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Protestors Gather Outside Johannes Mehserle Trial

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Originally published on, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

By: Ariel Edwards-Levy

LOS ANGELES - Approximately 60 protesters lined the sidewalk Monday morning outside of L.A.'s Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, protesting what some say is a court biased against the family of Oscar Grant, an Oakland man who was shot in 2009.

The trial of Johannes Mehserle, the former Bay Area Rapid Transit officer accused of murdering Grant, is in its third day of oral arguments. The racial overtones of the case - Grant is black and Mehserle is white - have sparked tensions, and further strained police-community relations.

"I can't stand it when people in power abuse that power and kill innocent people. How can you say that it was a mistake, that you were going for your Taser and you grab and you shoot somebody with your gun?" said Celia Rodgers, one of the protesters. "There is no way you could have mistaken a Taser for a gun. It's impossible. And it just disgusts me what the justice system is doing."

Kei, an activist with the Cease Fire Committee who didn't give his full name, also said he thought Mehserle's law enforcement background gave him an advantage.

"If it was a young kid that was involved, they would have ten charges," he said. "They would have murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, accessory, all kinds of charges. But a police, as far as I know, there's only one charge. This court system is very unfair."

Many protesters expressed doubt that Mehserle's trial would be conducted fairly, pointing to a jury with no black members. Others were upset that the trial was moved from Oakland to Los Angeles.

The defense said the change of venue was necessary due to extensive coverage in the Bay Area. But some view the move as an attempt to downplay the case by staging it in a city where celebrities and entertainment news sometimes make more headlines than crime stories.

Even today, the Grant protesters mingled with a group of Michael Jackson supporters outside the courthouse, waiting to hear if Jackson's doctor would lose his medical license.

Early in the morning, at least, the Jackson fans were largely out-shouted.

"I think it's kind of insulting that the powers that be wanted to move this trial to L.A., and assume that they can get a cop off for murder, here in L.A., where there's been so many problems in the past with police violence," said Dominic, a protester who didn't want to give his last name. "I want to show people that they can't come down to L.A. and just brush things under the rugs here; that people are going to stand up, people are going to take notice and say something about it."

That sentiment was shared by many of the activists.

"I don't have any faith [in the system], but I put my confidence in the people - that, with our united actions, that we can put enough pressure on these people that we can force them to have to convict the officer in the same way that they had to arrest him," said Jubilee Shine, a member of the Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant.

Mike Prysner said that after seeing YouTube videos of the shooting, he was moved to act.

"Like many millions of people, [I] really saw the brutal, unprovoked killing of a young man who was completely defenseless," he said. "That's why so many people are here today and why so many people all over the country are taking action, because they're so outraged by what they saw, something that's all too common in those communities."

Others also saw the trial as a chance to raise awareness of a problem they saw as endemic.

"This problem is systemic," said protester Diego Ma. "Whether it's happening on the border of Mexico...or whether it's happening literally on a daily basis to black and Latino people here in this country, this is not just some isolated incident, as they're always trying to say it is."

Denise Cruz said she also saw the trial as an opportunity for justice to be served.

"There's many of our color that are being killed by cops without seeing justice at all, and it's the first time we're getting justice for a cop killing a person of color," she said.

A verdict is expected in the trial before the July 4th break.

Continuing Coverage:
  • Youth Radio will be hosting a chat on Twitter with reporters and observers at the LA County Superior Court every day that the trial is in session at 12:30PM PDT. Search for the hashtag #OGTrial, or follow @youthradio for updates.

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