City leaders ask for peace following Mehserle verdict

July 3, 2010 12:43:19 AM PDT
With the jury deliberating the fate of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, Oakland asked its citizens to keep the peace when the verdict comes out.

"My great hope is that as people turn on their television sets in anticipation of the verdict that we will demonstrate in Oakland, we can handle this as a model city," said Mayor Ron Dellums at a news conference attended by city leaders, business representatives and youth organizations.

Oakland violence prevention counselor Kevin Grant, no relation to Oscar Grant who was shot and killed by Mehserle New Year's Day 2009, told the crowd, "Please whatever you do, do it with the responsibility that would bring pride to the Grant family."

Meantime, some merchants continued boarding up their store fronts with plywood Friday. State government workers at the downtown state building were also waiting with growing anxiety.

"A lot of our staff can tele-work, so we've been given notice to prepare our schedules for next week. So in the event of an adverse judgment, then people probably won't be coming to work," said Arnaye Osborne who works as an auditor with the California Franchise Tax Board.

A block away an unusually large number of Federal Protective Service vehicles ringed the federal building.

Youth Uprising, a youth organization that helps inner city youngsters in the East Bay, has held workshops for more than 100 teenagers this past week, teaching them non-violent ways to express themselves.

"You can have justice without resorting to violence," 19-year-old Lala Mann said. "Destroying people's homes defeats the whole purpose."

Still, walking through parts of Oakland, a person who didn't know better might have thought a hurricane was coming, with all the plywood covering windows. If you're already tired of hearing about the expected demonstrations, imagine waiting for them on the street where you work or live.

Many business owners and workers are confused about whether to go to work from day-to-day.

"I'm distraught over the fact that a lot of merchants have boarded up and left, and they're running and hiding. If you run once, you have to keep running," Rev. El Tyna McCree said.

On fashionable 17th Street, they remember all-too-well the anarchy following Oscar Grant's shooting in January 2009.

Some recall almost every windshield on the block being smashed. Across the city, residents fear more of the same.

"It's okay to be upset, it's okay to be mad, it's okay to be hurt, but it doesn't have to go farther than that," Mann said.

"It's one thing to express yourself, it's another thing to do damage at someone else's expense," said Oakland resident Sheila Zacca.

Another Oakland store owner expressed concerns over how long this is going to go on. Every day with plywood on his windows means another day of diminished revenue and even after the verdict he worries this won't be over. He worries if it is a guilty verdict in any way, if he will have to go through this again after the sentencing.


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