Demonstrators hold ‘die-ins,’ continue to march on 5th day of protests

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Chen Gong/Staff

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Various demonstrations occurred Wednesday in response to recent grand jury decisions regarding police brutality and the deaths of unarmed black men. The demonstrations marked the fifth consecutive day of protests in Berkeley.

UC Berkeley School of Law students held a “die-in” on the steps of Boalt Hall on Wednesday at 12:40 p.m. More than 200 students, faculty members and staff attended the event. Other demonstrations included a walkout and march to the Campanile organized by Berkeley High School students and an event organized by the activist group BAMN.

“The goal behind the die-in is to raise awareness of issues,” said Salah Hawkins, a UC Berkeley law student who participated in the event. “Now we have a platform to address them and to address the system.”

About 40 students lay on the ground for 15 and a half minutes — 11 minutes to represent the number of times Eric Garner said, “I can’t breathe,” and four and a half minutes to represent the number of hours Michael Brown’s body allegedly remained on the ground after his shooting by a police officer. Nonparticipating students watched nearby.

“It allows an opportunity for staff and students to stop everything they are doing and to reflect on what is happening nationwide,” said Shanita Farris, another UC Berkeley law student and participant. “It is a small visual of what is happening nationwide.”

Hundreds of Berkeley High School students marched from the high school’s campus at 2:30 p.m. and congregated at Old City Hall. From there, the group marched to the Campanile, where students held a “die-in” to honor Michael Brown.

Around 7:30 p.m., about 40 protesters moved from Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue to Wheeler Hall. The group was initially unable to gain access to the auditorium. After reorganizing and increasing their numbers to about 100, the protesters moved back to Wheeler Hall and entered Wheeler Auditorium.

About 50 protesters disrupted a talk inside the auditorium that featured Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal. When the protesters reached the stage, Thiel was ushered off stage by his handlers.

“The structure of our events is meant to provide our speakers a chance to share their viewpoints, not to have them silenced,” read a statement from the Berkeley Forum, the group that hosted the talk with Thiel.

From the auditorium, protesters marched to student residence halls. Some protesters entered the lobby of Ida Sproul Hall in Unit 3 and left peacefully. From there, protesters marched to Shattuck Avenue and eventually to Oakland via Telegraph Avenue. The group fluctuated in numbers throughout the night but ranged from 30 to 100 protesters.

Two officers followed the protest on motorcycles when the group reached the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and 55th Street. Protesters were met by about 15 officers in riot gear at 36th Street and Telegraph Avenue in Oakland.

“The demonstration while in Berkeley was peaceful,” said Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats in an email. She said no arrests were made.

Contact Sierra Stalcup at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SierraStalcup.