Day Four: Berkeley protesters breach freeway again

Protesters against police brutality march down Center Street, toward the police station in Berkeley, on Tuesday, December 9, 2014. Tuesday was the fourth night in a row that demonstrators took to the streets in Berkeley to protest the recent decisions by grand juries in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City to not indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men. Photo: David Yee
Protesters against police brutality marched down Center Street, toward the police station in Berkeley, on Tuesday night. It was the fourth night in a row that demonstrators took to the streets in Berkeley to protest the recent decisions by grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men. Photo: David Yee

See all of Berkeleyside’s Berkeley protest coverage.  Refresh this page for updates to the live blog.

Update, Dec. 10, 4 p.m. The California Highway Patrol said it had to use force against demonstrators in Oakland late Tuesday night after a mostly peaceful protest for a short time took a violent turn. According to the CHP, “For most of the night, the demonstrators remained largely peaceful.”

But, shortly before 9:20 p.m., a large group of people breached a fence and went onto Highway 24 at 40th Street in Oakland, adjacent to the MacArthur BART station just east of Martin Luther King Jr. Way. In many places, officers guarded vehicular freeway access points throughout the night, but some protesters found another way to achieve their goal. The CHP said demonstrators forced drivers on the freeway “to take evasive action” to avoid hitting them.

“After approximately 23 minutes, CHP personnel were able to clear the freeway, however, some of the demonstrators turned violent, hurling rocks, projectiles, and incendiary devices at CHP personnel. Faced with the threat of physical harm, and in order to protect the motoring public stopped on the freeway, CHP personnel employed less than lethal force to subdue the crowd and effect the necessary arrests,” according to the CHP. 


The agency ordered the group to disperse, and most of its members did, according to authorities. Thirteen people who did not leave the area were arrested on various charges, including creating a public nuisance, obstructing free movement of others, and battery on a peace officer. They were taken to Santa Rita Jail and booked without incident.

The CHP said it will not tolerate pedestrians on the freeway because that activity poses a threat to walkers and drivers: “The motoring public can expect the CHP to use whatever force necessary to clear the roadway and keep people safe, said Assistant Chief Ernie Sanchez of the CHP’s Golden Gate Division. ‘Our fear, and what we are trying to prevent, is someone getting seriously injured or killed by choosing to march onto the freeway,’ he said.”

Much of the rest of the night was described as peaceful, as demonstrators marched and sang, played instruments and chanted. Often, when individuals attempted to damage property, other demonstrators stepped in to stop them, and often stopped to clean up the damage.

In some cases this worked and in others it did not; one man reportedly had two teeth knocked out when he tried stop someone from a non-peaceful form of protest. According to Oakland Police Lt. Chris Bolton, three masked men hit the man in the face six times.

Dozens also reportedly looted a Safeway store in Oakland, sending customers running out of the store. A 7-11 in Emeryville also was looted, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.


One reporter was robbed of his camera on 40th Street, and police said a “robbery of a business” also took place as the crowd crossed from Berkeley into Oakland, in addition to someone who was said to be trying to rob marchers of their cellphones. But the majority of the crowd — which was estimated through the night at between 300 and 1,000 people — did not take part in that type of behavior, and was intent on keeping the event peaceful.

The march wrapped up, according to authorities, at about 1 a.m. Wednesday, after working its way through Berkeley, Oakland and Emeryville, and back to Berkeley. According to one attendee, the route covered 7 miles. Long-distance, rapid walking over many hours has characterized each night of demonstrations since Saturday.

Continue reading for Berkeleyside’s live coverage from Tuesday night’s demonstration.

Update, 9:26 p.m. The California Highway Patrol is making dispersal orders and telling the crowd, atop the freeway next to MacArthur BART station, to exit the freeway (Highway 24 north of I-580) or its members will be subject to arrest. At least one helicopter is overhead. We may be back if activities return to Berkeley. Otherwise, safe night to all.

