Thursday, January 8, 2009

Pray for Oakland

By Jeff Bruce

Protests over BART shooting turn violent

A protest over the fatal shooting by a BART police officer of an unarmed man mushroomed into a violent confrontation tonight, as a faction of protesters smashed a police car and storefronts, set a car on fire and blocked streets in downtown Oakland.

The protest started peacefully shortly after 3 p.m. at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland, where BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle shot 22-year-old Oscar Grant of Hayward to death early New Year's Day. BART shut down the station well into the evening commute, although the demonstration there was peaceful.

However, shortly after nightfall, a group of roughly 200 protesters split off and head toward downtown Oakland, prompting the transit agency to close the Lake Merritt station.

Oakland Police Officer Michael Cardoza parked his car across the intersection of Eighth and Madison streets, to prevent traffic from flowing toward Broadway and into the protest. But he told The Chronicle that a group of 30 to 40 protesters quickly surrounded his car and started smashing it with bottles and rocks.

Cardoza jumped out of the car and said some protesters tried to set the car on fire, while others jumped on top of the hood - incidents repeatedly shown on television. Cardoza said the protesters "were trying to entice us into doing something."

A group of protesters also set a trash bin aflame, moving it adjacent to the police car.

Police threw tear gas into the group to disperse it, Sgt. Mark MacAulay said. There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests.

"When you get that mob mentality, it can be dangerous," MacAulay said.

Other protesters marched on BART's 12th Street Station about 7 p.m., prompting the transit agency to close the downtown hub station even as it was reopening the Lake Merritt and Fruitvale stations.

Protesters blocked the intersection of 14th and Broadway, near the downtown BART station entrance. As police put on helmets and gas masks and stood in a line formation, protesters held signs that read, "Your idea of justice?" and "Jail Killer Cops."

One man lay in the intersection with his face down and his hands behind his back - seemingly evoking the position that Grant was in when he was shot.

Some protesters wore masks over their faces as they yelled at police. Roughly a dozen stood just a few feet away from police as they screamed at them. Chants included "pigs go home," "the fascist police, no justice, no peace" and "we are all Oscar Grant."

Mandingo Hayes said he went to the protest because "we're tired of all these police agencies getting away with shooting unarmed black and Latino males."

Hayes, 36, downplayed the attack on the police car.

"For a police car to get abused, and for a person to get shot and killed, which would you rather be?" said Hayes, a construction worker from San Pablo.

The core group of protesters was about 40 people, several of whom were with Revolution Books, a Berkeley bookstore. A man distributing "The Revolution" newspaper shouted "This whole damn system is guilty!"

Police were largely passive and didn't arrest anyone. But at around 7:54 p.m., they began to push the crowd toward Lake Merritt. One officer shouted "Get Back! Get Back! Get Back!" As they forced demonstrators back, protesters smashed windows, cars and threw objects at police.

They smashed the storefront of a store called Creative African Braids and Oakland Yoon's Pharmacy. Cars along their path of retreat on 14th street were being smashed, and a Honda CRV was engulfed in flames.

A woman walked out of Creative African Braids holding a baby in her arms.

"This is our business," she shouted. "This is our shop. This is what you call a protest?"

The video of the shooting has already gone viral on the internet, and the officer's action appears to be completely unwarranted. Please pray for the victim's family, and for the officer and his family. Please pray for justice. Moreover, pray that God would use the church powerfully to bring healing in this tragedy.

HT: SF Chronicle.

Had some trouble with the link, here's what I found.

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