheriff’s office custody for 14 to 24 hours, and were held on buses and then in a county jail holding area before being released, according to the filing.
One of the plaintiffs, National Lawyers Guild legal observer Dan Spalding, said in a statement, “We were never given a warning or a chance to leave.
“I tried to tell the officers that I was a legal observer, but they handcuffed me and put me on a sheriff’s bus,” Spalding said.
Spalding said protesters were handcuffed and left sitting on the street and in buses for about eight hours without bathroom access.
A spokesman for Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker had no immediate comment.
Alameda County Counsel Donna Ziegler said the county will pay $175,000 of the settlement.
“We settled the case and we’re happy to be moving forward with other issues that confront the county,” she said.
The proposed settlement document says the agreement is not an admission by either side about the merits of the lawsuit’s claims.
The planned settlement also includes an agreement by Oakland police and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office for expedited procedures for processing and releasing people arrested at demonstrations.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News