Update, 9:20 p.m. Many of the protestors are still in the street but it appears that at least some have made it up onto the freeway. The group looked like at least a dozen people, with more people joining them by crossing a fence line and going up a hill.


“We’ve got the freeway, we need bodies on the freeway,” one organizer told those who remained below through a megaphone.

Others remain on the surface streets listening to NWA’s song “F-ck da police.”

Update, 9:11 p.m. The march is approaching an underpass where emergency vehicles are located, and many sirens can be heard.

Update, 9:01 p.m. A demonstrator named Scott says: “We have to be reasonable. Not all cops are killers. Some are not. Our enemy is apathy not the police.”

Update, 8:50 p.m. The group is now on Telegraph, and CHP officers are blocking the off-ramp from Highway 24 to Telegraph at Aileen Street in North Oakland. Some are reporting on Twitter that at least one car has stopped in solidarity with the protest.

One person said someone on a bike knocked her phone out of her hand, however.

CHP officers guard Highway 24 ramp. Photo: Tracey Taylor
CHP officers guard Highway 24 ramp. Photo: Tracey Taylor
CHP officers blocking Highway 24. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
CHP officers blocking Highway 24. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Update, 8:26 p.m. The fast-moving crowd has just crossed Woolsey Street on Telegraph and into North Oakland. Some say the group may be moving toward Highway 24 in Oakland, where some of its members got onto the freeway, and were teargassed, Sunday night.

Throughout the night, said Berkeleyside managing editor Tracey Taylor, the crowd has been picking up speed: “We’re practically jogging here,” she said. “It started at a fair clip but now people are really going fast.” 

Photo: Nathan Phillips
Photo: Nathan Phillips

The Berkeley Police Department says traffic is heavy and advises people to avoid the area.

Fred Werner on Twitter concurs that the march is peaceful, and said police are keeping their distance. Added Jacquelyn McCormick, also on Twitter: “They are hiding in the background. Saw the Hayward armored vehicle leave BPD.”

Protesters southbound on Telegraph were chanting, "Whose streets? Our streets!"Photo: Aidan Grundy-Reiner
Protesters southbound on Telegraph were chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!”Photo: Aidan Grundy-Reiner
An estimated 1,000 people are marching south on Telegraph Avenue as of about 8:15 p.m. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
An estimated 1,000 people are marching south on Telegraph Avenue as of about 8:15 p.m. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Update, 8:16 p.m. Berkeleyside staffers report that the crowd appears to be about 1,000 people, and is still marching south on Telegraph Avenue, chanting “What do we want? Justice!”

The crowd is crossing Russell Street and is one long block north of Ashby Avenue.

Update, 8:10 p.m. Police now say the crowd is 400-500 people. It’s southbound on Telegraph passing Derby Street.

Photo: Nathan Phillips
Photo: Nathan Phillips
Photo: Nathan Phillips
Photo: Nathan Phillips

Update, 8:04 p.m. The crowd is estimated by police at about 300 people, crossing Dana Street heading eastbound on Dwight Way.

Says Berkeleyside managing editor Tracey Taylor, the crowd is generally peaceful, with people playing guitar and drums, and very few signs of anyone using black bloc tactics.

According to the police scanner, an anonymous tip has just come in that “there is a long rifle in the crowd.”

Earlier tonight: Starbucks in downtown Berkeley was all boarded up. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Earlier tonight: Starbucks in downtown Berkeley was all boarded up. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Update, 7:57 p.m. The crowd was recently at Shattuck Avenue and Haste Street, blocking traffic, and is now heading east on Dwight Way.

Berkeleyside executive editor Frances Dinkelspiel spoke with one demonstration attendee, 43-year-old Antoinette from Oakland. She said it was her first night protesting in Berkeley but that she protested last week in Oakland and on other occasions.

She said: “It’s important to make a statement that the police are not above the law and that black lives matter. It’s important to show the disproportionate number of blacks who are victims of police brutality as opposed to whites. These are executions. Lynching is still a thing, it’s just called something different.”

