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Mehserle supporters plan Monday rally in Walnut Creek

(7/16) — 23:16 PDT — WALNUT CREEK — Supporters of former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle are planning a rally at 2 p.m. Monday in front of the Walnut Creek courthouse — the first such public rally after 18 months of protests denouncing Mehserle.

Mehserle was taken into custody July 8 after a Los Angeles County jury acquitted him of second-degree murder but convicted him of involuntary manslaughter for killing unarmed train passenger Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009. He could face five to 14 years in state prison depending on what the judge in the case decides.

Grant’s family and many activists across the country have expressed anger and disappointment at the verdict, saying Mehserle committed murder when he fatally shot Grant.

But they are not the only ones who believe the jury erred in its verdict.

One of the pro-Mehserle Facebook groups that have been mushrooming on the social networking site instructs its viewers to “like” the page “if you believe [Mehserle] is an innocent man.”

“I’m very glad that Mehserle and his attorney have over three months before the sentencing. At least that leaves a window of opportunity to free this man,” reads one of many similar posts by members.

The page, called “Free Mehserle,” is one of at least four Facebook groups that advocate acquitting the former officer of all charges brought against him. The most popular of the pages boasts 357 members and includes out of state residents.

Invitations to the public rally are being sent via Facebook to “anyone who supports Johannes and our Law Enforcement Officers.” So far, there are 133 confirmed attendees, with 125 “maybe attending.”

According to Jesse Sekhon, president of the BART Police Officers Association, invitations are being distributed via email through the ranks of the BART Police as well.

“I received an email a couple of days ago and I was kind of surprised to see it,” he said. “I’m not sure if any [of the BART officers] will be attending. However I wouldn’t be surprised if some do.”

“Johannes still has a lot of support here,” Sekhon said.

Sekhon had the opportunity to train Mehserle on a few occasions and said he was saddened by the verdict.

“I don’t know if it’s fair. I’ll speak for myself — when I heard the verdict I was a little upset. I was sad,” he said. “When the verdict was read there were a lot of officers that just weren’t really talking, everybody was really quiet. It’s hard to describe.”

Although he said he never expected a gathering of its sort, Sekhon said he supports the rally.

“We’re just happy in general that there’s support for law enforcement,” he said, adding, “I just hope it’s not someone trying to stir up controversy.”

Meanwhile, Walnut Creek Police Chief Joel Bryden said the department is taking extra precautions to prepare for potential conflict.

“We’re adding extra personnel to make sure it’s a safe venue,” he said. “We’re using personnel from the sheriff’s office and other agencies in the vicinity.”

The Facebook invite states specifically, “This rally is NOT about inciting violence, destruction, intolerance, hatred, racism, riots or to upset the Grant family. If your intent is to do these things then please stay home.”

But some of the comments on the Mehserle supporter pages are more ambivalent. In its page description, the “Free Mehserle” Facebook group says “Oscar Grant’s family doesn’t want ‘justice’ they want vengeance, which is messed up.”

On a different page called “Free Johannes Mehserle,” seven people “liked” a post that said “Sue me for thinking Oscar Grant was a criminal rather then a victim.”

Regardless of the intent of the organizers, some members of the “Justice for Oscar Grant” camp have taken the event as an affront.

Jabari Shaw, an activist who was present outside the Los Angeles courthouse during the trial said he found the event mind-boggling.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “Officers are supposed to uphold the law and Mehserle went against the law. And now they’re out there supporting him?”

Shaw and his associates were quick to respond. Already there is a “Counter Protest” page being sent around on Facebook with 26 confirmed attendees who will also be present at Monday’s rally.

Sekhon and Bryden did not know who the organizers of the pro-Mehserle event were and neither could verify if off-duty police from their departments would be attending.

But to Shaw, the event seemed like law enforcement mobilizing against the community.

“They’re showing us they’re a gang. It’s like they’re saying, ‘we’re the biggest gang in the world and there’s nothing you can do about it,’” he said.

The comments on some of the pro-Mehserle pages only reinforced this idea for Shaw.

“If you read their comments they say things like ‘stay true to the boys in blue’ and they keep taking about ‘the brotherhood’…what are they trying to say? They’re trying to scare us. They’re trying to intimidate us,” Shaw said.

Mehserle’s sentencing, originally scheduled for August, has been postponed until November 5 to allow the defense more time to prepare.

Contact Tashina Manyak at tmanyak@californiabeat.org.

