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Grant, Michael Jackson supporters mingle in dueling protests at LA courthouse

From right to left, Aron Mallory, Eric Ares and Aidge Patterson protest in front of the Clara Shortridge Fritz Criminal Justice Center June 14. (Jennifer Courtney/CALIFORNIA BEAT)

(6/14) — 15:30 PDT — LOS ANGELES — Protesters in support of Oscar Grant, the the 22-year-old man shot and killed by former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, interrupted a dueling demonstration organized by Michael Jackson fans this afternoon in front of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center on a day that attracted media attention from around the world at the Downtown Los Angeles Courthouse.

The side-by-side protests remained peaceful with no arrests reported, but about 20 Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies blocked off the main entrance stairway in front of the courthouse at 2 p.m. after Grant supporters began to chant “Justice for Oscar Grant!” during a press conference held to discuss a judge’s decision to allow Dr. Conray Murray to keep his medical license.

Murray was Jackson’s private doctor and is accused of involuntary manslaughter for the death of the pop icon after he administered lethal doses of a drug to the singer.

The courthouse atmosphere was made tenser as Jackson supporters took offense to the Grant supporters chanting during the press conference. Some began yelling “Justice for Michael Jackson” in response.

The Murray court hearing attracted a throng of media representatives and Jackson supporters from around the world, and was held on the same floor as the Mehserle trial but in a different courtroom.

The Grant protest began early this morning with an assembled crowd of at least 20 protesters that quickly grew in size.

At noon, the crowd numbered 60 supporters who called for an end to police misconduct and the conviction of Mehserle.

The group initially gathered near a back driveway to the courthouse in hopes of being visible to jurors, Mehserle and his legal team as they drove in. Then they moved to the corners of Broadway and Spring streets, at one point spanning the length of the block as Jackson fans began to arrive.

As of press time, few Grant protesters remained outside the courthouse, mingling with Jackson supporters.

“I’m tired of letting the police do what they want and getting away with it,” said Juan Lopez, a Los Angeles resident who showed up Monday morning to protest against police misconduct.

At the noontime lunch break Grant’s family appeared happy to see support from the protesters, who yelled “We love you!” several times as family members exited the courtroom.

“As long as we stand together our voice can be heard,” Cephus Johnson, Grant’s uncle, told the crowd. “We know how important this is.”

“This case was put in there in hopes you wouldn’t find out about it,” he said as he pointed to the courthouse, to which those gathered responded “We know, we know!”

Organizer Aidge Patterson, from the LA Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant, said today’s protest was one of several in large cities across the country.

Patterson also organized a rally last Thursday for opening statements and told the Beat he wants to see justice served to Grant’s family.

“How can you possibly sit back and let this go?” he said, adding that he became involved after watching amateur video of the incident.

“To this day I tear up at that video,” Patterson said.

For more photos from the protest, visit The Campanil’s flickr set.

The California Beat and The Campanil’s joint continuing coverage of the Johannes Mehserle BART Shooting trial is funded in part through Spot.Us. Visit our special trial news page and help fund this project.

Beat reporters Tashina Manyak and Jennifer Courtney reported from Los Angeles. Contact Jennifer Courtney at jcourtney@californiabeat.org.

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