In the hours following the announcement of that Johannes Mehserle had been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for fatally shooting Oscar Grant in the back on a BART platform on New Year’s Eve 2009, downtown Oakland became a drama-filled scene that changed minute by minute.
In the early hours, rallies were held, with community leaders speaking out against the killing of Oscar Grant and police brutality in general. At least 1,000 protesters gathered peacefully at the intersection of 14th and Broadway streets to hear a series of speakers venting anger. Representatives from the nonprofit Youth UpRising and other groups tried to discourage violence, but anger and frustration erupted into acts of vandalism once the rally came to a close and the night set in. Around the same time, police strapped on gas masks, readied clubs, and issued a dispersal order.
Around 8:30 bottles started flying among shouts of “fuck the police,” and “no justice, no peace.” A window was smashed at a Foot Locker near 14th and Broadway, and another window came down at the Far East National Bank, across the street. Looting followed, as did graffiti tagging, and trash cans lit ablaze.
By 10 p.m., things descended into further disarray as smaller crowds advanced north on Broadway and Telegraph, with just a few hundred continuing to smash windows at Whole Foods, Sears, Starbucks, and several other locations. The Guardian was on the scene and caught much of the early activity and some of the later rioting on film. The videos are presented below in chronological order. The Guardian left a crowd of less than 50 rioters near Whole Foods at Bay Place and Vernon Street, around 10:30.
Shortly after the verdict was announced, Oscar Grant’s sister-in-law, Yolanda Mesa, tearfully addressed a small crowd outside Oakland City Hall. Video by Wendi Jonassen
A rally being held in the middle of the intersection at 14th and Broadway in downtown Oakland dissolved into chaos when police in riot gear approached and announced through a megaphone, “We are here to assist you in your peaceful protest.” Video by Rebecca Bowe
As a marching band played in the background, activists hoisted a sign onto a lamppost over the intersection of 14th and Broadway in downtown Oakland. Video by Rebecca Bowe
A protester challenging police in the midst of demonstrations in downtown Oakland was tackled by officers in riot gear. Video by Alex Emslie
Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan gave an interview at the line between demonstrators and police as she linked arms with others at 12th Street and Broadway. Council member Jean Quan stood nearby. Video by Alex Emslie
Police declared the protest to be an unlawful assembly and issued an order to disperse just before 9 p.m. The police charged, and this reporter got caught in the fray. Video by Alex Emslie
Rioters ignited a trash can and dragged it down 15th Street toward the police line at around 9:30 p.m. Video by Alex Emslie
The riots took a noticeable turn just before 10 p.m. Even as the crowds diminished, more fires were ignited and store front windows were broken between 15th and 17th streets on Broadway as and rioters began to move further North. Video by Alex Emslie