Unlawful assembly declared in Oakland after verdict


Protesters defiled several storefronts along Broadway, with businesses between 12th and 20th streets sustaining smashed windows, sporadic looting, busted doorways and walls newly scrawled with graffiti.

Banks in the area were hit hard. Local branches of California Bank and Trust and Chase Bank on Thomas L. Berkley Way near 20th Street sustained smashed doorways and windows. Oakland police and Alameda County Sheriff's deputies remained at the banks on guard in riot gear at 12:30 a.m.

A Whole Foods Market on Bay Place near Harrison Street was vandalized by rioters at around 11:15 p.m., according to witnesses and a security guard still on duty this morning. Again, windows and doorways were smashed and destroyed, but there was not heavy evidence of looting, according to the guard, and the grocery store was still scheduled to open on time at 8 a.m.

By 1 a.m. patrol officers confirmed that the downtown areas were mostly deserted aside from police, and that protesters and residents appeared to have left.

A Foot Locker at 14th Street and Broadway was broken into, vandalized and robbed, witnesses said. Nearby, protesters broke windows of a Subway sandwich shop and a Far East National Bank.

They also pushed large trash bins into the street and set them on fire, Batts said.

There were no outstanding fires burning at 1:30 a.m., a dispatcher with the Oakland Fire Department said.

The evening started off peacefully with about 800 people gathering downtown to voice their opinions, but at about 8 p.m., a small, hostile crowd began moving toward a police line that had been held for several hours, Batts said.

A number of people wearing black masks, bandanas, hooded sweatshirts and backpacks threw rocks and bottles at the officers, Batts said.

He described the protesters as anarchists and said their goal was to go into crowds and cause people on both sides to overact.

Still, others threw M-1000 fireworks at law enforcement officers and other demonstrators, Alameda County sheriff's Sgt. J.D. Nelson said.

Batts said he was proud of the way police responded, but he admitted to being disappointed by the minority of protesters who damaged property and attacked police and other protesters.

"To come to this city and destroy this city and to do the damage is something I frown upon," he said. "We deserve better. This city is not the wild, wild West. We will not tolerate it."

A Los Angeles jury today convicted Mehserle, a former BART police officer, of involuntary manslaughter for fatally shooting unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III on New Year's Day 2009.

The jury also found true the allegation that Mehserle deliberately used his gun.

Mehserle now faces between five and 14 years in prison when he is sentenced.

After the shooting, a riot broke out in downtown Oakland. Batts said about 75 percent of the people arrested during the riot were from outside of Oakland.

He said he expected many of the people arrested tonight would turn out to be residents of other cities.

Mayor Ron Dellums emphasized that the response to the verdict was generally constructive despite the violence that erupted late in the protests today.

He especially thanked the area's young people for expressing themselves in a "courageous" way.

"This was a positive event given the pain and agony in the Bay Area in response to this," he said.

Tony Coleman, a community organizer with Oakland Assembly and the New Years Movement for Justice for Oscar Grant, said the violence was preceded by a peaceful, productive rally.

"The speak-out was a total success, everybody got a chance to speak. We did our thing," Coleman said.

The speeches were heartfelt and emotional, he said.

"It was going so good, we left at a high point, and that way folks will be more interested in maybe coming to the community meeting," Coleman said.

He said the group will hold a meeting next Thursday at the Continental Club at 1658 12th St. to discuss the next steps in light of the verdict.

Most businesses in Oakland's Chinatown closed early Thursday as a precaution in response to the announcement of the Mehserle verdict, according to Carl Chan, an Oakland Chinatown community leader.

Chan said he witnessed protesters marching through Chinatown after the death of Oscar Grant, so he and other community members decided to put out word to the community to be prepared in the event violence breaks out, though he was not aware of any yet today.

At about 2 p.m. today when they learned the jury had reached a verdict, merchants in Chinatown began pulling in merchandise from sidewalks and closing their doors. Chan said most believed that people would not be dining out or shopping anyway.

Chan and others are monitoring the situation from the basement of the Chinatown Police Resource Center at 360-A Eighth Street, near Webster Street, and will stay there through the night to offer guidance or assistance to anyone who calls or stops by. People can call the office at (510) 238-7930.

The Oakland Unified School District plans to conduct business as usual for now and will monitor the activities throughout the night, according to the district's spokesman.

Employees who work at sites where they don't have children to protect were sent home early, Flint said. Officials coordinated with parents to pick up children early if possible, he said.

No activity was reported in or around any of the district's schools.

Students at Oakland's Samuel Merritt University were told today that Friday classes have been canceled and that the campus will be closed until Sunday.

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Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.

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