Police fire tear gas at hundreds of protesters, demonstration disperses at about 3 a.m.

Protesters gathered Saturday evening to protest the recent grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths as well as the students who went missing in Ayotzinapa. Later in the night after reports of looting and broken windows, police intervened with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Alvin Wu/Staff
Protesters gathered Saturday evening to protest the recent grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths as well as the students who went missing in Ayotzinapa. Later in the night after reports of looting and broken windows, police intervened with tear gas and rubber bullets.

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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 an apparent 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.

Yitz Deng, a UC Berkeley freshman, was hit by a cloud of tear gas while at the protest.

“The feeling was horrible, and after getting out into a side street, I could hear many people groaning, asking for water,” Deng said in an email.

Initially, several officers followed the demonstration by bicycle. About 6 p.m., protesters organized a “die-in” near the Downtown Berkeley BART station. There, protesters read out the names of victims who died from police use of force before holding a moment of silence.

Tensions rose between protesters and police officers after 6 p.m., when the crowd gathered in front of the Berkeley Police and Fire Public Safety Building, chanting slogans such as “hands up, don’t shoot.” About 100 police officers eventually formed barricades. Later, police released smoke bombs into the crowd.

“(This protest) is important because our lives as black people — we’re always being devalued in society,” said Kaejon Townsend, a UC Berkeley freshman at the protest who also participated in the Thursday occupation at the Golden Bear Cafe against police violence.

Throughout the night, police in riot gear formed multiple lines, blocking several intersections as protesters traveled away from the police building and around the Downtown area before going up to Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue. Along the way, protesters damaged property that included windows at Radio Shack and Wells Fargo and crates outside Trader Joe’s. An officer required hospital treatment for a dislocated shoulder after demonstrators threw bricks, rocks and other objects at police, according to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats. Police vehicles were allegedly vandalized.

According to Coats, a preliminary count at the end of the night showed that five adults and one juvenile were arrested. Berkeley police received assistance from more than a hundred officers from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, BART police and Oakland, Pleasanton, Hayward and Alameda police departments.

Two male protesters required medical attention, but paramedics had difficulties reaching them. Marcel Davis, a 22-year-old Berkeley homeless man, had a seizure and said police hit him with a baton.

As of 9:30 p.m., more than 100 police officers blocked the intersection of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue. The crowd of protesters had swelled to about 200 and included many UC Berkeley students. Police proceeded to push protesters back on Telegraph and Durant avenues, during which demonstrators chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, police state has got to go.” Police declared the assembly unlawful and later surged at the crowd.

“One person got thrown down to the ground (by police),” said Spencer Scobie, a UC Berkeley junior who was standing near the police line. “Police pushed people back with batons.”

After police deployed a first round of tear gas, the protesters were split into roughly three groups. One group of about 150 protesters walked to Oakland and then marched to 66th Street and Shattuck Avenue after being pushed south by officers.

The other groups, surrounded by police, remained between Channing Way and Haste Street. Some protesters were holding what appeared to be firecrackers, and the crowd chanted slogans such as “black lives matter.” About 1 a.m., as police deployed several more rounds of gas, about 250 protesters were pushed back toward Oakland before heading Downtown. An hour later, they doubled back toward campus.

By 3 a.m., the crowd of protesters had largely dispersed, with only about 15 people near the corner of Telegraph and Durant avenues.

Senior staff writers Sophie Ho and Katy Abbott and staff writers Chloee Weiner and G. Haley Massara contributed to this report.

Contact Jessie Lau and Melissa Wen at [email protected].

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  • Jan Lundberg

    The problem is obvious; not enough protesters. Meanwhile, read The Origins of the Police (not the rock band) at http://worxintheory.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/origins-of-the-police/

  • jimhale

    Destruction of property and peaceful protest are incompatible. The minute vandals are known to be in the crowd of demonstrators, it is time for the demonstrators to disperse – lest they become guilty of harboring criminals. Destruction of property changes a demonstration into a riot – and invites/demands
    a police response.

  • John Winthrop

    We need some Roof Koreans.

  • Prosper

    I come back from a SOCAL getaway to witness this…
    shattered windows, injured friends, broken community.

    A couple of police officers make bad decisions. A couple of protesters make bad decisions. A couple of humans make bad decisions. This is why I hate the masses…all it takes is a couple of rotten apples to spoil the collective. All it takes are a couple bad calls to make us all bicker amongst one another. It hurts the heart just thinking about how messed up we are as an “intelligent” species.

