A Los Angeles County jury has ruled today that the January 2009 death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was shot on camera at a Oakland BART station by Rapid Transit Officer Johannes Mehserle, was an act of involuntary manslaughter.
Multiple videos of the unarmed Grant being shot spread virally last January, resulting in a local surge of outrage that lead to rioting on the streets. This civil unrest was also well-documented on YouTube (s GOOG) and other sites, and lead to the trial receiving a change of venue to downtown Los Angeles.
Of the options available to the jury trying Mehserle, involuntary manslaughter was the least severe sentence possible without actually acquitting him. This means that today’s verdict has many, to paraphrase the Kaiser Chiefs, predicting a riot. Via the Sacramento Bee comes the below livestream of Sacramento station Fox40’s coverage of reaction to the decision.
The Grant incident was an early and local example of the power video can have in a politically unstable situation, later followed by Iranian martyr figure Neda Agha Soltan, whose on-camera death had a global and profound impact on the 2009 Iranian uprising. So later tonight, appropriately enough given how this story began, video evidence of how Oakland chooses to deal with the verdict will undoubtedly be uploaded to YouTube.
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