Oakland protests turn violent as victim's mother pleads for peace
Diane Sweet
Published: Thursday January 8, 2009

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Angry protests turned to rioting Wednesday night in response to the January 1 shooting of an unarmed man at a subway station in California's Bay Area.

Police made at least 105 arrests after cars -- including one police vehicle -- were vandalized, store windows were smashed, and fires blazed out of control on the streets. Approximately 300 stores were damaged in the fray, according to published reports.

In response to the violence, "State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, today announced their intent, with the support of San Francisco supervisor and former police commissioner David Campos, to author legislation requiring greater accountability and public oversight of BART police," reported CBS 5 in California.

"Clorox Corp and other businesses in Oakland, California, were sending employees home early on Thursday due to fears of more violence," said Reuters.

RAW STORY first reported the shooting of Oscar Grant, 22, who was killed by a single gun shot to the back after being pulled from a train along with some friends amid reports of an altercation on Monday, Jan. 5. Johannes Mehserle, identified as the officer who is alleged to have fired the fatal shot, has resigned amid alleged death threats.

The attorney for Grant's family, John Burris, said the timing of the officer's resignation didn't surprise him.

"He doesn't want to give a statement because BART could've ordered him to do so, and if he didn't, he could be terminated."

Wednesday night, the streets turned into 1980s West Beirut after protesters left the station area. Thursday, Grant's mother pleaded with Oaklanders for peace.

"I am begging the citizens not to use violent tactics, not to be angry," said Wanda Johnson, Grant's mother, at a press conference. "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."

NBC's Bay Area News reports, "The protest Wednesday began peacefully at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit station, but forced the closure of that station from about 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. before protesters moved through the city. At one point, reporter George Kiriyama was hit in the arm by a tear gas can. He explained live on television, 'I've been hit. I've been hit.' Kiriyama suffered a bruise to his arm."

One of the protest's organizers, Evan Shamar, blamed others for stirring things up.

"He said a group of anarchists, who were not part of the organizations hosting the rally, smashed a police vehicle before setting a garbage can on fire," the NBC affiliate reported.

The following YouTube video was filmed January 7, 2009 (this clip contains strong language):

The following video is a CBS5 news clip uploaded to YouTube on Jan. 7, 2009:

The following footage of protests at the BART station where Grant's slaying took place was uploaded to YouTube by a protester on Jan. 7, 2009:

Part one (this clip contains strong language):

Part two (this clip contains strong language):

RAW STORY Assistant Editor Stephen C. Webster contributed to this report