Transit Officer's Verdict Sparks Violent Protests
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
As NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, it was not the verdict the victim's family and friends wanted to hear.
RICHARD GONZALES: Outside the courthouse, Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, said the judicial system had let her family down.
MONTAGNE: And my son was murdered. He was murdered. He was murdered. He was murdered.
U: That's right.
MONTAGNE: My son was murdered, and the law has not held the officer accountable the way that he should have been held accountable.
GONZALES: That sense of disappointment was shared by Grant's family attorney John Burris, who called the verdict compromised.
MONTAGNE: It is not a true reflection of how the criminal justice system ought to work. We recognize as African-Americans, that the system is rarely fair when police officers are involved in shooting African- American males.
GONZALES: Word of the verdict in Los Angeles spread quickly back in Oakland. About 1,000 angry protestors converged in downtown Oakland and engaged in scattered skirmishes with police. But law enforcement officials were braced for violence, like the riots that erupted after Grant's shooting 18 months ago, when stores were vandalized and a police car was torched. Last night's reaction was more muted, but still angry.
MONTAGNE: It's surprising to me that I'm so overwhelmed by my feelings. I'm really disappointed.
GONZALES: Olis Simmons directs a group called Youth Uprising, where scores of people watched TV news accounts of the verdict. This was one of five public centers set up around Oakland where people could go to vent their feelings. She was like many people who were stunned that the jury spent just six hours over two days deliberating Mehserle's fate.
MONTAGNE: I don't want to believe that race and his occupation mattered more than Oscar Grant's life, but the fact that the decision was reached so quickly is disheartening, and it makes me happy that we have the Department of Justice and the federal government to turn to.
GONZALES: Richard Gonzales, NPR News, Los Angeles.
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