WALNUT CREEK — Supporters of Johannes Mehserle plan to rally Monday in Walnut Creek to protest the former BART police officer's involuntary manslaughter conviction in the shooting death of Oscar Grant.
The rally, announced on a Facebook page, is set for 2 to 5 p.m. at the Walnut Creek Courthouse, 640 Ygnacio Valley Road.
The Facebook description of the rally, perhaps the first in the Bay Area to show support for Mehserle, says "Anyone who supports Johannes and our Law Enforcement Officers may attend. This is a PEACEFUL rally to show our support for Johannes, his family, and our law enforcement officers. This was a tragic mistake that occurred while on active duty."
Rally organizers did not respond to requests for comment. A post on Facebook from the Times seeking comment was removed, as was the last name of the rally's apparent organizer.
The Facebook page says the conviction was wrong, that Mehserle shot Grant accidentally and should be released from jail.
An earlier version, which by Tuesday afternoon had been taken down, declared: "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. ITS TIME TO STOP THROWING OUR OFFICERS UNDER THE BUS. ITS TIME TO STEP UP AND SUPPORT JOHANNES AND OUR OFFICERS AND TAKE A STAND. OSCAR GRANT WAS RESISTING ARREST. JOHANNES MEHSERLE TOLD THE TRUTH!"
Around 4 p.m. Tuesday, all posts were erased and the rally was renamed "In Support of Johannes Mehserle and L.E.O." LEO stands for Law Enforcement Officers.
"Within the law enforcement community we've raised some money for (Mehserle) and things like that," Carlson said. "And as far as an outspoken event in support of him, it's long overdue."
John Burris, attorney for Oscar Grant's family, said he was not surprised such a rally would be held.
"There are individuals who support Mehserle and support police in general ... and that's just part of ... the split in this country, those who don't really understand the actions of the police in the African American community," Burris said.
Junior Aguilar, a Pleasant Hill resident who plans to attend the rally, said it's not about race. .
"BART failed Mehserle," Aguilar said. "He was not properly trained to use the Taser. So the question is, who is at fault here? It's the BART agency. I believe he is innocent."
By 4 p.m. Tuesday, 40 people had confirmed on the Facebook page they would attend the rally. Some work for police departments in Contra Costa County.
Walnut Creek Police Chief Joel Bryden said that if any of his officers attend, they will be off duty and not representing the department.
Police learned of the rally Tuesday, Bryden said, when a woman who said she was organizing the event came to City Hall to ask whether she needed a permit. Because it's a "First Amendment issue," no permit is required, Bryden said
Bryden said he will have officers at the rally to keep the peace.
Why rally in Walnut Creek?
"That only shows the demographic," said Burris. "If they came to Oakland they may have a confrontation they do not want to have."
Carlson said he assumed that Walnut Creek is a local point. " "I think it's just a matter of convenience."
Michael Walker of the Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant said a pro-Mehserle rally is an attempt to reduce Mehserle's jail time.
"They all just sat back and said 'let justice play out' and they didn't do these mass rallies because they thought he was going to get away with it," said Walker, who plans to attend Monday's rally with other coalition members.
Staff write Paul Thissen contributed to this report. Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at twitter.com/enardi10.