3rd Time Was The Best Time: Berkeley 4-Days of Protest

by Steed Dropout
Dec. 9, 2014


Photo by Ted Friedman.

“The whole system is corrupt; shut it down”–a popular protest chant

Moni Law, a Berkeley activist/attorney, spoke at the start of the first night of a three-night [Update: four night] protest against questionable police tactics exonerated by grand juries.

Law, her real name, reminded Cal Berkeley protesters near Cal’s Sproul Plaza, last week, that this was not the time for violence. ” To stop violence, isn’t that why we’re here,” Law reasoned.

But by the time the peaceniks got downtown to confront Berkeley Police at their headquarters, they were joined by an anarchist faction out to destroy property as they had, ravaging Oakland.

Photo by Ted Friedman.

Declared by one SF journalist as the winners over Oakland police, the anarchists known as Black bloc, came into Berkeley, some by BART, where their trademark black woolen
masks made them obvious–to raise Hell and show police from five East Bay police departments who was in charge.

A major belief of Black bloc is that something’s rotten at our core institutions, necessitating aggressive resistance and, if possible overthrow. And one more important plank: the bloq considers owning property a crime. Police, who protect property, are the real criminals, along with property owners, according to bloc.


University Avenue begins at the Berkeley Marina and ends more than three miles away at U.C. Berkeley. The avenue is a vast commercial enterprise, with some of Berkeley’s trendiest small restaurants and cafes. Commerce, all of it owned.

Berkeley police tried to keep protestors off University Avenue, with what seemed an under-manned cordon near headquarters. Someone set off a smoke grenade, as protestors managed to breech a phalanx of Berkeley Police, and headed for University Ave.

Photo by Ted Friedman.

Black bloc struck first at University’s Trader Joe’s, hammering windows, and squashing cases of glass bottles. Before they were through, they hammered windows at a Wells Fargo, and University Ave. Radio Shack. The Shack shut.

Later, on Telegraph Avenue, where student Saturday night partiers were caught in a police wedge and eventually tear-gassed, and some claim, beaten–there were smashed windows at five avenue businesses.

Photo by Ted Friedman.

[Update: two city councilman called Tuesday for an “immediate special investigation,” speaking on city hall steps–to a crowd of 800–where only hours before the scheduled Berkeley City Council meeting was cancelled, reportedly, by Mayor Tom Bates.]

Photo by Ted Friedman.


There should be no tear-gas, this time, suggested city officials. And BPD would not be assisted by outside departments. It was suggested, as well, that Saturday’s police actions had been excessive.

Witnesses reported wide-spread damage to Shattuck Ave. A small band of protesters kept vandals from stealing bikes from the Missing Link, a revered Berkeley collective.

At the Shattuck Ave. Radio Shack, a Berkeley citizen was pounded in the head with a hammer for arguing with looters. Protesters reportedly retrieved some of the stolen Radio Shack loot and returned it through the store’s smashed front door. Ten Berkeley police in riot gear were quick to the scene, securing the store and the crowd. The store was closed Monday.

The radio shack incident, Sunday, is an important key to Monday’s protest, which had the same theme, but a different story. Sweeter.


Some marchers said they’d seen Black bloq as the march approached Berkeley Police Department, where 700 students and a smattering of Berkeley citizens who support the students, had massed.

A theme of non-violence grew slowly from within the fast-moving march.

After they had occupied some of Berkeley’s main intersections, (no police in sight, but an overhead surveillance helicopter unnerved many protestors with its noise and glaring spotlight)…they headed for Civic Center Park across from Berkeley Police Headquarters.

A funny sort of pivotal thing happened before the crowd reached the park. A man was spotted with a fire extinguisher. Remember Moni Law from night one, who had urged non-violence?

Law just happened to be there; drawing a small crowd, she reminded the crowd, “We’re not about destruction but about peace. If you see someone up to no good, call him out.”

Remember that “call him out” part.

Because that’s exactly what happened up against the Berkeley police barrier at headquarters. A man, who looked like a cop in sheep’s clothing, managed to draw a crowd, all of whom disagreed with him. The suspected provocateur argued that in order to get media attention, it was necessary to destroy property.

Photo by Ted Friedman.

But peace was in the air.

Students, like those Saturday who were lured to their doom, were lured by their fellow students to join the march. They added a festive air to an otherwise grim trek. A girl in a party dress, on a bicycle and carrying a bunch of flowers, told me, “I know I’m not dressed for it, but I was just caught up in it.”

Near the freeway on-ramp, a student dressed in Pink Pajamas and propelling a wheelbarrow attached to a bike, making it a waste disposal on wheels, told me, “Would cops beat up a man dressed like this?”

Photo by Ted Friedman.

The festive mood of youth continued as students were able to navigate around CHP and rallied on the aquatic park bridge. Others made on to I-80, closing it.

Others halted an Amtrack train.

Hands up, don't shoot. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Saturday demonstrators had thinned to twenty when they reached the on-ramp and fell back. Sweet Monday massed 400 at the on-ramp, half of whom figured out how to get to the freeway. Others hacked through a state-of-the-art security fence.

Peace, man. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Is it non-violent to close a freeway, stop a train, breech a security fence? Berkeley Reporter leaves that up to you. More photos of all four protests: https://www.flickr.com/photos/berkboy/

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