East Bay News

Activist group plans rally after Mehserle verdict

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Members of an activist group said today they plan to hold a rally near Oakland City Hall the day the verdict is reached in the trial of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on charges that he murdered unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III.

"We have a right to assemble," said Tony Coleman of the Oakland General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant.

Coleman noted that some city leaders and downtown businesses want to keep a tight lid on protests but said people need to express themselves. He said the fear of potential violence shouldn't stop people from participating.

"We'll have a speak-out at the corner of 14th Street and Broadway because it's like a town square for Oakland," he said.

Mehserle's lawyer, Michael Rains, has admitted that Mehserle shot and killed 22-year-old Grant at the Fruitvale station in Oakland early on New Year's Day 2009.

But Rains claims the shooting was an accident and that Mehserle, 28, meant to fire his Taser gun. Mehserle is free on $3 million bail.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry on Wednesday said jurors will have the option of convicting Mehserle of second-degree murder or the lesser charges of voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Jurors also have the option of finding Mehserle not guilty of all charges.

Coleman said he thinks Mehserle should be convicted of second-degree murder and that he's afraid Mehserle could be put on probation if he's only convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

"That would not be justice," Coleman said.

He said that if Mehserle is convicted of second-degree murder, "Maybe other officers would have second thoughts" about using guns while detaining people.

Joining Coleman at a news conference at the corner of 14th Street and Broadway, Karissa Cole of the Gang Injunction Coalition said that if Mehserle isn't convicted of murder, "it will set an awful precedent."

Cole said that if community members aren't happy with the verdict in Mehserle's case, "We'll use our freedom to assemble."

Former Oakland City Councilman and mayoral candidate Wilson Riles also attended the news conference but didn't speak.

Coleman said the Oakland General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant will hold a rally at 14th and Jackson streets at 6 p.m. on the day of the verdict.

Members of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement said they will hold a community meeting at 6 p.m. on the day of the verdict at their headquarters at 7911 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland.

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Tags:
BART, johannes mehserle, oscar grant, east bay news
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