Berkeley Protests End in Tear Gas, Arrests

ErinBaldassari/KeithBurbank (BCN)
Sunday December 07, 2014 - 01:02:00 AM

A standoff with police and protesters in Berkeley Saturday evening continued with police firing teargas and smoke at protesters to disperse them, police said.  

Berkeley police officer Jennifer Coats said the group is a smaller splinter group from the protests, and members of that splinter group are being violent. Members are throwing rocks and bricks at officers, Coats said.  

Officers have given several orders for the crowd to disperse, but without effect, forcing officers to use the tear gas. Two officers have reported being injured in the protests, with one officer requiring treatment at a hospital for a shoulder injury.  

A police van has been vandalized.  

As of about 11 p.m., protesters were marching in the vicinity of 66th Street and Telegraph Avenue. 

The protests in Berkeley began peacefully around 5 p.m. as roughly 400 people marched down Shattuck Avenue towards downtown Berkeley.  

The group turned violent in the area of University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, with some people smashing windows and vandalizing businesses, Coats said. 

Some of the demonstrators fought and argued with the vandals, putting themselves in front of store windows, according to accounts and photos on Twitter. 

Coats said at least one officer sustained minor injuries after demonstrators threw rocks and other projectiles at police. Berkeley police Officer Byron White said on Twitter that the demonstrators also released gas into the crowd.  

"So far, protesters have thrown sandbags, pipes, bricks, sideview mirrors, and smoke grenades at officers," White said on Twitter at 9:39 p.m. 

Multiple reports on Twitter showed pictures of windows broken at the Trader Joe's grocery store on University Avenue along with produce crates strewn in the street and wine bottles smashed on the ground. 

There were also reports on Twitter of protesters marching near the University Avenue entrance to Interstate Highway 80 in an effort to breach the freeway. A California Highway Patrol officer said protesters did not make it onto the freeway and only caused temporary delays. 

The downtown and North Berkeley BART stations were both shut down due to the protests but were open as of 11:15 p.m. BART officials said there are no delays in the system. 

After shutting down the BART station, protesters were eventually blocked in by police at the intersection of Durant and Telegraph avenues, according to Twitter accounts.  

The protesters refused to leave and police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, which police had declared an unlawful assembly.  

Photos and accounts on Twitter showed garbage cans pulled out into the street and set on fire on Telegraph Avenue.  

The demonstration started around 5 p.m. in response to a New York grand jury's decision on Wednesday to not indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man.  

The protest is one of dozens that have taken place across the Bay Area and the country in the past two weeks, including protests Saturday afternoon in Oakland and San Francisco, against police brutality.  

The demonstrations in Oakland were very peaceful and police said they did not even respond to the crowd, which moved through businesses in the retail corridors of the Rockridge neighborhood.  

An Oakland police watch commander said there were no reports of arrests Friday night after demonstrations shut down Interstate Highway 880 and the West Oakland BART station before returning to downtown Oakland, where it dissipated.  

In San Francisco, demonstrators marched down Market Street and staged a "die-in" at Powell Street, according to accounts and photos on Twitter. Eventually, police arrested protesters on Market Street, but Officer Gordon Shyy said he would not be able to say how many people were arrested until Monday. 

San Francisco police responded to a report of a person who threw a large firecracker near a construction site in the unit block of Fifth Street during the demonstrations, Shyy said. 

The firecracker detonated but no one was injured, Shyy said. 

Police stopped the suspect vehicle, where officers found a second firecracker. Shyy said the department's bomb squad responded and handled the explosive at the scene.