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Police Shooting of Black Man Sparks Riots in Oakland

Posted January. 10, 2009 06:21,   


With only 10 days ahead of the inauguration of the first black president in U.S. history, a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man in Oakland, CA, igniting racially charged riots.

Police arrived shortly after midnight on New Year`s Day on a Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Oakland. They had received reports of young men fighting on a train.

Officers ordered them off the train and to sit down on the platform. They made 22-year-old Oscar Grant lie face down. While one officer pushed Grant to his knees, another shot the man in the back.

Grant was taken to the hospital but soon died.

The shooting and events leading up to it were captured on the cell phones of passengers returning home after New Year’s parties. Hundreds of thousands watched the killing posted online.

“This was an execution of a black man,” one angry protester said. Rumors even said the officers made racist comments before the shooting.

Hundreds of angry demonstrators staged a violent rally in Oakland Wednesday and Thursday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Some smashed storefronts and set fire to cars.

Police arrested more than 100 people. Demonstrations continued Thursday on a smaller scale. Police also blocked some of the city’s downtown streets, and a number of companies let their employees leave the office early.

Experts say failure by authorities to properly handle the situation could lead to a repeat of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which were provoked after video footage was released of white police officers beating a black man.

Johannes Mehserle, the officer who shot Grant, was initially placed on paid leave.

He resigned from the police force Wednesday, but remains free and has not been charged.

Some experts speculate that Mehserle fired his gun because he thought his handgun was a stun gun, given that it would have been irrational for him to shoot a young man lying on the ground in the back.

Grant`s family is suing the transit authority for 25 million dollars for wrongful death, demanded that Mehserle face criminal charges.