Oakland reacts to Mehserle verdict


The jury has reached an involuntary manslaughter verdict in the murder trial of Johannes Merserle, the former BART cop who shot and killed Oscar Grant, and Oakland City Hall has been evacuated in anticipation of the response. The judge has announced that the jury rejected the two more severe verdicts -- 2nd degree murder and voluntary manslaughter -- which could prompt an angry response from some protesters.

As the photos above by Ben Hopfer show, many businesses in downtown Oakland have been boarded up in anticipation of riots, while others have posted tributes to Grant and other statements of sympathy for the demonstrators that are soon expected to fill the streets of Oakland, as well as messages urging nonviolence.

The coalition that organized protests in Oakland criticizing Mehserle's conduct has issued a statement calling for people to gather in protest at 6 p.m. at the intersection of Broadway and 14th, voicing opposition to the verdict by writing, "This is a huge dissapointment after 18 months of organizing for justice in this historic case. Once again America has told black and brown communities that their lives are of little value in this society."

"This fight is far from over," said Rachel Jackson of the New Years Movement for Justice for Oscar Grant. "The Department of Justice now needs to take immediate action and try Johannes Mehserle, Tony Pirone and Marisol Dominice for hate crimes and violations of Oscar's civil rights."

Attorney John Burris, who represents the Grant family, also expressed disappointment in the verdict in speaking with reporters outside the Los Angeles courthouse, but he did note that it is significant for a police officer to be convicted of a murder charge, something that has never happened in the 30 other similar cases he's worked on. "So in that sense, it's a small victory," Burris said. He plans to file a civil lawsuit in the case and to urge the judge to issue the maximum sentence when the court reconvenes for sentencing on Aug. 6.

Update at 8:38: Our reporters in the field say the crowd in Oakland has begun to turn violent, with the Foot Locker on Broadway near Telegraph getting its windows smashed and looters currently making off with merchandise. A Subway on Broadway also had its windows broken. About an hour ago, the Oakland Police -- which had been steadily moving in the barricades around the main crowd -- made at least one arrest after a confrontation with two protesters who weren't moving back. And a couple hours ago, a woman was run over by an unmarked police car that had ended up in the middle of the action and was being threatened by the crowd, but she seemed uninjured afterward. More as it develops...

Update at 8:54: Hundreds of police officers in riot gear are massing at 14th Street off Broadway, ordering the crown to disperse or face arrest. Troy on Twitter is also reporting the Far East National Bank is being looted.

Update at 9:41: Most of the crowd has been dispersed, with just a couple hundred left, many of them young anarchists wearing black hoodies. This may be our final post of the evening, but ABC7 has had good live coverage.

Update at 10:10: The crowd has turned violent again, smashing windows in about 10 stores along Broadway and lighting trash cans on fire.



Can you remember the kid that was tasered and killed by the Oakland PD outside the 7-11 because he :looked like someone else". Was his name Gary? Or was gary his dad.

I talked to his dad. The victim could have been my son. Stop cops from getting away with murder.

Posted by Guest Roger Young on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 6:16 pm

Ok lets get this straight. It was not a murder. Yes, the officer was wrong and made a horrible mistake and will be punished! There must be intent and in this case there was no intent. Trust the jury they received ALL the information and made the decision. MOST prudent people do what they are told when the police ask. This is tragic however when the police are forced to use force to gain compliance this unfortunately was the outcome. We didn't see on the video what happened prior to the incident being taped. Numerous cops around would indicate to a prudent person that a person was not cooperating. Stop the spin!!! Get the facts. We have a black president now which should put your mind to rest. Be professional in your actions and words and tell a friend. Get your facts on your friend. I highly doubt him looking like someone else caused officers to use lethal force. Spread peace not hate

Posted by Guest k. murphy on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

it boggles my mind when people say "we have a black president so that must mean racism is over" -- which is what you were getting at with your "we have a black president" comment. sure, the color of his skin is black, but he's appeasing the white, upper class of America. So, it doesn't mean a thing. You get your facts straight, before you want to throw out an ignorant comment like that.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

Just the adjective "black" to describe the President, shows a mindset that is still black AND white.

