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More than 100 protesters arrested in Oakland

November 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Protests erupted in Oakland Friday night after the former Bay-area transit officer convicted of fatally shooting an unarmed man was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday in a downtown L.A. courtroom.The sentence by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry was significantly less than the possible 14-year maximum term for Johannes Mehserle. Perry had wide discretion when sentencing the 28-year-old Mehserle.

Mehserle was given 292 days' credit for time served.

Former Bay Area Transit Officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of fatally shooting Oscar Grant, 22, early New Year's Day in 2009 at a BART station in Oakland. The incident was captured on video. Mehserle claimed that he meant to grab his Taser while trying to subdue Grant, but mistakenly grabbed his gun.

The case was moved to L.A. because of unrest over the shooting. Violent protests erupted in Oakland after Mehserle's verdict of guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Grant's relatives and others said they were disappointed, saying Grant's shooting was murder.

In Oakland Friday, the anger forced businesses in Oakland to scramble to cover up their windows with boards.

There was a heavy police presence near Broadway and City Hall and throughout downtown Oakland Friday evening.

As night fell in Oakland, a sanctioned march grew unruly as some protesters smashed business windows, damaged cars and pulled down a fence surrounding a construction site. More than 100 protesters were arrested, though the atmosphere was calmer than the previous protest in July.

After the sentencing Oscar Grant's family members were angry. Some had stormed out of the courtroom.

When Perry issued his sentence, the Grant's mother shouted, "Oh my!"

"Yes, I believe it's a racist criminal justice system," said Cephus Johnson, Grant's uncle.

"Oscar Grant was resisting," said Michael Rains, Mehserle's defense attorney. "That's an important finding, because of course we have contended that all along, and the district attorney has argued all along that Oscar Grant was not resisting. He was resisting."

"Michael Vick received four years for brutality to dogs. Mr. Grant's life was taken wrongfully through a shot in the back, and at most, his killer gets two years," said John Burris, attorney for Grant's family.

"In every hamlet in this country where there are African-Americans, they will have this real sense that there's no justice for an African-American young man who gets shot and killed by the police," said Burris.

Friday, outside the courthouse in Los Angeles, protesters shouted that there was no justice for Oscar Grant. There was a shoving match with several people who were walking into the courtroom.

In court Mehserle was very emotional when he took the stand and apologized repeatedly, but he never faced Grant's family or apologized to them directly.

Mehserle said his family has been getting death threats and, "If my incarceration would bring peace to my family, I will go to jail."

Mehserle also said this had nothing to do with race. He said this had to do with Grant's actions and his reaction to that.

"Mehserle said that, 'I'm not saying that I really made a mistake in the sense that I should be remorseful. What I did was because of the result of Oscar Grant.' He did not take responsibility for his actions," said Cephus Johnson.

"I heard a fake apology in the sense that had Oscar not been resisting, Mehserle would never have thought about using his Taser. That's what he said in a statement. He did not take blame for the simple fact that he made a mistake," said Johnson.

Grant's family said they would go to the Department of Justice to try to get federal charges against Johannes Mehserle.

Mehserle's attorney said he's already filed an appeal to try to get the verdict and the sentence overturned.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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