Protests in Berkeley, California, against the Ferguson and Eric Garner grand jury decisions turned violent as several dozen protestors hurled objects at police and vandalized stores near the campus.
Police were forced to use smoke, tear gas and rubber bullets to keep the unruly crowd under control.
During the chaos, several protestors were injured, including Cindy Pincus, an intern at a local church:
She shared her account of what happened with Berkeleyside, and said she is at the hospital and receiving staples to treat her injury.
“The police began walking forward and in 2-3 seconds were pressed up against us with their batons held parallel between them and us. I shouted ‘Be calm, be calm, we’re peaceful!’ And they kept walking forward. I looked to the left and a police officer had begun jabbing a protester with the end of his baton. I turned around to retreat and passed a woman who had fallen and was being trampled. I bent down to pick her up under one armpit while another woman grabbed her other arm. As we were lifting her backwards I saw an officer raise his baton over my shoulder and was struck on the back of the head as I was bent forward. My vision momentarily blacked out and I saw stars. I put my hand to the back of my head and started running. I felt a welt rise immediately and blood ran down my neck and covered my hand.”
A local photographer took pictures of the violence and acts of vandalism — until the rioters saw him and surrounded him:
Lurie told Berkeleyside: “The vast majority of people there were peaceful, but a small group (5-15 people) of black bloc / anarchist agitators continually engaged in acts of vandalism, including tagging buildings with spray paint, breaking windows, and overturning trash cans. I had photographs of these acts, but some in the group saw me taking pictures, at which point I was surrounded and forced to delete all my pictures. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had refused, but I definitely felt physically threatened.”
This account from the Berkeley police suggests there were considerably more violent protestors than “5-15” troublemakers:
Berkeley Police say splinter groups caused the peaceful protest to turn violent tonight. In a release issued around 11:45 p.m., BPD spokesperson Officer Jenn Coats said splinter groups broke off and began hurling bricks, pipe, smoke grenades, and other missiles at officers. “Numerous officers were struck, and one officer was struck with a large sandbag, and treated at a local hospital for a dislocated shoulder,” she wrote. “These splinter groups also ran through several Berkeley neighborhoods vandalizing cars and breaking windows and looting businesses.”…”Berkeley Police used smoke and tear gas after crowds refused to disperse and continued to vandalize local businesses and pelt officers with rocks, bottles, and pipes. Numerous police vehicles were vandalized as the crowd moved through the south campus area.” … Coats said BPD was being supported by more than 100 officers from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, police from Oakland, Pleasanton, Hayward, and Alameda, as well as from California Highway Patrol and the BART Police Department.”
An account from the San Jose Mercury News:
An officer suffered minor injuries as a protest in downtown Berkeley on Saturday evening became unruly and police made efforts to disperse the growing crowd.
Police deployed smoke, rubber bullets and flares in an effort to disrupt the march, which turned from peaceful to aggressive around 6 p.m. when protesters began fighting and looting businesses — including a Trader Joe’s grocery story on University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
“They fired rubber bullets and some smoke grenades,” said Tawanda Kanhema, a video journalist who was on the street in front of Trader Joe’s. “No one was injured, as far as I could tell,” said Kanhema, who estimated there were at least 1,500 protesters and 100 law enforcement personnel.
Police announced early Sunday that six people were arrested, one of them a juvenile. Police did not have a list of the charges they will face.
Berkeley police Officer Byron White said on Twitter that the demonstrators were also releasing gas into the crowd.
Several people on social media posted pictures of smashed windows at Trader Joe’s and officers in riot gear surrounding the doors while shoppers inside waited to exit.
Clearly, the vast majority of protestors were peaceful — at least, by Berkeley standards. Trying to goad a policeman into reacting precipitously might not constitute a “violent” act, but it certainly can’t be considered “peaceful” in the truest sense of the word.
Nevertheless, the police showed admirable restraint for the most part and the violence was contained.