Three Nights Of Protests And Aggressive Policing In Berkeley, CA

Above:  Protesters in Berkeley on Monday night heading toward the police station chanting “peaceful protest!” From twitter by Micah Lee @micahflee.

Update: Berkeleyside has a report on the fourth night of protest. Crowds ranged from a few hundred to a thousand. They began at the city council which cancelled its meeting. Then went to the police station to protest their violence. The protesters went through the streets at a rapid pace, one reporter said it was almost a jog. Some of the protesters did breech the freeway again but sounds like a small group. Police stayed more in tbe background on the fourth night. This is being written based on reports that ended at 9:15 pm.

People Participating in Berkeley Protest say they Experienced a ‘Police Riot’

The corporate media has described protesters in Berkeley destroying property and being violent, but reports from protesters describe it as a police riot. Police have repeatedly trapped protesters in kettles and made mass arrests, used billy clubs aggressively to attack protesters and used smoke bombs and tear gas. People participating describe the event as an organized protest being turned into confused havoc as a result of the ‘police riot.’ Protesters have been shutting down roadways and highways.

The aggressive policing is not stopping the protests. On the third night of protests highways were shutdown and people laid down in front of an Amtrak train; once again there was police kettling and more than 100 were arrested. Police need to learn that their tactics can either escalate the situation causing violence and property damage or they can de-escalate the situation by allowing people to exercise their First Amendment rights.

The Daily Californian described Saturday night’s protests writing: “Explosions and screams erupted across Berkeley as more than 100 police officers deployed tear gas on protesters Saturday night and some protesters vandalized shops and blocked traffic in an approximately 10-hour-long demonstration against recent grand jury decisions on police killings of mostly unarmed black men and youth.   “Approximately 40 demonstrators began the march peacefully about 5 p.m., growing into a crowd that at its peak contained about 1,000 participants. Demonstrators protested the decisions made by grand juries not to indict the police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown, a black man shot by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, who died after a New York officer put him in a chokehold. Protesters also denounced the death of Kayla Moore, a transgender woman who died in police custody in Berkeley last year, and the alleged abduction of 43 students by police in Mexico.   “’I’m here because it’s not possible for me to sit down while my people are killed,’ said Alanna Williams, a black freshman at Mills College in Oakland who was at the protest. ‘It seems like no one … understands what it’s like. Nobody gets why I’m angry all the time. I cried when I heard that (the officer who shot Michael Brown) wasn’t indicted. It made me feel unsafe.’”   “The crowd originally consisted largely of community members from Berkeley and surrounding cities, but it was joined by a rush of UC Berkeley students later in the night, as the interactions between police and demonstrators escalated in violence.   “Police charged toward protesters about 10:30 p.m. at the intersection of Telegraph and Durant avenues after issuing multiple dispersal orders. Officers deployed tear gas, causing protesters to run south down Telegraph Avenue — some screaming and pushing one another. Multiple rounds of tear gas were released about 1 a.m., and some protesters found what appeared to be rubber bullets on the ground. One man who had a wound on his back said he was hit by one.”    The Daily Kos published an article entitled Berkeley Witnesses a Police Riot made up of a long series of tweets showing what happened and how police actions escalated protests. The article says “The action began placidly enough, protesters marching down Telegraph towards Oakland, turning west to Shattuck Ave. and up to downtown Berkeley and its BART station. First, a die-in at the BART plaza…

…then most of the crowd took off to the Berkeley Police Station, just two blocks west on Martin Luther King (MLK) Drive.

The article then describes how things turned: “That was when the police chose to be, depending on your point of view, either complete idiots or vengeful agents of state violence. Using a massive show of force they kettled the protesters (one tweet said there were 1000 protesters in front of the police station, and another said 500 cops), giving them no place to continue marching. Then they began unleashing smoke bombs.”

Berkeley Copwatch tweets describe: “Berkeley police pushing crowd north on MLK. “cops going nuts.” using pepper spray, tear gas, batons”; and how police were putting on gas masks getting ready to use tear gas against the protesters.

The article goes on to describe how “police intent on doing whatever they could to antagonize everyone by cutting them off march routes and using intimidation tactics. Marchers were forced into side streets and ultimately surrounded on all sides by militarized goons somewhere in the neighborhood of Acton & Hearst. At being so surrounded, they half tore down a fence and escaped through and over it back southward to University Ave.”

The night wore on and things really broke out at Bankcroft and Telegraph roads where they article reports “all hell broke loose. Confrontations with tear gas, flash bangs, kettling, and baton swinging went on for hours and hours, into the morning until at least 2:00 AM.”

Below are more highlights from the Daily Kos article.