  • California Defender

    What an ungrateful city.

    We should declare Berkeley a “No Police Zone” as a social experiment.

    I’d bet within 24 hours they’d be on their knees begging for the police to come back.

  • Angela C

    BS!! I watched it live last night online while the protesters trashed and vandalized down town Berkely!! The cops DID NOTHING!! They came in arrested one person and left and then the rest proceed to vandalize and loot more stores and set trash cans on fire. This was between midnight and 2 am this morning. Then you heard sirens for a long time BUT NO POLICE EVER CAME!! They had to have been ordered to stand down!! They did NOT protect any of these businesses!!

  • GheezNotAgain

    To the people yelling “FTP”….it’s obvious that you are not Berkeley students….and you are not helping the cause….your ability to sell a message is nullified by your ignorance..

    • California Defender

      Nobody at Berkeley is selling a message to anyone. Please understand that the rest of California, and the country, rarely cast even a casual glance at Berkeley.

      At best, you get a few seconds on the news as we shake our collective heads in disbelief of your selfish radicalism while uttering a few words of pity for a once great university that is now so low.

  • BA Baracus

    Let’s ship these white guilt libtards to the hood for a month and see how well they adapt and assimilate. No calling 911 but please continue to film for posterity sake.

    • John Carter

      I’m not sensing much of a “protect and defend” vibe here. Militarized much?

  • comeon2013

    These protesters were unlawfully assembling without a permit, destroying public property (yes, there were broken windows at some of the mom and pop shops on Telegraph Ave.), harassing the police and yet still expected there to be no response? Ridiculous.

  • M2000

    So, from the horse’s mouth they (the Leftist protesters) would deny they looted their own stores even when they did.

  • Willliam Wallace

    Dean “Dum Bass” Mack, spams through his butt!

  • Good, that protest outside my apartment was getting noisy

    • Willliam Wallace

      What you heard was one constitution being shredded by the police and flushed down the toilet.

      Where will you look for it when you really need it?

      It’s too late for YOU , SUCKER! The Corporate Government owns your remaining testicle!

    • ImAReasonableManGetOffMyCase

      you’ve been tagged as “the incessantly self-centered douche.”

      I genuinely hope that one day you might be able to comprehend why certain people NEED to protest.

      Otherwise, please continue to bury your head in the sand. No one is missing you on the outside…

  • Cal Alum

    I get the anger. I am in agreement with protesting this decision. But I am not in agreement of vandalizing to state your cause. It shifts the focus from the actual topic of Michael Brown to violent protestors. If you are going to vandalize property then the police are in the right to arrest you as they would if there were no protests occurring. Be the smart students that we know you are at Cal!

    • WeAreMany

      The police started it. They violently attack people who are completely peaceful, and inevitably some become enraged and act out (if they were really protesters in the first place). This is exactly why they do it. Police start the violence then turn around and claim that they protesters started it. There was no justification whatsoever for the way police acted last night. Wake up.

      • Cal Alum

        I’m awake! Then protestors should defend themselves against the police and not vandalize property that has nothing to do with the protest. I think you need to wake up!

        • Jeff Schauer

          Also worth pointing out that it was a very small number of people involved in vandalism. Tarring the rest of the protestors with that brush–when they have no control over the actions of this handful of people–does a disservice to their courage and commitment.

          • DNAC101

            Also, worth pointing out that it only takes a very small number of people to ruin any event. Maybe they should have gotten everyone to pledge no violence prior to the protest. Not to say that it would have stopped everyone. Yet, it would have shown that you guys had a commitment to non-violence and non-vandalism.

          • Gene Nelson

            I think they have a commitment to non-violence, but the anarchists have no desire to listen to the peaceful protesters. The peaceful guy who tried to stop the anarchists at Radio Shack was smashed with a hammer to his head, and then they stole his bike. They are not going to listen — they just want to loot and pillage.

          • bsu42

            Also worth pointing out that a very small number of police officers ever end up being involved in a situation where someone dies. Tarring the rest of the officers–when they have no control over the actions of the other 500,000 cops in the United States–does a disservice to their courage and commitment.

            I guess it’s just a matter of perspective, eh?

          • Jeff Schauer

            But the institution as a whole is one that encourages violence…violence against certain communities in certain cities, and violence in certain situations, like the protests in Berkeley. The culture of policing has serious problems, and even if not many officers end up killing people, many of them are involved in physical or structural violence against people.

