The Protests in Berkeley Have Not Subsided; In Fact, They're Heating Up

December 9th 2014

Joseph Mayton

BERKELEY, California — As lines of California Highway Patrol cordoned off protesters who had blocked Interstate 80 in Berkeley, California, on Monday evening, police again began taunting protesters with “come over here” and gestures with their batons to get close enough for a whacking. But protesters stood firm on the dirt road that runs parallel to the highway, chanting “No Justice No Peace, No Racist Police” even as arrest was becoming more plausible.

thousands of protesters

While police were able to push protesters off the main thoroughfare that runs between Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco, demonstrators would not be silenced. Small groups split off from the well over 1,000-strong crowd that had initially marched from the University of California, Berkeley campus to the Berkeley Police Station where the first standoff occurred. 

After two days of protests, including small incidents of vandalism, which protesters said was the result of police confrontation and aggression, Monday night was the largest thus far in Berkeley. Despite media reports of only a few hundred demonstrators, the crowd was well over 1,000 people, chanting and showing solidarity for police murder victims Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, 12-year-old Tamir Rice of Cleveland as well as those closer to home: Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by BART police on January 1, 2009, and Alex Nieto, who was shot and killed by police in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood as he took a break from his job as a security guard to eat a snack.

Even as media outlets lamented the closure of main arteries of traffic and the “looting and vandalism” of businesses, there were no reports among protesters of any violence – other than police abuse – and looting of businesses nor any angst among drivers stuck on the highway.

Media were also quick to point to “objects” being thrown at police, however, attn.com did not see anything thrown in the direction of police save for angry chants and slogans. The protests were also much larger than many outlets reporting on the demonstrations, showing that on-the-ground reporting was limited. 

Police Aggression

Berkeley Police

After being forced away from the police station, protesters gathered near University Avenue and San Pablo Avenue, where they proceeded to march directly toward the on ramp of Interstate 80. California Highway Patrol met the protesters with a line of riot gear-clad officers, batons in hand and rubber bullets readied for fire. At one point, protesters at the front linked arms and began chanting forcefully at the police, including a number of demonstrators calling for police to “put down your weapons and join us, we are unarmed.” Police stayed put.

Getting frustrated, protesters took to side streets and marched toward the highway, ultimately finding space on a pedestrian bridge above the highway. 

Berkeley Sit in

Blocking the highway

berkeley highway

Eventually, sometime around 8 PM to 9 PM, protesters successfully pulled down the chain-linked fence along the highway and jumped it. Streaming on to I-80, protesters blocked traffic as CHP scrambled to take positions and bar any march down the road. A standoff ensued. As protesters began singing and chanting, police slowly moved forward, shining flashlights on the crowd in an effort to blind activists from seeing what was happening.

Police were successful in pushing the protesters back off the highway, at least initially. Throughout the evening and into the heart of the night, demonstrations continued, with protesters heading back onto I-80 and blocking traffic in both directions after police cordoned off a group of protesters, arresting them, and refusing to release what one officer said were “agitators.”

Elsewhere, a small band of activists took a couch and placed it directly on Amtrak’s line at the Berkeley station, in yet another show of civil disobedience. Local media pounced on the nonviolent action, with numerous tweets from major local broadcasters and publications. It was a show of determination, and that led to a rebooting of efforts as word spread that Amtrak was halted.

Arrests and Determination

The night was not without protester arrests, however, as local reports and police confirm more than 150 people were detained as a result of blocking the highway.

The protests also led to police shutting down the BART transit system at the Downtown Berkeley station at around 6:30 PM, making travel difficult for average citizens even as protests stayed quite a distance from the BART station. 

The closures and civil disobedience have given even more determination to the activists, both young and old, university students and others, to continue their efforts to bring change to America. For them, this is a time to end what many have dubbed a “police state.”

For more on the Berkeley Protests, read Berkeley Police Just Showed Us Exactly How You Should NOT Handle A Protest.