Please go listen to MJ's Black OR White.

Get real, the world is full of various colours. Be it white, yellow, red, black, brown whatever...the colour of the blood is uniform, RED.

We are all homo sapien human.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

Does having a black president mean all of the racists suddenly change their views?

And a lot of people voted against our "black" president anyway.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

when is the last time you made a mistake?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

and if the cop was black when would have been found not guilty. The only reason this cop was found guilty was because he's a white male and apparently all white males are evil and racists.

the jury probably also feared backlash had they found him not guilty. Would be surprised if they were coaxed into their verdict.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

To take it one step further, if a white young male was shot and killed by a cop (of any color) would anyone make a big deal about it??? No! The truth is that the only time "history" is made happens after something happens to a "black" person. Back when people other than "whites" were treated differently, and I mean discrimination at its worst you had good and descent "black and white" people fighting for equal rights. Those people would turn over in their graves if they could see what was happening now. Face it, there are certain races that don't want to change and still base all their troubles on what happened to their anscestors!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 20, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

Why does practically every "afican-american" think bad about whites? Why cant people understand it was an accident? "afican-Americans" need to stop being so selfish and realize whites could careless what you look like, you are a fellow human-being on this Earth, you aren't worth our time. Whites are not racist, yes, some are and that's life but come on grow up most of us aren't. Blacks are the ones that use racism as an excuse! I have personal had many black friends and they have accused me of being racist but i could care less what color they have on their skin. Oscar Grant has a criminal history! Mehserle doesn't. Mehserle deserves to be let off!!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 10:02 pm

...you are racist.

Posted by steven on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

haha, so since you're not racist, you can speak for Mehserle....okay idiot.

Posted by Jake on Jul. 10, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

Smashing windows and looting stores in your own community is not a call for justice; its a spectacle of stupidity. Mehserle probably deserved a voluntary manslaughter verdict for for his gross negligence. He didn't get that. He didn't get off either. Hell be punished. Life goes on. Hurting the Oakland community in response is not revolutionary; its idiotic. Everyone who takes part in violence in response to violence defiles their own history in the worst kind of way. What would Dr. King say of these idiot Oakland kids tearing their own communities apart?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

I agree totally with what you said.

When my friend in Oakland text me to pray for oakland a few hours ago (I am in Singapore, Asia), I prayed that the folks there will be cool, calm and collect, holding a peaceful, quiet and respectable protest, so that attention can be focus on the verdict (be it just or unjust in individual's opinion), instead of on the riots/chaos.

I'd rather hope someone would organise a mass tweets action to White House, or the Mayor of California, to protest. If MJ's death jammed tweets and google, then news like this should have at least half the same effort, to focus the global village's attention on this ISSUE, to form an united pressure on the govt to rethink what they can force down people's throat.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

The police have announced that three quarters of the people arrested for violence are not even from Oakland! Get your facts straight!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

That makes it even worse; they shouldnt be tearing other peoples' communities apart either. The fact is not changed.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2010 @ 4:44 am

The reality is that whites are less racist than blacks in today's world. There is no WET..White Entertainment Television there is no white news as opposed to Chocolate News...Whites are not holding blacks down it is just an excuse when there seems to be injustice, but in fact whites are convicted everyday by white jury's. If a white person calls out a black person on anything they are racist, but if a black person calls out a white person they are defending their heritage and they think it is justified. This was not a race issue, as much as I feel sorry and mourn for the loss that the family suffered. If there was no confrontation or lack of respect for the law then there would have been no death...white, black or green or blue. I think the responsible statement by the family would have been to plead with the public for a non violent reaction rather than state people will react in their own way. It seems to me that it was almost and invitation an a call for violence rather than the responsible plea for non-violence.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 12:24 am