6 Comments »

  • lala111 said:

    To end all of this. Go after the Judge, Court System, the defendant and his family.

  • Art Zamora said:

    Why WC? We don’t even have a courthouse – or do we? Shouldn’t they have gone to Martinez? Or BART headquarters in Oakland – makes no sense and then the idiots from both sides (tea partiers, racist, pig supporters) and then the (thieves, rioters and [censored]) will class over nothing, it was a bad scene where a misguided tough youth got shot instead of tasered. A lesson to all – it is too easy to pull a trigger and you can’t go back. ALL of you stay home.

  • Rodney Shuler said:

    This is kind of confusing for me to. whenever somebody kills someone and their life wasn’t being threatened they go to prison. so what makes Mehserle special? Does being a police officer give you the right to just kill people and say “OOPS, I’M SORRY! WRONG WEAPON!”. Take the badge out of the equation and you have a situation which unfortunately escalated and ended in the loss of a man’s life. Does nobody go to prison in that situation? Is that even a rational question? Of course somebody goes to prison unless there is some reasonable evidence to support the fact that the alleged murderer may have feared for his life. When one cop has a knee on his neck and the other pats him down, there is not any reason at all for one of the officers to stand up and draw any weapon of any kind. There is no threat to his life. This man caused the death of Oscar Grant and should be punished. Another question comes to mind. If Grant had killed Mehserle would there even be any discussion as to what needed to be done? No their wouldn’t, so why is their now?

  • M. Soto said:

    There is a Court House in Walnut Creek on Ygnacio and Broadway I hope you will join in the support of the police officers. Oscar Grant was not a model citizen but in fact a criminal. The family is backed up by a sleezy lawyer who is only out to get money, look him up. He has worked with many crimals in the past for the right price. Oakland is a very dangerous place that needs to be protected from there own people not from police officers who put their lives at risk every day they work the streets.

  • meenakshi said:

    It is sad that the Mehserle family has to go through this. It was an accident. I understand the pain of the mother who lost her son but blood for blood is not the solution. If everybody keep pressing the racial issue, this country will lose in the eyes of the world. I work with blacks and whites and people from all over. Never felt discriminated or seen anybody being discreminated. Nobody intends to kill. But things happen when you are trying to protect the law. Who knows what really happened that day. Who can gaurantee that the boy didnt actually do anything to instigate the officer to make him lose control. The only question is what if the officer was killed?????? Would bart still give millions to the Mehserle Family,Would oakland be ran saking the streets to fight for a White Police officer and the mother of the boy standing with the police officers family to seek justice for them. Think about it folks…… There is always another side ….The dark side….Dont make this an excuse to be bad but show to the world that you can rise far beyond your ego.Because self guilt for Mehserle is far beyond punishment that he will face for the rest of his life. This is one country where law enforcement is so helpless . Given weapons but when used its hell for the rest of their lives. Is it really worth working for law enforcement????????? to protect citizens or the country………… Think>>>>>>

  • Rodney Shuler said:

    So I guess drawing and firing a weapon into a man’s back while your partner has his knee on the man’s neck is just enforcing the law? Could two officers not easily have each grabbed an arm and handcuffed him and put him back up against the wall? Do we really issue a death sentence to man for resisting and just say it’s alright because it was a mistake? I get protecting a police officer’s right to defend themselves. Oakland is not by a long shot a dream land to be an officer of the law, but in this particular case there was not any reason to draw a weapon considering two officers were restraining him and one had the option at any point to simply put a little more pressure on his neck until he submitted and complied. Should Grant have been resisting? Absolutely not! Could he have been more compliant? Absolutely! But do we really want to say that it’s murder when one man does it and it’s borderline okay when another man does it? It doesn’t seem to add up here folks. Law enforcement have a very tough and very stressful job, but they were never forced to do that job and if Johannes was really unhappy with his career at that police department perhaps he should have chose a different profession. It was truly an unfortunate set of events but Oscar Grant is Dead and Mehserle faces a maximum of four years. Why should he go free when a man has died for no good reason at his hands? Is it okay for law enforcement to murder people in the streets without ever facing a murder conviction? What does that say to the people of the community about their protectors? It says that law enforcement can and will kill you if you spook them at all. That’s not the way to create a peaceful or even compliant community. Jahannes may not have meant to kill Grant and I truly believe that he didn’t but that doesn’t just let him off the hook. This has happened to many times for it to be considered okay. He’s probably even a nice likable guy but he did kill a man and that fact cannot be changed no matter who’s perspective or opinion is considered.