Still trying to take in everything that went down last night on what wound up being an epic and historic 4th night of protests in Berkeley..Early on it it was frustrating and a bit confusing. But at the end of the night it was empowering, inspiring, focused and on point. Over 5 thousand folks came out and wound up shutting down freeways several times. There was an attempt to shut down the Bay Bridge and folks stopped Amtrak from running.
Civil Disobedience was the order of the night. Ending police brutality was the unwavering demand with large numbers of students being shown on newscasts being joined by a large numbers of local neighborhood folks who are also upset with police terrorism. Again last night was historic. Folks will be out in the streets again tonight.. Here’s some of what went down.
The flyer most of us got was put out by BAMN (By Any Means Necessary). It noted that Monday’s March was an Emergency Response to the police violence levied on students from the past 2 days.
What most people know and have been being around the country about the Berkeley based protests were bank windows being busted and mayhem. It’s what the media has focused on even though is is a whole lot more to what is going on.
With the announcement of last night’s march, police countered by issuing warnings to local businesses to close down early and board up. Nearby schools were let out and the YMCA was shut down..News vans from all over showed up in mass, looking to see riots they would be disappointed.
By 5pm over 2 thousand folks showed up and consisted of folks from a variety of organizations both on and off campus. Folks left the campus and headed downtown to Shattuck Ave which ground zero for all the drama in previous nights.
It was here that folks at the height of rush hour, did a massive ‘die in’ and shut down traffic.. That was pretty impressive. Everything came to a stand still. But as quickly as it started it ended. There seemed to be some confusion as some folks got up while others wanted to stay..
Eventually everyone got up and headed down to the Berkley police station on MLK. They arrived around 6pm. By then the crowds had grown even larger and for as far as the eye could see you saw folks marching.. As was the case in previous nights, the crowd was mostly everyone but Black folks. It was an interesting sight to see this sea of people chanting ‘Whose Life Matters? Black Lives Matter!’ and ‘Hands Up Don’t Shoot’..
At the police station which is across the street from Berkeley High School a line of several dozen police in full riot gear greeted the students. They stood behind barricades and almost from jumped acted aggressively..
For example a young woman standing next to the barricade put her hand on it and an officer wearing glasses named Johnson smashed his baton down at her. A man who I believe was a local reporter standing nearby also had his hand on the barricades and saw a baton bash down on him. It was an unnecessary behavior with more than few pointing out that it was this sort of action that set off the firestorm the last couple of nights. Why are the police acting so ill was the question of the night? Folks were getting pissed.
On the opposite side of the barricade near the PG&E building a scuffle broke out. An officer who was identified as J Jones was accused of jabbing a baton into the side of 16 year old kid named Tyrese. He was one of the youngest and also one of the few Black folks in the crowd.
He said he had traveled to Berkeley from Deep East Oakland and was present because he had knowledge of self and wanted to speak out and make a difference for people in his neighborhood who weren’t there. He said he was upset and even more disturbed that he was hit by one of the few Black officers standing behind the barricades.
The crowd reacted in anger to the scuffle with some wanting to set it off..Others in the crowd started chanted ‘Peaceful Protest! Peaceful Protest’..Someone in the crowd yelled for everyone to ‘sit down’. More than half the crowd sat down while folks in the front, many wearing masks stood up and faced down police..
The folks in the front still angry from the baton swings, turned to the crowd that was sitting and demanded everyone stand up. There was a bunch of back and forth between protestors.
There was a brother named Abe Adelaja from New York. For folks who were there, he was the cat rocking a jean jacket and wearing a red baseball hat. He got really hyped and ran to the middle of crowd and demanded everyone stand up..
‘You don’t protest sitting down”, he yelled. “No justice will come with us sitting down!.. This is not a Kumbaya moment! Everyone stand up! “.
At that point someone grabbed a bullhorn and tried to urge the crowd to be silent for 4 minutes in honor of Michael Brown..
The brother with the red cap was not having it and him the guy with the bullhorn got into a back and forth.. It was peaceful protestors vs those who wanted to take more aggressive action.
Abe could be heard saying that the police need to be challenged. He said “We can’t sit down.. Protests are not peaceful.. This is not how you protest”.
Still large numbers of folks felt differently and held their ground. They felt they should sit down and “be peaceful.”
After a while many in the crowd that were sitting got up and left.. It had to be close to a thousand people.. They just bounced, The whole thing seemed disorganized as it was clear folks had not fully planned things out..
The brother with the red hat (Abe) who by now had a small crowd around him declared the march was a failure.. “We lost tonight” he said. “We allowed 25 police officers to punk 2 thousand protestors”
He continued; “Look at the media… they are no longer watching us.. They are leaving,. Our message won’t be heard”.