There is no WET? That is just an idiotic statement. Watch ANY non BET channel and you will surely see that 90% of people on commercials, sitcoms, made-for-TV-dramas, and news shows are white. It is ridiculous for a white person to say "we aren't holding blacks down" when you have no idea -- you aren't a black person! No, we aren't upholding Jim Crow laws; no, people aren't being violent to blacks just because they're black; but there are so many subliminal messages imbedded in our culture that effectively "hold blacks down." I've found that the best way to visualize this is to travel out of the country -- Europe is a good example. America is a VERY racist country.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 8:58 am

The woman who was hit was my best friend. She's deaf and resisted medical treatment because the medics wouldn't be able to understand her. The shock and adrenaline of the moment probably enabled her to walk. But that's all worn off now and she's in a lot of pain. She's going to the doctor's tomorrow with her interpreter.

Posted by Janna on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 2:00 am

My sister lives in Oakland but she is from Atlanta. She told me she could not believe how divided the Bay Area is compared to Atlanta. With the history of racism in the Deep South it is hard to believe that Georgia is more progressive than California when it comes to race relations. However this case was followed closely here in Atlanta as this is a predominantly black city although many of the black folks here are upper middle class. The consensus amongst many of my black friends here are that is was a tragic accident that should not have happened but that it did not constitute murder. They, nor do I, feel that rioting in the streets is justified. Wake up California and love each other. With things like this still happening in 2010 it is no wonder why so many people are leaving California for places like Atlanta and Charlotte where people off all races live together and get along.

Posted by Trae on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 6:25 am

no middle class protesters employed by the Guardian got arrested while rioting. It's a shame when rioting Guardian reporters get arrested.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 10:27 am

that someday you'll get bored with posting smug, sarcastic cheap shots on a website you don't even like and find a more fulfilling way to spend your life instead.

Posted by rebecca on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

that you get bored with following commenters you don't even like and find a more useful and productive way to spend your time.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 7:10 pm

I'm embarassed by some of the comments here by my fellow white people. Racism does still exist, and there's good reason why many in the black community still feel oppressed by us and the economic and criminal justice systems that we devised and adminster. That don't justify violence, but it can help you better understand the frustrations that feed it. Don't you see how offensive it is to chalk up an inappropriate, unjustified killing as "mistakes happen"? Yes, mistakes happen, and when you make a mistake and someone dies because of it, you should go to prison. Hell, we send scores of black people to prison for far lesser offenses. Race relations don't get better when the white people declare racism is over, they get better when we try to empathize with the frustrations of those who have been victimized by it for generations.

Posted by steven on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 5:24 pm

The sentence, with the enhancement, carries a prison sentence. Do you even read the news?

An eye for the eye makes the whole world blind Steven.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 7:12 pm

Ridiculous post. You're certainly not apologizing for me.

No one is chalking it up to "mistakes happen". This was a terrible mistake and unfortunately someone lost their life. The officer has been paying for it this entire time (death threats, parents moving from Bay Area, inability to see newborn child, etc) and will continue to pay for it with the jail sentence and an entire lifetime of dealing with this.

This is a horrible travesty, but yes it was a mistake. This is not "racism". Calling this racism weakens the term and its meaning.

Posted by ryan on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

I didn't call Mehserle's actions racist (frankly, we don't know what was going through his head at the time of his bizarre and tragic decision to pull his gun), that was a label I applied to some of the comments on this post.

Posted by steven on Jul. 12, 2010 @ 10:59 am

Actually, Lucretia, we don't know that he's going to prison. It's entirely possible that a judge could sentence someone to probation for involuntary manslaughter. It's also possible he could get four years, and be out in two.

I agree that prison is harsh, awful, would be brutal for a former cop. But considering how much time others spend for much smaller crimes, he could wind up with a fairly lenient sentence.

Posted by Tim Redmond on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 8:14 pm