OAKLAND — Downtown Oakland was tense but peaceful Friday night, after the breakup of a protest that erupted shortly after 3 p.m. over the announcement that an Alameda County Superior Court judge had set bail at $3 million for Johannes Mehserle, the former BART officer involved in the deadly Jan. 1 shooting of Oscar Grant of Hayward.
"The important thing to remember is that the wheels of justice are now in motion," Mayor Ron Dellums said in a written statement released after the judge's decision.
Not wanting a repeat of riots that occurred Jan. 7 and 14 in reaction to the shooting, Oakland police were out in force downtown and merchants closed their shops early.
"Johannes Mehserle, was charged with murder. He will receive due process under the law, and this process will run its course," Dellums continued in the statement. "In the meantime, I am calling for peace in our streets."
The statement followed an earlier one erroneously reporting that Mehserle had posted bail. But Mehserle is still being held in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
Friday's protests began when a crowd of about 40 that had been rallying outside the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse, where Mehserle's bail hearing was held, marched from 12th and Oak streets toward downtown. There they blocked the intersection for about 10 minutes and at least two men jumped on top of an AC Transit bus.
"He would still be in jail if he was black. This is an injustice," a young woman yelled. Others chanted, "BART police have got to go!" and "Killer cops must not go free! Jail, no bail, for Mehserle!"
When police arrived, the crowd moved toward Oakland Police Department headquarters at 7th Street and Broadway, near where the rear windows of an unmarked police sedan were smashed while several officers sat inside.
- Oakland BART shooting: Full coverage
Police fired two "flash bang" grenades at the crowd and pushed protesters back down Broadway toward 14th Street. The protesters headed back down 14th Street to the courthouse, but teams of riot police faced off with the demonstrators at 14th and Madison.
Police arrested two men in the parking lot of a nearby McDonald's restaurant and continued to push the crowd back up 14th Street toward downtown. They ordered the crowd to clear the area or police would fire tear gas. Instead they warned protesters to clear the area and advanced on a small crowd, pushing them south along Madison Street. Soon after, police arrested about eight people. Officers tackled several young males as they resisted being restrained. One man was hit in the back with a truncheon.
"The system is really good at distracting us. Ultimately, Mehserle is a symptom of a greater problem — that we live in a police state, but they don't want to acknowledge that," a 22-year-old woman named Sam A. said earlier outside the courthouse as people tried to enter the building for the 2 p.m. hearing. Only about 40 people were allowed into the hearing.
Some protesters were hanging on lampposts, or on handrails beside the courthouse entrance. Some carried large signs with photos of Grant and the words "Justice for Oscar Grant" underneath.
Dion Evans, pastor of Chosen Vessel Christian Church in Alameda, read a statement from Grant's family.
"Our family is extremely appreciative to the community and this country for the enormous amount of support and strong involvement with us in this time of crisis with the BART police," Evans read.
He announced that a college fund has been set up for Grant's daughter. It is the Tatiana Grant Trust Fund, Account No. 3879027641, Wells Fargo Bank, 950 Southland Drive, Hayward, CA 94545.
Around 9:35 p.m. Friday, about 200 protesters had gathered in the 2100 block of Allston Way, blocking the street near the downtown Berkeley BART station.
Police brass were warning of an "unlawful assembly" over the public-address system. Police were calling for every available unit of the Berkeley Police Department to assist but had not called for aid from other police departments.
Staff writers Kamika Dunlap and Kristin Bender and correspondent Jessica Lipsky contributed to this report.