Hundreds peacefully protest Johannes Mehserle jail release
on June 12, 2011
Oakland activists organized a peaceful march from the Fruitvale BART station to Frank Ogawa Plaza on Sunday night to protest the upcoming release of ex-BART police officer Johannes Mehserle from jail. Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter last July for the 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant, and sentenced last November to two years in prison.
Both the verdict and sentence angered many who wanted a harsher conviction and longer prison term for Mehserle, prompting several protests in downtown Oakland that ended in property damage and the arrests of dozens of people. The July protest following the verdict in Mehserle’s trial resulted in 78 arrests in Oakland, and the November protest following his sentencing resulted in 152.
Mehserle is expected to be released on Monday from the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail, according to the Grant family’s attorney, John Burris.
On Sunday, about 200 protesters showed up at the Fruitvale BART station in the mid-afternoon with signs and banners that read “Jail killer cops” and “Justice for Oscar Grant.”
Speakers from Grant’s family took turns addressing the crowd of protesters. “Thank you for ensuring justice for my son,” said Wanda Johnson, Grant’s mother. “I know he’s smiling down on us.”
Jack Bryson, the father of the two young men who with Oscar Grant on the BART platform the night he was shot, said it’s not fair that Mehserle will be coming home to his family. “We still have to go to Oscar’s grave site,” he said.
Bryson stood next to Grant’s seven-year-old daughter, Tatiana Grant, and asked the crowd to not forget about her.
At the protest, Burris told the crowd that it’s important to continue educate the public about other officer-involved shooting cases happening around the Bay Area and California. “There’s still a chance for us to continue our public outrage through public speaking and demonstration,” he said. “We need to get this message out and help get justice for people in other communities.”
After the speeches concluded, protest organizers from the Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant announced that the crowd should get ready to march in a disciplined, peaceful way down International Boulevard toward downtown Oakland. During the three-mile walk, police officers on motorcycles and on foot escorted the marchers, keeping them on one side of the road. People continued to hold signs and banners while chanting “What do want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” They were accompanied by the four-person Liberation Brass Orchestra playing the tuba and snare drums.
The march ended at Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland at 5:30 p.m. AC Transit stopped running buses for two hours as people blocked the intersection of 14th Street and Broadway, and police blocked the west side of 14th Street. Protesters took turns speaking on themes ranging from police brutality to the need for better access to education and jobs in low-income neighborhoods.
People remained in the plaza until about 7 p.m., at which point protester organizers told the crowd to peacefully leave and return home, reminding them to attend the next Oscar Grant Coalition meeting on June 26 at Humanist Hall in Oakland.
The only arrest of the day, according to an Oakland Police Department spokesperson, was at 2nd Avenue and International Boulevard regarding a reported act of vandalism.
You can read Oakland North’s complete coverage of the Johannes Mehserle trial here.
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