Berkeley Police Department officers threw smoke bombs, deployed tear gas and formed barricades on major Downtown Berkeley streets Saturday night as individuals among a demonstration against recent grand jury decisions shattered shop windows and blocked traffic.
The demonstrators — forming a crowd that at its peak contained approximately 1,000 participants — began their initially peaceful march at about 5 p.m. on campus at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue. They protested the decisions 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.
They 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.
Initially, a few officers followed the demonstrators on bicycles. But a confrontation between protesters and police officers began shortly after the crowd gathered in front of the Berkeley Police Department at around 6 p.m., chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” and “no justice, no peace.” Others chanted “Who killed Kayla Moore? Berkeley PD.” Eventually, more than a hundred police officers formed barricades.
Protesters broke several shop windows and vandalized stores along University Avenue, Trader Joe’s, Wells Fargo and Radio Shack. One officer suffered minor injuries after people in the crowd threw rocks and other objects at police, according to BPD spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats.
Earlier in the afternoon, several businesses, including Urban Outfitters and American Apparel, boarded up their windows in preparation for the march.
As of 7:45 p.m., police had formed another barricade on Delaware Street and San Pablo Avenue. The protesters as of about 8 p.m. were blocking traffic on University Avenue and Acton Street.
As of 9:30 p.m., more than 100 police officers from Berkeley and Oakland police departments blocked the intersection of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue. The crowd of protesters had swelled to about 200 and included UC Berkeley students.
Police proceeded to push protesters back on Telegraph and Durant avenues, to which protestors chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, police state has got to go.” Police later surged at the crowd and began putting on gas masks.
About 10:30 p.m., police deployed tear gas. More than 100 protesters were dispersed along Telegraph Avenue, and others called to regroup at People’s Park.
According to an update from Coats about 11 p.m., a small group from the original demonstration continued to march around Telegraph Avenue and 66th Street, throwing rocks, bricks and other objects at officers. The police issued multiple dispersal orders. Two officers have been injured — one of whom required treatment at a hospital — and a police van has allegedly been vandalized.
Berkeley police received support from more than a hundred officers from the Oakland, Pleasanton, Hayward and Alameda police departments, in addition to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol and BART Police Department, according to Coats.
At about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, police were pushing about 100 protestors south on Telegraph Avenue. As of approximately an hour before, police did not yet have a count of the total number of arrests or injuries.
Staff writer Jessie Lau contributed to this report.