          • bsu42

            Maybe we should take away their guns and nightsticks and just ask everyone in the country to be nice to each other and never commit crimes. Then there would never be any police violence, right? How do *you* think the police should respond to windows getting broken, tagging on private property, and sandbags, bottles, and rocks being thrown at the cops?

          • Jeff Schauer

            Who suggested we take away their guns and nightsticks? Maybe they should just not be allowed to use them indiscriminately on people exercising constitutionally-protected rights? Maybe they should apprehend the people who are breaking windows instead of the people protesting in the street?

          • bsu42

            You are the one who said, “The culture of policing has serious problems… many of [the officers] are involved in physical or structural violence against the people.” You make it sound like random and innocent people are getting attacked by the police for no reason on a regular basis. Regarding your point of just arresting the people who are breaking the windows, sure that makes sense, but I have a feeling it’s not that easy. “Excuse me! Mr Vandal, please come over here so I can arrest you. If a bunch of us run into the crowd after you, you are probably going to get away and everyone else will be mad at us for pushing them so we could get thru.” BTW, it’s not a constitutionally protected right to remain somewhere when the cops tell you to leave.

          • Jeff Schauer

            Right, and it does have serious problems. There are too many examples of what amount to extrajudicial murders by the police, and if you look at the way in which police around the country have handled protest, from the ’60s onwards, but intensifying in the past several years, it’s clearly problematic.
            Take a look at the videos of the police in Berkeley the other night. They are not chasing vandals through the crowd. There are no vandals in sight. There are student protesters who are caught between two police lines, deliberately trapped. The police are then jabbing at them with batons and using tear gas on them. In some cases their smirks are actually visible. That’s disproportionate and counterproductive. “Peace officers” shouldn’t be attacking citizens.

          • bsu42

            “too many examples of what amount to extrajudicial murders by police”? You aren’t a conspiracy theorist, are you? Just because you hear something on TV doesn’t mean it’s true.

            I’ve seen the videos (like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcss6vVsN_I). If this is such a peaceful protest, why didn’t the other protesters tell them to stop? Maybe they could have changed their chant to tell the vandals to stop. Where’s the outrage for such needless and reckless destruction of property? Now where’s the passion for sticking up for what’s right?

            In the other videos (like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVmyMKtmwU4) I saw a bunch of kids who were mostly determined to get as close to the police line to instigate and videotape the cops. Heaven forbid the kids actually turn off their phones and walk away like they are being told to do. Yes there was a moment of being surrounded by two lines, but it looks like got that worked out. At the end of the video, you can what happens when the tear gas gets fired. They actually started leaving. Imagine that.

          • Jeff Schauer

            You can read frighteningly regular about unarmed citizens being killed by the police. How on earth does pointing that out make a person a conspiracy theorist?
            It is not the responsibility of other protestors to stop people committing illegal activities. that’s for the police, and for the police to take it upon themselves to then target those people who are simply protesting, and commit acts of violence against them is wrong. That’s collective punishment, more often associated with the behavior of colonial regimes than democratic governments.
            In some of those videos the students are getting close to the police because the police are closing in on them from two sides. You can hear students trying to reason with the police. Why should they halt an act of civil disobedience that isn’t harming anyone? How is beating people and tear-gassing them a reasonable response to people standing in a street?

          • bsu42

            Colonial regimes? My goodness, if you really think the United States of America is like a colonial regime and the police are an occupying force trying to overtake and exploit the civilian population, I don’t know what to say to that. Maybe you got a little emotional with that last post, because the hyperbole is a little heavy. Nobody got “beat”, and the tear gas was in response to the people standing in the street after they were told to leave and after there had already been destruction of property, looting, and things being thrown at the cops. You left that last part out, so yes, I think the tear gas was a reasonable response under those circumstances.

            IF there wasn’t any vandalism, and IF there wasn’t any looting, and IF nobody was throwing stuff at the cops, then I bet the cops would have let them peacefully protest as long as they wanted.

          • John Carter

            People did get beat. Your denial of it really ends any possibility of conversation.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            No, police officers shouldn’t be attacking citizens. Citizens shouldn’t be blocking traffic in the streets and starting bonfires either, let alone smashing windows and looting stores. Wrong actions committed by cops don’t justify or excuse wrong actions committed by citizens.

          • Gene Nelson

            Like the smirks on the vandals breaking windows and smashing cars?

          • John Carter

            When police round up and detain crowds and then tear gas them, there is opportunity for innocents to get harmed. But I get that there are cops on here concerned about their rights and safety. And just as the police have rights and concerns, so does everyone else. The difference is the police can and sometimes do kill people, often harm them with stuff like tear gas and they just walk away.

