Boarding up but still quiet, Oakland downtown awaits Mehserle news
on November 5, 2010
As Oakland awaits news from the Los Angeles sentencing of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, downtown businesses are preparing today for the possibility of violence. Storefronts around Frank Ogawa Plaza are boarded up including the Oakland police Internal Affairs office, the offices of Youth Radio and the Men’s Wearhouse and Foot Locker stores nearby.
Reports from the Los Angeles courtroom of Superior Court Judge Rick Perry indicate that Perry has rejected the request for a new trial for Mehserle, who in July was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant at a Fruitvale BART station nearly two years ago. By mid morning, Perry was reportedly listening to statements by Grant family members and others, as he prepared to announce Mehserle’s sentence.
Street parking is restricted around City Hall today, and an Oakland police spokesperson said no parking is allowed from 12th and 17th Streets between Clay and Franklin. Police officials also asked local business owners not to close today, but some downtown proprietors were boarding up their windows early this morning.
“We’re going to stay out of all the problems that can happen today, in case anything goes bad,” said Ken Young, a construction worker for Orton Development, who was supervising the covering of windows at the Foot Locker, on Broadway, that was looted after the announcement of the Mehserle verdict this summer.
“It’s preventative,” said Steve Anderson, a construction worked hired to board up the Comerica Bank storefront at Broadway and 12th Street.
Officials for The Oakland Board of Equalization plan an early closure at noon today. The American Cancer Society on Webster Street will be closed at 2pm.
City officials are also prepared for today’s sentencing. Extra Oakland police are on duty, and additional officers from other agencies are on stand-by. In an email, Oakland police spokesperson Holly Joshi said officials are prepared for a peaceful protest, should one occur downtown, but will not tolerate “any violence or destruction of businesses or personal property.”
According to Oakland Unified School District spokesperson Troy Flint, no public schools are scheduled to dismiss students early. But Flint says there is a plan in place should conditions become unsafe including lockdown and early closure. Flint says schools located close to BART or the downtown area may close early.
Lawyers involved in the trial are calling for a peaceful response to the sentencing. “If you do not like the decision, you should protest. Exercise your First Amendment rights for assembly and freedom of speech,” said John Burris, the attorney advising the Grant family. “This does not mean that it should be one based upon violence.”
“What I’d like to see is, of course, no violence or property damage,” said Mehserle defense attorney Michael Rains. “They can carry placards and they can denounce rulings. What’s obvious is not to carry it to the next level—violence, destruction and looting.”
At least one rally is planned for today. A group of organizations led by the Coalition for Justice for Justice for Oscar Grant is asking supporters to bring flowers to a temporary altar in front of Oakland City Hall beginning at 2 pm. A program with music and speakers is expecting to begin at 4pm. A related rally at Defremery Park in West Oakland has reportedly been canceled.
Image: Storefront windows in downtown Oakland are boarded up in preparation for sentencing in the Johannes Mehserle trial. (Photo: Nicole Jones / Oakland North)
Read our past coverage of the Johannes Mehserle trial on Oakland North here.
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