A planned post-verdict protest of the trial of BART Officer Johannes Mehserle, who shot and killed passenger Oscar Grant on a crowded BART platform on January 1, 2009, escalated into violence around eight o’clock Thursday evening.
The rally started off peacefully around four o’clock in the afternoon shortly after Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter by a twelve-person jury in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. However, it turned raucous when protestors began throwing bottles and rocks at police officers. Shortly thereafter, looters broke into a nearby Foot Locker and shattered the windows of the Far East National Bank on Broadway and other stores not boarded up for the protest. Break-ins of several other buildings in the vicinity, as well of reports of fires, fireworks and possible gunshots, continue to mount as the evening goes on.
Police in riot gear continue to make arrests and are ordering people to leave the premises, threatening those who don’t with tear gas.
Earlier in the day, Oscar Grant I, the grandfather of Grant, spoke to the crowd of roughly 1,000 people who had gathered downtown at the corner of 14th and Broadway asking participants to remain peaceful and calm as they voiced their displeasure with the verdict.
“I came down here to try to rally these people together not to tear up this city, not to tear up the Bay Area,” he said. “You don’t tear up where you live in…. Don’t dishonor my grandson by being violent.”
An extended version of this story was later posted and is available on cityonahillpress.com.