Oakland and SF brace for reaction to Mehserle verdict

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Johannes Mehserle (left) shot and killed Oscar Grant on New Year's Day last year and was charged with murder.

Oakland and San Francisco police and city officials are nervously awaiting the verdict in the murder trial of Johannes Mehserle, the former BART police officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant on a train platform last year, although the latest word is that verdict won't come today (July 6), and probably not tomorrow, because of the absences of two jurors.

After demonstrations against Mehserle in Oakland last year turned into destructive riots, officials fear another outbreak of violence, particularly given the racial undertones to the crime, but they are urging calm and saying they will facilitate peaceful demonstrations in reaction to however the Los Angeles jury rules.

“We anticipate that regardless of the verdict reached by the jury, demonstrations will occur in downtown Oakland, and possibly throughout the city. The City of Oakland is committed to facilitating peaceful expression and demonstrations. The City of Oakland is also prepared to deal with the situation if it turns violent. Our goal is to protect public safety and property by minimizing the vandalism and violence,” reads a memo the Mayor's Office distributed to Oakland city employees.

Of particular concern to Oakland officials is the area around Oakland City Hall, which they want evacuated before the demonstrations begin. As the memo said, “We learned from the January 2009 BART demonstrations that 14th & Broadway and the City Hall Complex are target areas and there is some indication that history may repeat itself. City management is concerned about the safety of our employees and it may be necessary to release some city staff earlier than normal. Similar planning efforts are being considered by the State and Federal buildings as well as private employers in the surrounding area.”

In fact, witnesses say that many Oakland business owners in the area have already started to board up their storefronts in anticipation of civil unrest. Police in both Oakland and San Francisco have been placed on alert and SFPD Officer Samson Chan said all officers, even plainclothed investigators, will be in uniform from now until the verdict.

SFPD Chief George Gascon held a press conference with African-American church leaders this afternoon urging calm and announcing that community centers throughout the city will be opened to give people peaceful opportunities to express their frustrations. “They all urged people to react to the verdict in a peaceful way,” Chan said.

In a public statement accompanying the internal memo, Mayor Ron Dellums expressed sympathy with the frustrations that people may feel if Mehserle is seen as getting a lenient verdict – “We understand that the community is grieving, and we are in this together. We will get through this together.” – but he ended the message by saying, “We are asking for the community to come together, look out for one another, and stay safe. We will not tolerate destruction or violence. We live here, and we love Oakland.”

Comments

is mostly boarded up.

Looks like a Class-4 hurricane is headed our way.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 06, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

If trouble starts in SF, Newsom needs to shut down the T line, as Willie shut down the 3rd St bus during the Rodney King riots. Troublemakers started coming into the Union Sq area to trash stores.

BART already has a contingency plan in place when riots start in Oakland. The Fruitvale, 12th and 19th St stations will close, as will West Oakland if necessary. MacArthur will stay open because it's the last transfer station, but since it is above ground, rings of police can secure it from mobs.

BART riders should be aware of the possibility of mobs trying to board trains to cause trouble, including possible assault and robbery. Pepper spray is $10 at sporting goods stores.

Be prepared. Do not be a sitting duck. And remember, band together if necessary to defend yourselves.

Posted by guest on Jul. 06, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

I've got my solution, my 9mm and a good eye :-)

Posted by Guest on Jul. 06, 2010 @ 9:02 pm

to get involved in Oakland.

Does anyone listen to church leaders anymore, other than to know to vote yes on 8?

Posted by matlock on Jul. 06, 2010 @ 10:45 pm

I find the two Guest comments very disturbing and not at all helpful in easing tensions at a moment like this. Yes, take precautions and be careful if things start to get ugly, but racial stereotyping and preemptive threats of violence are inappropriate and only going to make things worse.

Posted by Guest Steven T. Jones on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 8:20 am

Why do you find my comment disturbing? It's the first one, by the way.

BART has been very clear about its contingency plan if there is trouble in Oakland. So have other organizations, such as the Oakland Museum (which will instantly close). The OPD has given talks to the EMTs and others about their response plans. It's hardly a secret.

I have no interest in raising "tensions", as "tensions" are being raised by the usual "activist" types, the usual agitator groups, and a slew of web postings on Indymedia detailing their planned response.

It's common sense for people to be prepared. The possibility exists for real danger for people who have to travel on BART, as BART is a target of the agitators and others. The captive passengers on trains may look like easy pickings, but many of us who ride BART have been planning on trouble on BART since this case went to trial.

Sorry, but the long, long history of rioting when blacks, and others, don't get the verdicts they want in trials like this make planning for trouble all the more necessary.

Posted by guest on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

Sorry, the second Guest comment was mine, not the first.

Posted by guest on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

"Sorry, but the long, long history of rioting when blacks, and others, don't get the verdicts they want in trials like this make planning for trouble all the more necessary."

Aside from the Rodney King verdict what other trials can you cite in this long, long history that you speak of? That is an uniformed ignorant statement.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 7:58 am