Several women who support the protest are protecting Old City Hall. Photo: Tracey Taylor
Several women who support the protest protected Old City Hall earlier tonight. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Update, 7:48 p.m. The crowd is now about 500-strong and heading southbound on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and east on Channing.

Update, 7:41 p.m. Several women have linked arms and are protecting Old City Hall, reports Berkeleyside managing editor Tracey Taylor.

One of those women was Jacquelyn McCormick, head of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, and a regular council attendee. She said she’s been champing at the bit to come out to the protests, but had been discouraged by her husband, who was worried about the risk to her safety.

McCormick told Taylor she had lied and said she was going to council, and that the lie was worth it because “this is a really important issue. Didn’t we do this already in the 1960s? There are too many African American men who are killed, and it’s never reported,” she said. “If you’re an African American person in this country, you’re perceived as a threat, so you’re not free.”

The crowd outside Old City Hall. Photo: Tracey Taylor
The crowd outside Old City Hall. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Update, 7:32 p.m. The crowd is outside Old City Hall, where council members Kriss Worthington (right) and Jesse Arreguín posted up, despite tonight’s canceled council meeting.

Reports Berkeleysidee executive editor Frances Dinkelspiel, “The speaker is asking that all charges be dropped vs protestors and that UC allow students to complete finals and work next year.”

Kriss Worthington (right) and Jesse Arreguín outside Old City Hall. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Kriss Worthington (right) and Jesse Arreguín outside Old City Hall. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Arreguín said earlier Tuesday that he was unsure of the legality of the city’s decision to cancel the council meeting earlier in the day, and is asking the city manager for additional information about that decision. He said he and Worthington would attend the rally tonight.

“Having an open mic or a sounding board for people to speak out is important,” he said. “That’s why I’m going to be there. That’s why Kriss is going to be there: Having some people there to hear people out is a good idea. If they don’t have an opportunity to be heard, it will just create more conflict. That’s our reasoning in being there tonight.”

The crowd chanting "Hands up don't shoot" outside the Berkeley Police Department. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
The crowd chanting “Hands up don’t shoot” outside the Berkeley Police Department. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Update, 7:18 p.m. The march has now arrived in civic center and is congregating around the Berkeley Police Department, which has Center Street blocked off with a barrier, reports Tracey Taylor. The crowd is putting their hands up, standing in front of the barrier, and chanting “I can’t breathe.”

The crowd is now “surging south,” police report on the scanner.

BART reported at about 7:10 p.m. that the downtown Berkeley station is closed “due to a civil disturbance.” Trains will run through the station but will not stop.

Outside the Berkeley Police Department. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Outside the Berkeley Police Department. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
The demonstration outside the Berkeley Police Department. Photo: Berkeleyside
The demonstration outside the Berkeley Police Department. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Update, 7:05 p.m. Berkeleyside managing editor Tracey Taylor reports that all is quiet at Civic Center. She says a very small group of people are outside old City Hall. Martin Luther King Jr. Way is closed to traffic and pedestrians at Center Street.

The crowd is now northbound on Shattuck Avenue from Bancroft Way in downtown Berkeley, and approaching Center Street.

Police estimate the crowd has about 250 people at this time.

Tuesday night's march, at Ellsworth and Bancroft. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Tuesday night’s march, at Ellsworth Street and Bancroft Way. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Original post, 6:44 p.m. City officials canceled tonight’s Berkeley council meeting, which had been scheduled for 7 p.m., in preparation for the city’s fourth night of Ferguson-related protests. Berkeleyside will be on the scene, tweeting live.

We hear from one local resident that police have already closed portions of several downtown streets — Martin Luther King Jr. Way, McKinley Avenue, Allston Way and Center Street — in preparation for tonight’s event.

