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Angry protests after officer jailed

Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets of Oakland, California, after a white former transit officer was sentenced to the minimum possible prison sentence of two years for fatally shooting an unarmed black man on a California train platform.

The case against defendant Johannes Mehserle has provoked racial unrest at every turn, and police in Oakland, the scene of the killing, were on alert for more problems following a sentence that many thought was too light.

After nightfall on Friday, police in riot gear squared off with dozens of protesters and started making arrests.

More than 100 people were arrested after a rally billed as a tribute to the victim, Oscar Grant, turned into a march through the area, where people broke car and bus windows. Some carried a banner reading "Justice for Oscar Grant".

Police spokesman Jeff Thomason said officers in riot gear started making arrests after police declared the protest to be an illegal assembly.

The sentence also angered the victim's family and friends, who demanded a much harsher punishment.

Wanda Johnson, the mother of the victim, Oscar Grant, shouted, "Oh my!" when Superior Court Judge Robert Perry issued the two-year sentence. She burst out of the courtroom saying: "He got nothing! He got nothing!"

Grant's uncle, Bobby Cephus Johnson, said outside court: "I do believe it's a racist criminal justice system."

Some of the dozens of people who gathered outside Oakland City Hall for a tribute to Oscar Grant broke into tears when they learned of the judge's decision. Outside the Los Angeles courthouse, a small crowd that had earlier shouted "No justice, no peace" reacted relatively calmly to the sentence.

Mehserle, 28, had faced a possible 14-year maximum term after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter. At the time of the shooting, Mehserle was a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer responding to a report of a fight.


From Belfast Telegraph