Thursday, July 8th, former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted by a Los Angeles jury of a lesser involuntary manslaughter instead of second-degree murder in the New Year's Day 2009 killing of Oscar Grant during his arrest at the Fruitvale, Oakland BART station.
Prior to the 4:00 pm reading of Mehserle's conviction, several downtown Oakland merchants boarded up their storefront windows as a precautionary measure, fearing a repeat of the looting that occurred after Grant's death in 2009. Many businesses allowed their employees to leave early, causing downtown BART stations to become overwhelmed by outbound passengers.
The City of Oakland also took measures to reduce the potential for unrest by calling in officers from 15 different law enforcement agencies, including city police from San Leandro and Hayward, Alameda County Sheriff's Office and California Highway Patrol. Many of the Oakland Police Department officers who worked that evening did so despite the layoffs the department was expected to make this week.
By 7:00 pm, an estimated 800 protesters had gathered on Broadway between 12th and 14th streets, surrounded by a large force of police officers in riot gear, armed with batons and tear gas. The crowd remained tense but peaceful until sundown. Around 9:00 pm, as several protesters began vandalizing storefronts, police declared the protest an unlawful assembly and closed in on the crowd, arresting any who challenged their blockade.
Dozens of self-proclaimed anarchists wearing bandanas over their faces used hammers to break through storefront windows. Looters forced their way into a Foot Locker, beauty shop and jewelry store near 14th Street and Broadway and fled with merchandise. Piles of clothing and shoes removed from Foot Locker were set on fire in the street. Oakland Police and Alameda County Sheriff's stood guard at several banks including California Bank and Trust and Chase Bank on Thomas L. Berkley Way until 12:30 am after they were hit hard by rioters. A mattress was set ablaze in a Sears window display, but was removed by firefighters before any more extensive damage was caused to the building. Protesters pelted police and their vehicles with bottles and M-1000 fireworks, and pushed dozens of flaming dumpsters into the streets to block traffic. City Administrator Dan Lindheim estimated that 30 businesses between 12th and 20th streets sustained looting, broken windows and doors, and graffiti.
BART reported no problems on their trains or in their stations, however the 12th Street and 19th Street stations were closed for the remainder of the night. AC Transit also reported their busses were running at full service and without incident, but had been diverted around downtown.
By 1:00 am Friday, a total of 78 arrests had been made. The Alameda County Sheriff's Department reported that only 19 of those arrested were Oakland residents, and 12 were from out of state. 66 of those arrested were booked and released for unlawful assembly, and the remaining 12 were booked at Alameda County Jail for a variety of felonies including violation of parole, rioting, arson, and possession of explosive devices.