          • Gene Nelson

            They can’t arrest the anarchists because they hide among you and other peaceful protestors. You are enablers. Stay home and those vandals will be easy to catch.

          • comeon2013

            You;re getting caught up in rhetoric and ideology. The fact is that the protestors were assembling without a permit which is illegal, breaking windows of private businesses which constitutes a riot, harassing the police, etc. What did you expect from the police? Smiles and hugs? Get real, buddy.

          • Gene Nelson

            And the protests encourage the anarchists’ violence. The looters and vandals hide among the peaceful protesters. You’ve made your point with two nights. You failed miserably with the strategy of yelling “PEACEFUL PROTESTS” at the vandals. Now stay home tonite and then the police will easily be able to identify and catch the anarchists. If you continue the protests, you do so knowing that you are a cover for vandals and looters.

          • Bob Bell

            The true protestors do have some degree of control over the vandals – when you see vandalism, impede the perpetrator’s egress if you can safely do so, take their picture and point them out to the police. Think of it as analagous to fans pointing out the one jerk in the bleachers who is throwing stuff on the field. Do not tolerate lawless behavior. That’s the best way to avoid being lumped in with the vandals. Do nothing and you are complicit by your inaction.

      • It wasnt the police who went and smashed windows on university avenue and looted….

        • WeAreMany

          No, they just threw one tear gas cannister after another, plus shot bean bag rounds and flash bangs into a crowd that was standing peacefully in the street. There absolutely was not any property destruction until after the cops violently assaulted a peaceful group for hours. I’m not saying it’s right, but I can certainly understand why people might be angry about such unprovoked, violent treatment. The first amendment in this country is dead.

  • Dean Mack

    if they were truly committed, wouldn’t they burn down Berkeley and UC ? that would give real meaning to their cause, right ?

    • DNAC101

      Some of my peers at Cal have misguided ways of trying to redress their issues. Blame it on the immaturity and stupidity of students who were at the top of their high school classes, ranked high on college entrance examines, applied and got into a highly selective school. Maybe the SAT should Include a new section on life skills and critical thinking in real life scenarios. I bet less than half of those who did well on the reading, writing and math would do well on the life skills section of the test.

      I remember seeing a woman who was at the protest over the tuition hikes, who said F–k Jerry Brown as she spoke in anger. This same woman in 2012 debated prop 30 and suggested that students vote for a bill that she admitted was not a cure-all for the inevitability of tuition hikes, all because she didn’t want to have to pay more starting with the fall 2013 semester.

      So, she was willing to promote a one-year guaranteed reprieve from tuition hikes in exchange for a seven-year tax on the top upper income bracket in California.

      Now see her life skills score would have ruled her out as a potential Cal student.

      • Clayton J Sodergren

        Your post is poorly thought out and contradictory. Of course that woman didn’t want to pay more money for her public education. Promoting one year’s reprieve from tuition hikes by taxing the rich is in the exact same line of thinking, and by the way, it’s a good idea.

        I think you could do with some more empathy and critical thinking skills yourself–skills that I would certainly deem “life skills.”

        • DNAC101

          Well, here is where we depart. To assume that taxing the rich more is a good thing when they already pay the majority of taxes in the state of California shows you have not done the economic research. You just base things on “feel-good thinking” and not reality. As It is quite easy to convince one’s self that dipping into other people’s pocket (by force) to benefit yourself is good policy.

          Lets though, examine this a bit more.

          Since the only thing students who voted for and those who voted against prop 30 got out of it when it passed was a one-year reprieve from a tuition increase out of a seven-year tax on the rich. Houston, we have a problem.

          Basically, students who supported the proposition were bamboozled by the government. Pimped even! A victim of high-pressure sales tactics.

          However, I have compassion for the people forced to pay the seven-year tax by mob rule voting. I have compassion for all the people who voted against prop 30 and are forced to deal with the outcome from people who did not do their due diligence and educate themselves fully on what they were voting on. So I have, compassion for them. Yet, i’m guessing your narrow idea of compassion was not extended to them.

  • Juan Viche

    US DOJ now aware of intimidation and threats by Christina Pietz and Dr. Sarrazin,. against Paul Mitchell | Let them/others know we are aware
    http://tekgnosis.typepad.com/tekgnosis/2014/12/us-doj-now-aware-of-intimidation-and-threats-by-christina-pietz-and-dr-sarrazin-against-paul-mitchel.html