Reporters were allowed to exit the confined area, but if anyone else had been inclined to leave peacefully, they were unable to. Police issued a call on a megaphone telling activists, "You are all under arrest. Do not resist arrest." By the time the mass arrest was underway, public information officer Jeff Thomason told a group of reporters that there were more police officers on the scene than protesters.
"When the rocks were being thrown, it was declared an unlawful assembly," Thomason explained. He said a dispersal order had been issued simultaneously. Yet it would have been impossible for the trapped crowd to comply with such an order.
Meanwhile, a resident of the Oakland neighborhood who had come outside when the commotion began told the Guardian that she sympathized with the protesters. "The only thing I don't condone is the vandalism," said Dyshia Harvey, who surveyed the scene from behind a fence with her six-year-old son.
Harvey had been anticipating word of Mehserle's sentencing. "I was upset. I was frustrated, angry, and hurt" by the outcome, she said. But she wasn't surprised. "I already knew we weren't going to get no justice," she said. "For taking a life, 14 years isn't enough. It makes you feel like there's no justice in the justice system."
NOT OVER YET
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley has not stated whether her office will appeal Perry's ruling. Rains told reporters in L.A. that he would appeal Mehserle's involuntary manslaughter conviction.
Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice released a statement indicating that a federal investigation is in the works. "The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California have been closely monitoring the local prosecution of this case," a USDOJ prepared statement notes. "Now that the state prosecution has concluded and consistent with department policy, we will thoroughly review the prosecution and its underlying investigation to determine whether further action is appropriate."
BART settled a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Grant's daughter in January that is likely to total $5.1 million, according to civil rights attorney John Burris' website. Two other lawsuits, one on behalf of Grant's mother and one on behalf of five other men on the Fruitvale station platform that night, have been consolidated into a single trial that will begin in May 2011, Burris told the Guardian.
Meanwhile, Grant's death marked just one of three police shootings that occurred Jan. 1, 2009 — the other two cases also sparked allegations of civil-rights violations, since both victims were African American men. Adolph Grimes, 22, was fatally shot 14 times, including 12 times in the back, by a group of New Orleans police officers, who erroneously believed he was a suspect who'd fled the scene of a shooting.
The same night, Robert Tolan, 23 — the son of a Major League Baseball player — was shot and seriously injured outside his home in an upscale Houston suburb by a police officer who mistakenly believed Tolan had stolen the vehicle he was driving. Sgt. Jeffrey Cotton, the white officer who shot him, was ultimately acquitted.
Not everyone in Oakland reacted to Mehserle's sentence by charging through the streets. The Oscar Grant Foundation, which facilitated live art performances at Frank Ogawa Plaza Nov. 5, is calling for youth groups, Bay Area schools, and adults to participate in an art and poetry showcase inspired by Grant. Information can be found online at IamOscarGrant.org. The foundation is advertising a $1,000 grand prize. Three artists from the Trust Your Struggle Collective didn't wait to join a contest, however, and spent the afternoon of Nov. 5 adorning plywood covering the Youth Radio building windows at 17th Street and Telegraph Avenue, a few blocks from Frank Ogawa Plaza.