Copwatch Reportback from the Berkeley Protest 12-7-2014
(by Andrea Prichett for Berkeley Copwatch)
I was in the streets from 10:30 pm until 2am so I can not speak to all of what happened before I got there. Following the sound of the helicopter above, I was lead to Durant and Telegraph Avenue. The crowd as of 10:15pm was approximately 800-1000 people and approximately 150 police or more.
The protest began on Saturday at 5pm at Bancroft and Telegraph and people marched through the town engaging in a series of non-violent actions and civil disobedience including a “die in” at the Public Safety Building. According to witnesses, the crowd was attacked at various points starting with the Berkeley Police Department (Public Safety Building). Without provocation, BPD officers fired smoke bombs. They shot rubber bullets at protesters. Many people sustained injuries and the crowd was very agitated.
The group stayed together and marched through the streets. Eventually, the people marched past Trader Joe’s on University and MLK, Jr. Way and some broke windows. Windows were also broken at Radio Shack and at Wells Fargo on San Pablo and University. I was told that protesters had made efforts to get onto and block the freeway and were prevented from doing so.
Protesters have since photographed the full range of less lethal munitions used including ricochet rounds, bean bags, rubber bullets and various systems for delivering tear gas into the lungs of those present. One man was struck in the back of his head by a police baton. Another man got a broken leg, possibly from being hit with a round from some “less lethal” device.
The chemical smell of tear gas was still in the air when I arrived and a friend was eager to show me where two police vans had been damaged. One had a flat tire and both large white vans had graffiti written on the side of it. While this damage could be irritating to police, it certainly would not justify the level of violence they unleashed on the crowd.
It was clear that this was a college crowd. It is likely that the spectacle of police officers from Alamada County Sheriffs, Oakland, Hayward, Pleasanton, the city of Alameda, California Highway Patrol, UC Berkeley and Berkeley police officers was enough to keep students and others on a Saturday night engaged and eager to see what the police were intending to do.
After a standoff that lasted until about midnight, police began to move. Officers from many jurisdictions were on the frontline. Oakland officers had body cameras and were clearly identified. Some officers from Hayward, Pleasanton and Berkeley were not identified by a name or number on their uniform as required by Penal Code section 830.10. (It is interesting to notice that many of the officers from various department who were holding munitions and preparing to shoot into the crowd were unidentified by badge numbers and names. This included some BPD officers).
In times of mutual aid, the host city and its policies are used as the standard for the operation. At the end of the day, Berkeley police department is responsible and accountable for the actions of the officers under its command. I witnessed various officers without badge numbers and whose behavior was a violation of policy. I observed one Alameda Police officer with a tear gas gun pointing it directly at a protester who was backing up from him and was less than 4 feet from him. Clearly, a violation of policy. Sadly, of the officers and departments I saw that night, the worst behaved were our own Berkeley cops.
At about midnight, BPD and others maneuvered protesters into a southerly position and the thick line of officers was north of them. At the command of BPD, officers began pushing the crowd south on Telegraph. BPD officers were observed using jabs into people’s stomachs, using overhead strikes and other prohibited maneuvers. The size of the crowd meant that, though cops pushed people, those people were not able to move any faster because they were surrounded by a densely packed crowd. The police panicked the crowd intentionally. There was nowhere to run for many people trapped between the violently advancing police and the dense crowd.
At some point, we were gassed by police as we were walking briskly backwards and away from the police. There was NO reason for officers to have used gas on that crowd. There had been nothing thrown at the police and things had been calming down until the police began their assault on the people. The use of gas on retreating people can not be justified by Berkeley training or policies. Not only did they violently push this crowd down the street past Whole Foods, but the repeated use of gas on a crowd that was doing what the police had asked of them is totally without justification.
They gassed us from behind and we had to keep an eye on the police while we walked because these unidentified officers with munitions made us wonder who would be the next Scott Olson. Would they shoot us in the back? The bizarre behavior of certain Berkeley cops must be addressed by the police department. They were indisciminant in their application of force. They struck people with their hands up who were backing away. These officers must be disciplined and Chief Meehan needs to be held accountable for the way he trains and disciplines his officers.
We were pushed from Durant and Telegraph to the Oakland /Berkeley border. Our right to assemble was abrogated. Our right to commit civil disobedience was denied. We went west on Ashby, then north on Shattuck. By the time we walked up Durant to Telegraph, where we had started four hours earlier there was no one cop to be seen. Our people stayed very united. Experienced activists bonded with Cal students who had just come to the protest because they were in a bar, on the street or near enough to wonder what the hell ALL those cops were for.
Thanks BPD and other agencies for making so many new radicals out of those curious students. Your actions will ensure many nights of protest to come as we protest not only for justice for Mike Brown and Eric Garner, but justice for Kayla Moore and every person in Berkeley who has been bullied by an entitled class of people who represent the Berkeley Police department.
Now, the movement needs to extend the resistance and hold these cops accountable for the way they treated students and the way they treat the people of Berkeley every day.
People of Berkeley, we need to take up local issues. We need to demand the demilitarization of the police force. No tasers! No tanks! No more money for weapons of war and training for war. We need to take our demands to the Berkeley City Council on December 16th. They need to hear from us about the issues of militarization that we have been talking about for quite some time.
Demilitarize Berkeley Police Department - No tasers! No more weapons! No more Urban shield!
Fire police who assault civilians for sport
BPD stop racial profiling
Justice for Kayla Moore-jail killer cops!
Berkeley Copwatch invites members of the community to help us gather all of the reports of violence as well as footage of the night so that we can do a People’s Investigation of what happened and what we should do about it. We need volunteers to archive footage and gather reports of what happened.