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.