Heavy police presence greeted Bay Area Rapid Transit commuters Thursday, a day after more than 100 people were arrested in violent protests over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a transit police officer.
At least three cars were set on fire, store windows were smashed and a police cruiser was vandalized in what started as a peaceful demonstration Wednesday over the Jan. 1 shooting of Oscar Grant. Police in riot gear threw tear gas to try to break up the demonstration.
"The crowd started to become more agitated, more hostile, started throwing stuff at the police," said Oakland Police spokesman Jeff Thomason. He said charges against those arrested include inciting a riot, assault on a police officer, vandalism, rioting and unlawful assembly.
Extra police were deployed to East Bay stations on Thursday. Officers patrolled BART headquarters to ensure calm during the agency's morning meeting, where many African-American community leaders expressed outrage over the killing of Grant.
An officer identified as Johannes Mehserle shot the 22-year-old on a BART station platform after responding to reports of men fighting on a train. Officers had pulled Grant and a few other men out of the train. The victim was lying face down on the platform when he was shot.
The shooting and events leading up to it were captured on amateur videos that have been broadcast on television.
Mehserle resigned from the transit agency shortly before he was supposed to be interviewed by investigators Wednesday. Mehserle's attorney did not respond to calls for comment.
Some experts who viewed the video clips speculated that Mehserle fired his gun because he believed Grant had a deadly weapon, while others think the officer had mistaken his handgun for a stun gun.
"If he was under stress he would not be able to distinguish between a Taser and his firearm," said Bruce Siddle, founder of PPCT Management Systems, an Illinois company that trains law-enforcement officers in use-of-force.
BART police and the district attorney are investigating the shooting, and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums asked city police to investigate as well.
Grant's family has filed a $25 million wrongful death claim against BART and want prosecutors to file criminal charges against Mehserle.
"There were racial slurs directed at the young men," family attorney John Burris said Thursday. "But I have no evidence that this particular officer (Mehserle) directed racial slurs towards Oscar Grant."
Police have not classified the confrontation as a hate crime.
'Our anger and our pain'
During the protest, some people threw bottles; a window of a fast-food restaurant and other downtown stores were smashed. No injuries were reported.
"We gave a dispersal order four to five times over a 20-minute period, then we had our officers go in and start making arrests," said Thomason, the police spokesman.
But as the demonstrations continued, the mob frequently targeted the business, cars and homes of people without regard to race, the San Francisco Chronicle reported early Thursday.
One such shop was Creative African Braids in Oakland.
"This is our business," Leemu Topka, the black owner of the salon, shouted at the demonstrators, the Chronicle reported on its Web site. "This is our shop. This is what you call a protest?"
Police in riot gear threw tear gas to try to break up the demonstration.
"The crowd started to become more agitated, more hostile, started throwing stuff at the police," Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said. "We gave a dispersal order four to five times over a 20-minute period, then we had our officers go in and start making arrests."
Dellums went to the protest scene Wednesday night to call for calm. He then led a group toward City Hall and spoke with them.
"Even with our anger and our pain, let's still address each other with a degree of civility and calmness and not make this tragedy an excuse to engage in violence," said Dellums, who is black. "I don't want anybody hurt, I don't want anybody killed."
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