In early June, when it was announced that Johannes Mehserle would be released from prison sometime this month, various groups planned a protest on the day of his release. Although he was released at 12:05 a.m. this morning, the protests occurred yesterday in Oakland. A few hundred people gathered at the Fruitvale BART station, listened to a few speeches, and continued on to downtown Oakland. From our home, we could track the progression of the protest by watching the police (and news?) helicopters from afar. How was this protest going to go?
One protester was arrested for graffiti. And that was it! No other vandalism, no violence, no sirens. Just a couple hundred people walking along International Blvd. But there were protests after the verdict, and after the sentencing, so why yet another one? From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Ron Cottingham, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, whose legal fund paid for Mehserle’s defense, said Sunday that Mehserle never received special treatment and his sentence was fair. More than two years after the shooting, he said, the protests are “accomplishing nothing.”
“Accomplishing nothing”? Not quite. The relationship between the African-American community here and the Oakland police (and perhaps the city government in general) is not great. Previous protests in this series have ended with smashed windows and hundreds arrested. But yesterday, one person was arrested for graffiti, and the city provided buses for free shuttles back to Fruitvale BART. If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.