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BART, city agencies prepare for Mehserle verdict

July 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
BART's new police chief was sworn in Thursday just as his agency and others around the city of Oakland prepare for a verdict in the Johannes Mehserle case. Mehserle is the former BART officer who is on trial for killing an unarmed passenger, Oscar Grant, on New Year's Day 2009.

BART police chief Ken Rainey tells ABC7 his department is preparing for possible unrest when the verdict comes down. "Allowing for people to exercise their first amendment rights, but by the same token, we want to make sure our patrons and our property are protected."

Just as his agency braces itself for the verdict, Rainey says he is working to make sure the city remains safe.

"We can't do this alone. This notion that there's a thin blue line separating us from the criminals, and we can do that with 200 officers is a myth," he said. "We need the community to join with us."

At the Fruitvale BART station where Grant was fatally shot, barricades are in place and officers are on alert. Officers from the department along with and other agencies have already participated in training exercises in the event of potential trouble, and OPD officers are working 12-hour shifts.

The activist group OneFam says people should be more concerned about damage to human lives than to property. The day the verdict comes down the group's leaders are asking for calm. On the evening of the verdict, they plan to offer a positive space at 14th and Broadway for those who want to speak out.

Some businesses are not taking any chances. La Clinica, a non-profit health center near the Fruitvale BART station is boarding up the building. Workers have placed a sign in the window telling clients La Clinica will be closed as soon as the verdict comes in. Along 17th Street in downtown Oakland, many businesses were hit hard in the initial outrage over the shooting death of Grant. We did not see any boarded up storefronts.

One place that is not outwardly anticipating problems is 17th Street. In downtown Oakland, you don't see plywood protections even though many businesses there were victims of violence last year in the initial outrage over Grant's shooting.

"We haven't boarded up because I believe in Oakland and the young people here in Oakland realize we're people trying and struggling to have business around here, and I don't feel they're going to tear up our store," said Nisayah Yahudah of Underground Treasures.

In another development Thursday, legislation sponsored by Oakland Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, which calls for civilian oversight of BART, cleared its final legislative hurdle. The bill establishes an 11-member panel to investigate complaints from the public about BART police officers. The measure now heads to the governor for his signature.


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