Someone made a pretty poster days ago announcing that one of a series of protests in the East Bay against police terror would begin where Berkeley and UC Berkeley meet - at 5:00 PM on Saturday evening at Bancroft & Telegraph, the entrance to Sproul Plaza, home of the Free Speech movement.
And thus people came. The rest in narrative and tweetpics, below.
The action began placidly enough, protesters marching down Telegraph towards Oakland, turning west to Shattuck Ave. and up to downtown Berkeley and its BART station.
First, a die-in at the BART plaza...
...then most of the crowd took off to the Berkeley Police Station, just two blocks west on Martin Luther King (MLK) Drive.
That was when the police chose to be, depending on your point of view, either complete idiots or vengeful agents of state violence. Using a massive show of force they kettled the protesters (one tweet said there were 1000 protesters in front of the police station, and another said 500 cops), giving them no place to continue marching. Then they began unleashing smoke bombs.
Finally the police allowed the marchers to move up MLK towards University Avenue.
Then, according to a livestreamer, alphaqupman, who says he witnessed the event, shit went down as a baton-wielding officer swung at and hit an older man named Joseph who was walking in the now-traditional "hands up" posture; the crowd was not amused.
At the corner of MLK and Unviersity is a Trader Joe's, and immediately after the man was bashed its windows received similar treatment - the mood of the night had been sealed.
Protesters scattered, some heading down University towards the freeway, then back, and some went to the BART plaza. Coalescing in some manner, the march again headed down University to be blocked by lines of riot cops in front of the freeway entrance at University & 4th St, about a mile west of MLK & University.
The Bay Area's most famous protester is in the mix.
North, then back east along Delaware, pursued by what seemed to be police intent on doing whatever they could to antagonize everyone by cutting them off march routes and using intimidation tactics. Marchers were forced into side streets and ultimately surrounded on all sides by militarized goons somewhere in the neighborhood of Acton & Hearst. At being so surrounded, they half tore down a fence and escaped through and over it back southward to University Ave. One man was shot by a rubber bullet as he went over for no discernible reason other than that the cop had heard "shot while escaping" one too many times in the movies.
The crowd eventually made their way back downtown and ultimately returned to Bankcroft & Telegraph.
Where all hell broke loose.
Confrontations with tear gas, flash bangs, kettling, and baton swinging went on for hours and hours, into the morning until at least 2:00 AM. Protester numbers ebbed and flowed, spilling into Sproul Plaza on campus and back onto Telegraph Avenue. Tear gas cannisters were tossed back at police, as tank-like vehicles from police agencies called in mutual aid prowled the streets.
The only thing missing from a complete cluster-Ferguson-fuck was a sniper riding in the turret of one of these vehicles and aiming at the crowd, but that was made up for with police on the ground aiming weapons at protesters.
Berkeley police apparently totally freaked at the prospect of a moderate-sized protest; instead of facilitating the protest they catalyzed it, and everyone is simply fortunate that no life-threatening injuries or deaths occurred because of their in explicable crowd-antagonizing tactics.
Subsequent days will tell whether Berkeley police managed to bring down even larger crowds of protesters willing to be even more confrontational in light of their heavy-handed tactics last night, whether protests will move back to Oakland or perhaps even dissipate. But police actions just increased substantially the odds of another protest in Berkeley sooner rather than later. (in fact, a fairly large one is underway as I type this, 7:00 PM Sunday evening).
Oakland sent a "mutual aid" force, including one of OPD's most notorious officers. Gonzales, frontmost, killed Gary King a young black man, in 2007 as was involved in at least two other officer-involved shootings.
More images and thoughts:
Finally, a video of tear gas being thrown at protesters... and thrown back. (not embeddable)