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Scores arrested in Oakland protests over BART officer Mehserle

November 6, 2010 |  7:45 am

As many as 150 demonstrators were arrested in Oakland during protests over the two-year prison sentence handed down to a former police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man on an Oakland train station platform.

A four-hour peaceful demonstration at Oakland City Hall moved into the surrounding streets and took on a more aggressive tone Friday evening with marchers smashing windshields, making obscene gestures at surrounding 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 of people near 6th Avenue and East 17th Street. Demonstrators left a trail of broken windshields as they moved down 17th Street, angering some residents.

Police moved in after one officer was injured after being struck by a car and another officer's gun was grabbed by a protester.

Officials said that overall, the protests were less destructive than those that occurred in July concerning the case.

The demonstrators were expressing anger at the case of Johannes Mehserle. On Friday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry said evidence in the racially charged case showed that the shooting was an accident caused when Mehserle mistakenly reached for a firearm instead of an electric Taser weapon he meant to use.

As Perry spoke, the victim's mother rushed from the courtroom with other relatives and supporters. "Nothing, he got nothing!" she told reporters after she exited.

The sentencing followed a tearful apology from Mehserle, who, handcuffed to a waist chain over his orange prison jumpsuit, insisted that the shooting was unintentional.

"I want to say how deeply sorry I am," said Mehserle, 28. "Nothing I could ever say or do could heal the wound I created."

Grainy video footage of the New Year's Day 2009 shooting was captured by several witnesses and 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.

The shooting triggered rioting days later and again in July, when a Los Angeles jury rejected murder and voluntary manslaughter charges but found that the officer acted with gross negligence.

-- Jack Leonard, Abby Sewell in Los Angeles, Maria La Ganga in Oakland and Lee Romney in San Francisco

Photo: A demonstrator in Oakland lies on the ground in protest after the Johannes Mehserle sentencing. Credit: Noah Berger / Associated Press