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Oakland demonstrators move into the streets

November 5, 2010 |  7:43 pm

A four-hour peaceful demonstration at Oakland City Hall over the sentence handed down to a former transit officer convicted of involuntary manslaughter moved into surrounding streets Friday evening and took on a more aggressive tone, with marchers smashing windshields, flipping the finger at police and noisily shouting slogans.

Police in riot gear allowed several hundred marchers to move through the streets for about an hour before encircling a smaller number near 6th Avenue and East 17th Street. Demonstrators left a trail of broken windshields as they moved down East 17th Street, angering some residents.

"That's justice?" said one man, standing near his smashed car. "Great! That's really helping!"

Protesters were upset by the two-year sentence given to former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle on Friday. Grainy video footage of the New Year’s Day 2009 shooting captured by several witnesses shows Mehserle, who is white, firing one round into the back of Oscar J. Grant III, who was black. Grant, 22, was lying face down on the Fruitvale Station platform when he was shot.

On Friday evening, the Fruitvale BART station was closed due to the protest.

Protesters were shouting such slogans as "Whose Streets? Our Streets!" and "Justice for Oscar Grant!" Police in riot gear initially appeared to be attempting to contain the marchers within certain streets but were not moving in on them.

When marchers got to East 10th and 2nd, they came upon flanks of police in riot gear with more behind them. Helicopters were overhead and police cars had lights flashing. The police forced marchers into Rancho Peralta Park on the edge of Lake Merritt, and many of the  marchers turned around.

A smaller group appeared to be headed toward the Fruitvale BART station where Oscar Grant was shot. The demonstrators smashed numerous windshields and car windows along East 17th Street as they walked, leaving shards of glass on the pavement.

-- Maria La Ganga in Oakland