A community news source for residents of the HarriOak neighborhood in Oakland, CA.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Copters and the Bart protest

The helicopters you heard in Adams Point on Wednesday night, January 7, were related to a violent protest near the Lake Merritt BART station over a shooting on New Year's Day. Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old man from Hayward was killed by Officer Johannes Mehserle, a two-year veteran of the BART police, after police responded to reports of a fight on the train. A video of the shooting shows two or three officers surrounded by an angry crowd while Grant appears to sit quietly against the wall. Grant is unarmed and appears to be cooperating. The small group of police who are guarding him and two or three other men are surrounded by an angry mob, who yell "fuck the police." There then appears to be a small scuffle as police try to put Grant in a face down position and then he is shot.

Here is a video taken by a woman on the BART train along with her commentary.

The protest started peacefully around 3 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon at the Fruitvale Bart station, where the shooting originally occurred around 2 a.m. on New Year's Day. The protest turned violent after it moved to downtown Oakland in the evening.

Here's the account from the San Francisco Chronicle:

"...shortly after nightfall, a group of roughly 200 protesters split off and head toward downtown Oakland, prompting the transit agency to close the Lake Merritt station.

"Oakland Police Officer Michael Cardoza parked his car across the intersection of Eighth and Madison streets, to prevent traffic from flowing toward Broadway and into the protest. But he told The Chronicle that a group of 30 to 40 protesters quickly surrounded his car and started smashing it with bottles and rocks.

"Cardoza jumped out of the car and said some protesters tried to set the car on fire, while others jumped on top of the hood - incidents repeatedly shown on television. Cardoza said the protesters "were trying to entice us into doing something."

"A group of protesters also set a trash bin aflame, moving it adjacent to the police car. "

The violence got worse as protestors marauded through the city targeting small businesses and random cars:

"Protesters smashed the storefronts of McDonald's as well as stores called Creative African Braids and Oakland Yoon's Pharmacy. Cars along 14th Street were smashed, and some were set ablaze.

"A woman walked out of Creative African Braids holding a baby in her arms.

"'This is our business,' she shouted. 'This is our shop. This is what you call a protest?'

Nia Sykes, 24, of San Francisco, a protester who was with the group, said, 'I feel like the night is going great. I feel like Oakland should make some noise. This is how we need to fight back.

"'It's for the murder of a black male,' said Sykes, who is black. The demonstration 'is totally appropriate.'

"Sykes had little sympathy for the owner of Creative African Braids.

"'She should be glad she just lost her business and not her life,' Sykes said. She added that she did have one worry for the night: 'I just hope nobody gets shot or killed.'

"Near 14th and Alice streets, Myron Bell was taking lessons in a step, a form of dance popular among African Americans, when he looked out the window and saw people jumping on his Lexus sedan.

"Bell, 42, came out to find that almost all of his windows, including the front and back had been smashed and it appeared that someone had tried to set the car on fire.

"'I'm for the cause,' Bell said. 'But I'm against the violence and destruction.'

"Nearby, Godhuli Bose stood near her smashed Toyota Corolla, and a protester walked by, repeatedly calling her a misogynist epithet.

"'F- your car. F- your car,' he said to Bose. Bose, a high school teacher: 'I can't afford this.'"

Here's a commentary about the BART shooting by Oakland blogger Zennie Abraham.

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