Peaceful protests in Berkeley, California over the police killings of black men have turned violent as a group vandalized police cars and stores, including the The Student Store, which carries apparel and gifts related to UC Berkeley.
The events turned violent on the second consecutive night that protesters marched over the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York and the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
According to local police reports, the 300-400 protesters had moved toward downtown Berkeley from the Oakland border, destroying California patrol cars and storefronts as they went. The media reported 8 people having been arrested.
As a result of the protests, the downtown Berkeley BART station was temporarily shut down.
While downtown returned to calm as the protesters returned to the UC Berkeley campus, they left behind them damage and confrontations, both with police and a separate group of protestors who were trying to prevent vandalism.
Teargas, flash bang grenades and rubber bullets were used by members of the police force on protesters who refused to leave Highway 24, forcing the closure of the road between Berkeley and the eastern suburbs of Walnut Creek for 45 minutes.
Reports of injuries at the hands of police are starting to emerge from the scenes of the protest. Police are adamant that the protesters had turned violent and their handling of the situation was called for.
Some protesters set fire to trash cans and threw objects at storefront windows, looting some of the stores in the process. While two cellphone stores were damaged and two bank fronts vandalized, The Student Store faired only slightly better, having two of its windows cracked.
Meanwhile, separate groupings of protesters shouted at the violent groups, in an effort to remind them to keep the peace and continue walking. Groups of protesters linked arms to keep the violence and looters away from rows of college shops near the campus.
“You know what, it was peaceful except a few dozen people who got out of control,” said Sasha Futran, a 30-year resident of Delaware Street, two blocks from where police and protesters clashed Saturday night. “A very small percentage ruined it for everybody.”
Protests are taking place across the country in a number of cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago and Las Vegas. Protesters took part in a mock “die-in” at Grand Central Station in New York in addition to protests taking place inside shops in Times Square. There were no reports of arrests.
In Seattle however, protesters met at the police headquarters, resulting in some of the protesters throwing rocks at police. Seven protesters were arrested after the incident.
Protesters in Portland, Oregon were more peaceful, marching into the Justice Center building shouting “Justice.” The group moved on to a shopping mall, changing the chants to ““Don’t shoot” and “Black lives matter.”