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Friday, 9 January 2009

105 people were arrested in violent Oakland protests over the BART police shooting of an unarmed man

Heavy police presence greeted Bay Area Rapid Transit commuters Thursday after at least 105 people were arrested in violent Oakland protests over the BART police shooting of an unarmed man.The unruly protesters, responding to the Jan. 1 fatal shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant III, smashed store windows, burned cars, and vandalized an Oakland police cruiser as they made their way throughout the downtown area.Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, beseeched residents to avoid further violence and not tarnish the image of her son."You're hurting people who have nothing to do with the situation. You're vandalizing their property, hurting their cars and breaking their windows. Please just stop it, please," Johnson said at a Thursday afternoon news conference. About 15 people were taken into custody around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, but the bulk of the 100-plus arrests were made after police cornered protesters outside the Paramount Theatre around 11 p.m., said Oakland Police spokesman Jeff Thomason.Charges against them include inciting a riot, assault on a police officer, vandalism, rioting and unlawful assembly, Thomason said. Two of the arrests involved illegal handgun possession and another was for drug violations.
He indicated at least one person, a TV cameraman, was injured in the violence. No police officers were hurt, he said. Police officers patrolled outside BART headquarters in Oakland Thursday to ensure calm during the agency's morning meeting, where many African-American community leaders expressed outrage over the killing of Grant, who was black.Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson told BART directors that Grant's death "appeared to be an execution,'' and he called for BART to hold a public meeting that allows the community to understand the policies and procedures in which police officers shoot people.The Rev. Amost Brown was even more blunt: "It was murder. Not trying to explain away, not trying to explain whethere he had his taser or he had his gun. The evidence was there. And we should all say, that was murder. And this gentleman needs to be brought to justice." Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks said BART appeared to be trying to cover up the incident and alleged, "There was a failure to communicate and acknowledge the taking of a life.''Brooks also contended that most protests in the wake of Grant's death were peaceful and that the violence was caused by "a renegade group'' that wanted to "wreak havoc.''What had started as a peaceful demonstration involving about 500 people at the Fruitvale BART station over Grant's shooting death escalated Wednesday night. Oakland police in riot gear threw tear gas and started making arrests as they tried to break up the demonstration; extra officers were called in for duty."The crowd started to become more agitated, more hostile, started throwing stuff at the police," Thomason said. "We gave a dispersal order four to five times over a 20-minute period, then we had our officers go in and start making arrests."



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