Mehserle verdict cause for great concern

Watts Riots

Tensions over things like the Mehserle verdict can lead to events like the Watts Riots. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Mehserle verdict is a cause for a lot of worry. Johannes Mehserle was convicted of  manslaughter in the Oscar Grant case, and many agree Mehserle’s light sentence is atrocious. During the first week in November, the judge issued a sentence of less than two years after Mehserle was credited for time served. This sentence in response to the death of a person so young certainly seems inadequate, to say the least. Events like these can trigger the worst in people.

The Mehserle verdict

The Oscar Grant shooting was perpetrated by a white police officer of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, or BART. Oscar Grant was not armed, and he was lying on the ground when he was shot. Mehserle maintains he meant to pull his Taser, not his gun. The trial had to be moved to Los Angeles because tensions were too high in Alameda County, where the crime occurred. Accusations of police brutality were made, and riots occurred in Oakland when protests got out of control even before sentencing. This is not the first time rioting and violence have broken out in Oakland, California or in the United States for that matter. After the Johannes Mehserle sentencing proceedings ended, riots broke out, and more than 150 were arrested, according to the Los Angeles Times.

History of racial tension

The United States has always had racial tension. Atrocities have been committed on all sides, and by no means is turmoil between races unique to California in the slightest, though race riots in California have certainly attracted a lot of attention from the media, such as the Rodney King Riots. The original controversial Black Panther Party began in Oakland as a result of the Watts Riots of Los Angeles in 1965.

Few public victories

There is such a thing as the “thin blue line,” or leeway given officers by the system. However, it wasn’t proven that Johannes Mehserle intended to shoot Oscar Grant with his pistol. It also wasn’t proven that he did not. It is hard for people to maintain faith in a system that does not appear to treat everyone equally, though it may do so when no one is looking.


Los Angeles Times

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