March in Berkeley leads to confrontation on Oakland highway, looting in Emeryville

Scott Morris (BCN)
Wednesday December 10, 2014 - 06:02:00 PM

A protest march through three East Bay cities devolved into a burglary and robbery spree in Emeryville Tuesday night after Berkeley police arrested six people and the California Highway Patrol arrested 13 people blocking a highway in Oakland, law enforcement officials said today. 

CHP officers used less-lethal munitions to clear crowds who blocked state Highway 24 after crossing into Oakland at about 9:30 p.m. The CHP has not confirmed what munitions were used but numerous reports indicated the use of pepper spray, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds on crowds of protesters and journalists. 

Some protesters on the highway hurled rocks, incendiary devices and other projectiles at officers, CHP officials said. 

After marching through Oakland, protesters went up San Pablo Avenue into Emeryville, where police said businesses including a Pak N Save, 7-Eleven and CVS were vandalized and looted. Emeryville police made no arrests. 

The protests are the latest in weeks of near-daily protests nationwide over police killings of unarmed black men, including the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of Eric Garner in New York from a police chokehold. 

Berkeley's march Tuesday was the fourth in as many days. Protests Saturday quickly grew out of hand, with police deploying tear gas early in the evening and protesters hurling objects at officers. 

On Monday, the CHP arrested more than 150 demonstrators after they blocked Interstate Highway 80 in Emeryville. 

Tuesday's march began peacefully in Berkeley. Protesters had initially planned to attend a Berkeley City Council meeting scheduled for that evening but the meeting was canceled due to the large anticipated crowds. The protesters then gathered outside of Berkeley City Hall, where they were joined by City Councilmen Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin, who briefly addressed the crowd. While in Berkeley, six protesters were arrested, according to the CHP. Protesters then marched into Oakland via Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Telegraph Avenue, taking over Highway 24 near the MacArthur BART station for 23 minutes at 9:17 p.m. CHP officials said that protesters were hurling rocks, incendiary devices and other projectiles at officers and the officers responded with the less-lethal munitions. The majority of the group on the highway dispersed, but CHP officials said "several aggressive protesters" remained on the freeway. Thirteen people were arrested on suspicion of charges including obstruction, creating a public nuisance and battery on a peace officer, CHP officials said. "The motoring public can expect the CHP to use whatever force necessary to clear the roadway and keep people safe," CHP Golden Gate Division Assistant Chief Ernie Sanchez said in a statement. "Our fear, and what we are trying to prevent, is someone getting seriously injured or killed by choosing to march onto the freeway." 

The protests moved into downtown Oakland, then west and up San Pablo Avenue into Emeryville. Police estimated there were about 300 demonstrators marching into Emeryville at about 11:30 p.m. when about 100 rushed the Pak N Save at 3889 San Pablo Ave., broke windows and looted the store. 

Between 30 and 40 people stole liquor bottles, cash from the register and a coin dispenser. Police tried to stop them but they rejoined the crowd, continuing north on San Pablo Avenue. 

Protesters also smashed windows at the nearby 7-Eleven, threatening the clerk with chunks of concrete and bottles, Emeryville police spokesman Brian Head said. Cartons of cigarettes and other items were stolen from the store. 

The protesters threw "softball-sized" chunks of concrete and beer bottles at officers who moved in to stop them, Head said. 

Further up San Pablo, the Bank of America had all of its windows smashed but it appears that protesters did not enter the bank. A CVS store's windows were smashed and the vandals entered the store, stealing more liquor bottles and other items, Head said. 

The protesters then marched back to Oakland on 47th Street, smashing parked car windows along the way. Mutual aid officers advanced on the protesters, who mostly dispersed, Head said. 

Emeryville police were not injured and made no arrests during the demonstrations. 

Head said investigators are looking at video surveillance footage in the area to identify any possible suspects. They are investigating the incidents at the Pak N Save and the CVS as burglaries and the 7-Eleven as a robbery. 

Surveillance footage may be released to the public later today, Head said. 

Oakland police reported few problems as the protesters moved through that city, saying in a statement today that only one window was broken and scattered trash containers were set on fire.