On Thursday, the Oakland City Attorney’s Office announced it was suing four people for their alleged role in the looting and vandalism that followed the protests after the Johannes Mehserle verdict on July 8, 2010.
Former BART police officer Mehserle was convicted by a Los Angeles court of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant. In court, Mehserle testified that he had mistaken his pistol for his Taser shock weapon.
Although the day began with a large, officially-sanctioned peaceful protest in downtown Oakland, after night fell a smaller group of individuals turned violent. Despite efforts by civic groups, city officials and the Oakland Police Department to maintain calm, provide alternative venues for protesters, and safeguard downtown businesses, after dark some protesters broke into and looted shops, set a series of trashcan and dumpster fires, spray painted buildings, and threw glass bottles at police officers. By the end of the evening, 78 people had been arrested and at least 12 businesses had been looted or vandalized.
“Some individuals used the gathering — and the tragic death of Oscar Grant — as an excuse to commit acts of violence, loot homegrown businesses, vandalize public property and lash out in childish and destructive ways,” stated the City Attorney’s Office Thursday in a press release announcing the suit.
Downtown damage included the shattering of the front windows of the Foot Locker on Broadway and 14th Street and the theft of shoes and t-shirts, the breaking of windows at Sears, and the breaking of a window at Japanese restaurant Ozumo at Broadway and Grand Avenue. Graffiti was also painted on several buildings including the phrase “Say no to work, yes to looting” on the wall of the Bank of the West on Broadway.
The following week, the Oakland Police Department released photos of several alleged looters and asked the public for help identifying them.
On Thursday, the City Attorney’s Office announced it would seek a total of $100,000 in damages from two men allegedly caught with gold jewelry stolen from JC Jewelry on Broadway, where the crowd tore through a security gate, broke a window, and stole property. If recovered, this penalty can be awarded to the business owners. The City Attorney’s Office will also be seeking unspecified damages against two people allegedly filmed by police as they spray painted public property, one of whom also tried to punch an undercover officer and steal his camera, according to OPD reports.
“The individuals who set fires, assaulted journalists, robbed local business owners and incited chaos were not here for justice,” City Attorney John Russo said in the press release. “Sadly, it appears they were here for no other reason than to get an emotional rush from destruction of property, theft and lawlessness. Oakland will not tolerate this disrespect.”
Mehserle is scheduled to be sentenced on November 5, 2010. His attorney, Michael Rains, has asked the court for a new trial, saying the defense team has uncovered evidence that could have changed the outcome of this summer’s trial.
The City Attorney’s full press release is here.
Read our past coverage of the Johannes Mehserle trial on Oakland North here.