California State University East Bay

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California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

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Mehserle Protestors Converge on Downtown Oakland

“Jail killer cops,” “We are Oscar Grant,” read some of the many signs which were visible among the chants and slogans of the myriad of protestors who were present at Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza on Saturday.

The event, which was organized by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 10, was set to coincide with a Bay area-wide dock worker shutdown.
The shutdowns had a minimal effect on dock operations due to the fact that they had been planned for in advance,by all accounts.

The hundreds of protestors at Ogawa plaza were united in their support for slain Hayward resident Oscar Grant, who died on New Year’s Day 2009 following an altercation with BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. The event was staged in anticipation of Mehserle’s Nov. 5 sentencing for the crime of involuntary manslaughter, of which he was convicted in July.

Howard Keylar of San Leandro, who was passing out flyers which read, “Lock Up Mehserle- Throw Away the Key!” represented the majority of protestors on hand who were calling for Mehserle to receive the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter, which is 14 years.

“We’re not holding our breath,” said Keylar, reflecting the common belief that there is little reason to be optimistic that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry will give Mehserle the full sentence. Keylar does not believe that “the all-white jury which convicted Mehserle” was capable of properly doing out justice.

One group of protestors had built a memorial for dozens of people they felt had been victims of police brutality.

“Our main point is this is systemic and systematic,” said one of the group’s organizers, who identified himself as Sam.

“Oscar Grant is not an aberration—look at the whole history of this country,” he said.

Upon closer inspection, Sam and his compatriots were members of the Bay Area Revolutionary Communist Party, who felt that Grant’s death represented “a glaring example of this system of capitalism.”

Back on the stage erected in front of the Oakland City Hall, union organizers rallied the crowd around the banner of “Justice for Oscar Grant” and called for solidarity among workers. The ILWU drill team provided a show of support for their fellow union members, who held up signs reading “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

Cal State East Bay student Sean Gallagher was on hand as a member of the Workers and Students United, which seeks “to connect the struggle against police brutality with the struggle against cuts in social services, layoffs and the wars of occupation.” Gallagher summed up the WASU mission, stating, “we see our role in the movement as creating a link between the labor movements and the students.”

Gallagher added that he felt the Mehserle verdict represented “a travesty” and that, “if cops have the role of protecting the law, they should be held to a higher standard than everybody else.”

In the wake of the civil disobedience that has accompanied recent protests in Oakland centered around Grant’s death, dozens of Oakland police officers were on hand, none of whom wished to comment on the demonstrations.

There have also been outcrops of support for Mehserle, including a banner that reads, “Free Johannes Mehserle,” which can be seen hanging off the mast of a ship docked in McCovey Cove behind the right field bleachers of AT&T Park during San Francisco Giants games. In fact, Tom Mehserle, Johannes’s father, is an organizer of these events, posting earlier this month on Facebook, “On the way to ATT to show support for my son…. Come hell or high water.”

According to, a website created by a private citizens group which supports Mehserle, the convicted Mehserle, “is being politically persecuted for a tragic mistake which occurred while on active police duty.”

Whatever their opinion may be, people will be awaiting Mehserle’s sentence on Nov. 5, with more protests sure to follow.

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Mehserle Protestors Converge on Downtown Oakland