Protests over shooting turn violent

Jan. 8, 2009 at 7:32 AM
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OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Protesters angry over a transit officer's fatal shooting of an unarmed man turned violent in Oakland, Calif., smashing storefronts and setting cars afire.

The afternoon protest began peacefully at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland, where Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant a week ago, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.

The shooting of Grant, who is black, was captured on cell phone and digital camera videos and replayed on national television stations.

"I feel like the night is going great," Nia Sykes, one of the demonstrators, told the Chronicle. "I feel like Oakland should make some noise. This is how we need to fight back. It's for the murder of a black male."

Shortly after nightfall, a group of about 200 protesters left the BART station and headed toward downtown, smashing windows at a hair salon, a pharmacy, several restaurants and vehicles. Several of the damaged businesses and vehicles are owned by people of color, the newspaper said.

Police arrested several dozen protesters.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums greeted some the demonstrators, urging calm.

"I sense your frustration," he told the crowd. "I understand that you've lost confidence in a process because you've seen what you believe is a homicide."

"But listen to me, we are a community of people," Dellums said. "We are civilized people. We are a nation of laws."

Although Oakland has no direct jurisdiction over the incident, Dellums pledged the city would investigate Grant's shooting "like any other homicide" to jeers and boos from the protesters, the Oakland Tribune reported.

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