Black-and-white posters of Oscar Grant’s smiling face are plastered on many downtown shop windows, especially on 17th Street, which suffered the most damage after riots broke out to protest the deadly police shooting that killed the 22-year-old butcher’s apprentice on New Year’s Day last year.
As the trial of former police officer Johannes Mehserle, accused of killing Oscar Grant, draws to an end, with a verdict anticipated as early as this week, city authorities advised small businesses to stock up on plywood, board their windows, and follow Twitter updates from the Oakland police in anticipation of more civil unrest.
Kathy Cho, owner of a small business called Showcase Wigs, said she pasted the sign reading “Justice needed for Oscar Grant!” on her storefront hoping that it would keep protestors from smashing her windows if another riot occurred.
“The Oakland downtown area … is full of restaurants run by new immigrants, stores run by minority entrepreneurs and mom-and-pop stores,” said Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce President Joseph Haraburda. “These were the worst affected in the previous riots. They usually find it much harder to recover from such damages.”
Oakland authorities are urging business owners to place deadbolt locks on outside doors, ensure their closed-circuit TV cameras are in working condition, and park vehicles away from the business district on the day a verdict might be reached.
Grant, an unarmed black youth, was shot in the back by Mehserle, a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officer, on a subway platform Jan 1, 2009. More than 120 people were arrested in the riots that occurred six days after the shooting.