Protesters gather in Oakland over ex-cop's release
OAKLAND, Calif. – About 300 protesters rallied in downtown Oakland on Sunday to show their anger over a white former San Francisco Bay Area transit police officer's pending release from jail after serving 11 months of a two-year sentence for killing an unarmed black passenger.
Under a visible police presence, the protesters held a peaceful demonstration near City Hall as they vented their frustration before Johannes Mehserle's scheduled release Monday from a Los Angeles County jail. He was ordered to serve time there after his high-profile trial was moved to Southern California last year.
"The people know it was wrong," Jabari Shaw, 32, a protester who also attended Mehserle's trial, said Sunday. "As much as we want justice, we're still not getting it."
Mehserle, 29, was convicted last July of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Grant, 22, on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train station platform in Oakland on New Year's Day 2009.
Mehserle testified he meant to use his stun gun instead of his handgun.
The shooting continues to spark debate, racial tension and occasional protests that have turned violent. Last fall, more than 150 people were arrested in Oakland hours after Mehserle's sentencing.
On Sunday, the protesters first gathered at the train station where Grant was killed, some holding signs that read, "Jail Killer Cops," and chanting, "We are all Oscar Grant!" Some protesters carried a mock casket symbolizing Grant's death as they marched downtown.
One person was arrested for spray painting graffiti, police said.
Earlier Sunday, Jack Bryson, whose two sons were with Grant when he was killed, introduced the crowd to Grant's young daughter, Tatiana, telling them that while Mehserle will soon go home to his young child, Grant's daughter is fatherless.
"Johannes Mehserle gets a second chance. Oscar didn't," Bryson said. "That's why it's so important that we stick together to continue to try to make changes. Remember, we'll never forget Oscar Grant."
Mehserle's attorney, Michael Rains, has declined to comment on his client's pending release. Rains recently said in published reports that Mehserle is ready to move on with his life.
On Sunday, several downtown Oakland businesses were boarded up in anticipation of unruliness, while a few with Grant's likeness on their windows, remained open.
Grant supporters in Los Angeles on Monday plan to march to the U.S. attorneys' office and demand that the Department of Justice look into a possible federal civil rights violation.
A civil lawsuit against Mehserle and several other officers involved with Grant's shooting is still active.
Grant's family attorney, John Burris, on Sunday urged the Oakland crowd before their march downtown to remain peaceful as they exercised their freedom of speech.
"There's still an opportunity for all of us to continue our sense of outrage, our sense of frustration at the (criminal justice) system and do what we can through public speaking, through organizing, community involvement to continue his legacy," Burris said.
Grant's uncle, Daryl Johnson, also thanked demonstrators for their continued support.
"A crime was committed, but it wasn't paid for. This needs to stop and the only way it's going to stop is if we stand together," Johnson said. "Our voices are whispers in the wind, until we all stand together asking for the same thing that's the only way it's going to change."
The protest ended shortly after 7 p.m. as police stood watch over a lingering crowd.
"I can't tell you what to do, but I strongly suggest that you start to disburse," Cat Brooks, a protest co-organizer, told the crowd.