BART Case Hearing Draws Activists

Photo: A protester expressed disapproval after learning the BART police officer who shot Oscar Grant would be allowed bail on Jan. 30.
Nick Fradkin/File
A protester expressed disapproval after learning the BART police officer who shot Oscar Grant would be allowed bail on Jan. 30.

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In anticipation of the change of venue hearing for former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, several community activists said they will continue protesting and discussed the effects of these protests on today's court proceedings.

In the wake of the Jan. 1 fatal shooting of Oscar Grant III by Mehserle at the Fruitvale BART station, there was outcry from the community against police brutality.

Protesters and students took to Sproul Plaza this January to show their disappointment with BART police. Rallies were often held in anticipation of Mehserle's court dates.

With Mehserle's change of venue hearing taking place today, many activists will travel to the Alameda County Superior Courthouse in Oakland to show their support and see the outcome of the unprecedented trial­-a California police officer charged with murder while on duty.

The hearing was scheduled for last Friday, but Mehserle's attorney, Michael Rains, requested a delay because his expert witness was ill.

Yvette Falarca of BAMN, a student and youth-based organization, said the group plans to protest at the hearing.

"We want to have as large a crowd out there as possible, and the number will represent the thousands more in Oakland that wish they could be there," she said.

While the numerous delays have made it difficult for protesters to come to every court date, Falarca said support is increasing.

"Just as many churches and student groups are involved, and we're organizing more to show them that they are Oscar Grant," she said.

At a BAMN protest against the change of venue hearing on Sept. 24, many students voiced their opinions on the Grant shooting.

"It's not just that he was killed," said UC Berkeley junior Zaira Hernandez, who has been involved in the protests since January. "Mehserle didn't get charged for a while and I think that we as Berkeley students should be aware of what is going on around us."

The Revolution Club, a local group advocating human rights, is planning a protest against police brutality on Oct. 22.

"We need a really big movement against this police brutality and it's not going to be successful unless people get involved," said Lou Brown, a member of the Revolution Club. "We've been trying to encourage Cal students to come out with us and show people that they have support."

Brown said the protest will start in Oakland and possibly move to UC Berkeley.

However, not all supporters of Grant are happy with the long-term community response.

Hannibal Shakur, 23, has attended rallies and court dates since the shooting and said he has noticed a significant decline in the

number of people attending the rallies.

"I think it's because awareness around what's going on is fading," he said. "The people that are really pushing this are getting spread thin because there's not really a connection to the youth."

But Rachel Jackson, co-founder of the New Year's Movement for Justice, said this decline is to be expected.

"(Involvement) will wax and wane over the course of the case," she said. "We are seeing an increase again in people's interest and it's a sign that getting involved does make a difference."

John Burris, the attorney for Grant's family, said today's hearing will determine the impact of community activists have had on the case.

"The defense has made very strong arguments that the case should be moved away largely because of the protest marches, an indication that the temperature in the community is very high," he said. "Therefore Mehserle cannot get a fair trial. The impact of community activists remains to be seen."

Hannah Edwards of The Daily

Californian contributed to this report.


Keena Batti covers the courts. Contact her at [email protected]

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