Upcoming Mehserle rally causes concern

July 14, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
This Monday, a group of Mehserle supporters plan to gather in Walnut Creek to show him they're on his side. It's an event Walnut Creek police will be watching very closely because the fear is that this rally will invite trouble.

The Walnut Creek Superior Court building is where the rally is scheduled to be held this coming Monday. The organizing group planning to attend is small, but police have no idea how many counter-demonstrators might show up.

The "I Support Johannes Mehserle" Facebook page says supporters "have just as much right to rally together with other believers and have their voices heard."

Earlier this evening, 82 people had confirmed plans to attend a rally on Monday at the Walnut Creek courthouse.

"I personally just believe it was a horrible accident," says Ken Carlson, a Concord police officer. He says he'll be there to support Mehserle. "There are times in your career you have to make split-second decisions that you know are a matter of life and death."

Walnut Creek police say they're sharing intelligence with Oakland police who have told them which counter demonstration groups might show up. Walnut Creek police say they'll be monitoring the event closely, and all 78 officers will be available, but they have no plan to call for outside help.

"I think it's entirely appropriate for those who want to support Mr. Mehserle," says attorney John Burris.

Burris is representing Oscar Grant's family in a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against BART.

He believes this is shaping up to be a picture of how two groups view relations between African-Americans and police.

"You have race -- an African-American young man with stereotypical issues developed around him that was at the trial itself by suggesting his background. And then you have the police officer, a white police officer, who is being projected as a gentle giant," says Burris.

"Clearly the picture exists and it has existed far too long, from Rodney King on that has continued to be an issue, and I don't know if anybody has a clear and specific answer to it," says Carlson.

There has been spirited debate over this in the editorial pages, but now we're beginning to see both sides physically come out to express their views with Oscar Grant and Johannes Mehserle being transformed into symbols in a clash of ideologies.


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