The Daily Californian Online

UC Berkeley Students Protest New Year's Day BART Shooting

By Anna Hiatt
Contributing Writer
Monday, January 26, 2009
Category: News > University > Student Life

Students from Berkeley and Oakland carry signs and march to protest the shooting of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by a BART police officer at the Fruitvale BART station.

Students from UC Berkeley, as well as middle and high school students from Berkeley and Oakland, marched through the rain on Friday afternoon to protest the New Year's Day shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant III.

Initially, about 40 students came together on Sproul Plaza to show support of an investigation into the shooting of Grant by former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle and to call for the disarmament of BART police.

The crowd marched to the Downtown Berkeley BART station and then the Ashby station, growing in size as passersby stopped to listen to organizers speak.

Protesters chanted and held signs reading "Disarm the BART police," and "Jail, No Bail." They also encouraged those in attendance to go to the bail hearing for Mehserle, which is

scheduled to take place this Friday.

Berkeley police and BART police officers were present as a crowd of about 80 people gathered by the BART station. Although protesters yelled at police officers, no physical violence broke out.

Grant was shot in the back by Mehserle, a BART police officer at the time, at the Fruitvale BART station early in the morning on New Year's Day.

Mehserle resigned from the force on Jan. 7 and was arrested less than a week later in Nevada in connection with Grant's death, the Associated Press reported.

The former officer's hearing was postponed after he decided to change his defense attorney. He was originally represented by Sacramento attorney Christopher Miller, but he is now being represented by Michael Rains of Pleasant Hill, an experienced police defender.

Many people in the crowd said they felt unsafe around BART police officers following the shooting.

"Next time this may be my cousin. My brother. My sister," said Brenda Onofre, a junior at Skyline High School in Oakland.

Not all protests over the shooting have been as peaceful as the one that took place on Friday.

In the first week after Grant's shooting, there were several large protests in the Bay Area. Police arrested more than 100 people in a protest-turned-riot on Jan. 7 in which protesters vandalized property, broke into shops and set fire to cars.

Oakland teacher and BAMN organizer Tania Kappner said the many protests in the past few weeks have served to keep the public's eye on the ongoing investigation.

"We want to make sure Mehserle does time for murder, not manslaughter. We're just trying to keep the pressure on," she said.

Tanisha West, a junior at Oakland Technical High School who spoke on the steps of Sproul Plaza the day of the protest, expressed sadness for Grant's death.

"He didn't deserve to die," West said. "It's not right that we should feel unsafe in our own neighborhoods."

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