Oakland, Calif., exploded into violent protests Jan. 7 over the police slaying of 22-year-old African American father of one Oscar Grant. Following a memorial service for Grant at Palma Ceia Baptist Church, it was announced that officer Johannes Mehserle had resigned from the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police force so he would not be forced to testify at an internal hearing. Later in the day, a rally was held at the Fruitvale BART station, where Grant was killed, then marched up International Blvd. towards downtown Oakland. Following skirmishes with police, protesters took over and blocked the intersection of 14th and Broadway for over an hour, with chants of “We are Oscar Grant.” When riot police tried to clear the intersection, protesters ran down 14th, smashing the windows of cars and a McDonalds, and torching an SUV.
About 9 PM, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums appeared near the Lake Merritt end of 14th Street and began walking back towards Broadway passing the damage along the way. People confronted him regarding the BART officer still not having been detained or even questioned one week after the slaying of Grant. Once Dellums, and the growing crowd following him, arrived at City Hall, he addressed about 200 protesters from the steps, saying the killing is under investigation. As Dellums finished talking to the crowd and headed into City Hall, the crowd starting booing and many people chanted “Round Two,” breaking more car windows and setting dumpsters on fire. Police again used tear gas. Over 100 were arrested. (IndyBay, Jan. 7)
Grant was shot at the Fruitvale BART station in the early hours of Jan. 1. Witnesses report that Grant was “lying on his stomach with his hands out in a non-threatening position” when he was shot. Police have confirmed Grant was unarmed and have suggested the shooting was an accident. Grant lived in Hayward and leaves behind a 4-year-old daughter.
After the shooting, BART police seized several cell phones from people on the platform who said they had used the phones’ cameras to record what happened. For the first two days BART officials told the mainstream media that surveillance cameras at the station do not record, but then corrected themselves, saying the cameras did record but didn’t show the incident. (IndyBay, Jan. 7)
See our last post on the struggle in California.