Police said, via Nixle, the demonstration and marching began shortly before 6:30 p.m. in the Southside Berkeley neighborhood: “A demonstration march is occurring in the South Campus Area.  A group of approximately 100 are marching in the area of Telegraph and Durant Avenues. Traffic is heavy, please avoid the area. BPD will provide demonstration updates throughout the evening.”

Some are reporting that Downtown Berkeley BART has closed, but BART has not put out a notice about that. (One reader, Nathan Bouscal, said on Twitter that “All of the entrances are closed but the main one, but the station is open, as of 6pm, at least.”)

AC Transit put out a notice shortly after 5 p.m. that buses may be re-routed due to the demonstrations: “Buses may be detoured away from their regular routes in the Berkeley area, and other areas if protests are also called for those areas. The situation is fluid and specific detour information may not be available, but watch the AC Transit web site for general updates as to whether detours are in effect.”

News helicopters are already in the area, many report.

The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce issued a statement to businesses about how to stay safe tonight: “It may be useful to bring any moveable articles inside and remove attractive items from your windows. Also bring in trash containers to remove fire hazards.… The Chamber abhors the institutional racism that exists in this country but we also reject violence as an attempt at a solution.”

Mayor Tom Bates released the following statement at approximately 6 p.m. It appears below in full.

We’re grateful that the third night of mass protests in Berkeley last night was non-violent and free of the attacks on police, damage to businesses and vandalism committed by a small minority of protesters on Saturday and Sunday nights.

We have postponed tonight’s City Council meeting because the Council chambers, which hold about 125 people, could not accommodate the large turnout expected to attend. One estimate placed the number as high as 1,500 people. We will reschedule the meeting in the near future at a time and place to be announced.

The Berkeley Police Department reports that 13 people were arrested during the three nights, and all but three of those arrested were from outside of Berkeley.

In the wake of the protests, some citizens have voiced strong support and sympathy for police, while others have criticized police for using tear gas and allegedly excessive force. The protests began Saturday night, and as long as the demonstrators were peaceful, police assisted the demonstrators by diverting traffic away from them. When protesters staged peaceful civil disobedience, such as a ‘die-in’ in the middle of Shattuck Avenue, police again diverted traffic and did not interfere.

It was at the Public Safety Building, when some individuals began throwing dangerous objects at police – including fist-sized rocks, bricks, an ice pick and metal bars  — that the police took action and began to disperse the crowd. Twenty officers were injured that night, with two sent to the hospital.

As for allegations of excessive force, I believe we have one of the best police departments in the nation, but I recognize that under great stress abuses can occur in even the best departments. I support a full review of our response to investigate any improper use of force and also to learn lessons we can apply in the future.

I am asking the community to join with me in harnessing the energy and passion exhibited in the protests so that we can address the deeper issues of police-community relationships that underlie the tragic events in Ferguson and New York City. One idea is to convene a public teach-in early next year involving community leaders and experts in relevant fields to highlight the core issues and possible ways to address them. I also support holding a special session of the City Council to address the issues raised by the recent events, at which members of the public can appear to express their concerns and ideas.

I believe that we can use the recent events as a foundation on which to build a better future, both in Berkeley and in the nation as a whole.

Berkeleyside will update this post as activities unfold.

Related:
Breaking: City of Berkeley calls invite-only press conference just for TV news (12.09.14)
Gallery: Third night of Berkeley protests, trains halted, a freeway brought to a standstill (12.09.14)
After protests, Berkeley City Council meeting canceled (12.09.14)
CHP arrest 150 protesters after they block I-80 freeway (12.09.14)
City told police to use restraint, avoid tear gas, on second night of protests (12.08.14)
Photo Gallery: Two nights of protests, riots in Berkeley (12.08.14)
Pastor: Brown’s death was the final straw that galvanized communities across the nation (12.08.14)
Protesters take to streets for second night: violence, vandalism of local businesses, looting (12.07.14)
Ferguson demo: injuries reported, tear gas used, property vandalized; arrests (12.06.14)

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