City, local business repair damages caused by small contingent of Berkeley protesters

Benjamin Shenouda/Staff

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In the midst of ongoing protests in Berkeley, law enforcement agencies and local businesses are in the process of repairing damages from the weekend.

On Saturday and Sunday, a small group of protesters vandalized storefronts, banks and law enforcement vehicles. Many of those protesting the grand jury decisions not to indict police officers involved in the deaths of unarmed black men were nonviolent and not destructive.

There were no reported cases of vandalism Monday, the third day of protests, when hundreds of demonstrators blocked traffic on interstates 80 and 580 in Berkeley.

Over the course of the weekend, some protesters damaged Berkeley Police Department and California Highway Patrol vehicles, slashing their tires and shattering their windows, according to BPD officer Byron White and CHP Sergeant Diana McDermott.

According to White, at least three BPD vehicles were damaged Saturday night — the first night of the protests. With the exception of one vehicle, damaged BPD vehicles are still in use. Five CHP patrol cars sustained broken windows and major dents during Sunday night’s protest, McDermott said.

Several storefronts including Trader Joe’s, RadioShack, the Student Store and CREAM were also damaged. Additionally, a few protesters vandalized Wells Fargo and Chase banks as well as their ATMs.

City walls were vandalized with graffiti, and by the end of Sunday night, trash littered the streets of Downtown Berkeley. The Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center was also vandalized during protests Sunday night.

Five individuals connected to the protest were arrested Sunday — the night that saw the most destruction. One of those individuals was arrested on suspicion of damaging Trader Joe’s on Saturday, according to a statement by BPD spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats.

Over the course of Sunday night, the city’s Public Works Department began the process of cleaning by helping to secure the stores that had been vandalized. Several businesses, including RadioShack, boarded their broken windows with plywood and are planning to replace the windows entirely in the coming days.

Peter Nilson, the store director of the Student Store, said the broken window has not affected business. Still, he said, he is disappointed that the damage occurred.

“It’s a really good thing that protests have been going on — they’re important and valid,” Nilson said. “Berkeley has this history of supporting protests and raising issues through nonviolent action, and it’s disappointing that people went against that.”

Before demonstrators gathered early Monday evening, several local businesses began taking preventative measures. Urban Outfitters and many other businesses placed boards over their windows, and some stores closed early.

But White said it is difficult for police to take precautions for future protests, in large part because of a lack of communication between police and protest organizers. He said when there is communication, the police can help demonstrators execute a peaceful protest by rerouting traffic around them.

“We constantly evaluate each situation, and we really just have to respond to what’s in front of us,” White said. “We’re looking forward to more peaceful protests, and we’re looking forward to leaders contacting so we can assist them in peaceful assembly.”

Contact Sonja Hutson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson.