Massive crowds in Berkeley on Halloween draw police response

Timothy Dawson/Staff

Police responded to various incidents related to massive gatherings in the city Saturday night as thousands of partygoers converged on Southside to celebrate Halloween and the football game earlier that day.

The crowd swelled to between 3,000 and 5,000 people at its peak. Police made three arrests in connection with at least one reported assault and responded to various calls related to the gathering, according to Lt. Andrew Rateaver, watch commander for Berkeley Police Department.

People began congregating in the area around Channing Way and Piedmont Avenue about midnight and moved toward the Telegraph commercial district as the night went on. Police confirmed one case of property damage on Channing Way — a car with a smashed windshield — although Rateaver said it is still unclear when the damage occurred. There were also reports of glass bottles being thrown in the streets and objects being thrown at police cars.

“There were a lot of people, and some of those people chose to act unlawfully,” Rateaver said. “Overall, that was a small portion of the people, and certainly not the entire group.”

Karina Redding, a campus junior and member of the Greek system, said she spent about an hour sitting near Channing Circle with a friend, watching the crowd.

“It was very uncontrolled, and it felt unsafe at points,” Redding said. “It also felt like all people who I normally see — all of the people who normally go out, all of my friends — were gone. It seemed like a lot of outsiders were coming into Berkeley, and they were the only ones there.”

She added that she believes what happened Saturday was entirely out of the Greek system’s control. She noted that by the time she went out — about 11 p.m. — many parties had been shut down or had stopped letting people in, which resulted in people gathering outside.

The department issued no unlawful gathering declarations, Rateaver said. UCPD and Berkeley Fire Department also responded to incidents related to the gathering.

Although some students and residents alleged on social media that police were using tear gas on the crowd, no tear gas or other similar crowd-control methods were used.

Rateaver said 33 BPD officers responded to incidents related to the crowds, which, he said, is “an awful lot of officers to devote to one thing” in a time of constrained resources for the department.

Police responded to calls about injuries and reports that people in the crowd had weapons, but officers found no evidence to support these claims.

“This particular gathering was a big drain,” Rateaver said. “It was actually a big danger to the city of Berkeley and for people with unpreventable emergencies.”

Michelle Pitcher is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MichellePitcher.