In actuality, many of the local commercial media including folks from the CBS affiliate KPIX were on hand and had gathered around him as he continued to stress his points about protests are not be love fests.
I asked the brother; “Whats wrong with sitting down. Can’t one cause disruption and shut things down by sitting down and blocking traffic?”
He said ‘yes, but sitting down in front of a police station is not the move..We are being killed for sitting down. We are being killed for holding our hands up.. We have to push back, We have to push through..”
He again re-emphasized the lack of media coverage and our message not being heard about the horrors of police brutality if we just sit down.
While all the local media cameras were on Abe I asked him, ‘Why do we need to have marches, show up in large numbers, bust up windows or confront the police in order for these commercial news outlets to cover issues of police brutality? Why do we need to protest in order for all these media to talk about the police killing unarmed people?
My question though directed to Abe was actually intended to make the point to the commercial outlets standing with us. I also pointed that all the outlets standing around us run commercials each night bragging that they have investigative units.. ‘Why aren’t those investigative units not investigating the police being violent?’
The brother Abe acknowledged that its true the media should cover wrong doing on its on merit. “But what else are we supposed to do?” he asked “The media is out here because of confrontation, not because we sat down peacefully. How else do we get the media’s attention? We have to do things to capture their attention because if all we do is sit around quietly they wont take us serious. No one will come talk to us so we have to demonstrate”.
It was at that point someone pointed out that Berkeley police had hit a young brother (Tyrese) with baton. It was suggested that the media ‘investigate’. So all the cameras and lights came over to the barricades where the cops were at..Tyrese who must weigh about 130 pounds explained that he was holding up a sign when officer J Jones hit him with his baton.
‘You are my brother, why would you hit me? I’m not armed. I’m a young activist who got knowledge of self and I’m trying to make things better-why would you hit me.. I’m the only Black guy out here and you’re Black cop out here.. why would you hit me like that?’.
The officer responded, ‘You touched the barricade’.
Tyrese responded; That he had not touched the barricade and all the officer had to do was tell him to step back.. “‘What is it about your uniform that you find more value in a barricade,which is a piece of iron then you do in my life?”
He continued; You don’t know if I have asthma, heart condition or anything. I am unarmed, peaceful and now I’m bruised and in pain. You are armed with guns, bully club and riot gear. What is it about this uniform that robs you of your humanity?
Tyrese concluded by telling the officer he’ll never forget his name or his face and that he needs to get knowledge of himself..
The entire exchange was powerful. It’ll be interesting to see if any of it made the news since all the cameras caught the exchange and reporters got to see a video of Tyrese getting hit with the baton.. Thus far it has not been shown.. I will post up the exchange later on today for all to hear..
While all this was taking place, the crowd that left had gone down several blocks, to bypass the police barricades and headed down University Ave toward the 80 freeway. Whatever tensions and disorganization displayed in front of the police station gave way as folks would step up and shut down Highway 80 in both directions.
They overwhelmed the large numbers of police by splitting up into several groups and entering the freeway from multiple directions via Aquatic Park. Police were forced re-route traffic and have people turn around and go in the opposite direction on the freeway headed west in order to clear it.
While police were engaging the throngs of people on the freeway, another large group headed up to the nearby Amtrak station. They entered onto the tracks and lied down and refused to move. Amtrak was shut down and would remain so for the entire night as folks stood in front of the train with doing ‘Hands Don’t Shoot ‘gesture.
A few things that should be noted. In the local coverage, some of the news accounts have shown folks who suggested that folks were just out there protesting to protest. That’s far from the truth. Over and over again, folks emphasized, that it can no longer be business as usual and that police brutality must stop.
If you are watching local news coverage, they are trying to show folks who were ‘upset’ about the freeway closures. Not sure if the folks they interviewed were actually stuck in traffic. However, if you were on the freeway or even near it along the park, then it was plain as day to see that many who were in their cars were honking their horns in approval with more than a few getting out of their cars and joining the protests. People were chanting, doing the Hands Up Don’t Shoot gesture, while others who were sitting in their cars cranked up their music and gave folks a soundtrack.
From what I could see last night, none of the local outlets reporting on the freeway shut downs this morning had reporters on the freeway to interview drivers or protestors. Most are using the same stock footage of an overhead shot taken when folks were in Emeryville in much smaller numbers and was given to them by a service.
Some of the footage being shown alongside the freeway footage came during earlier parts of the march when folks were at the police station.
This is important to note because a lot of important aspects were missed. First the news keeps saying a thousand people were at the march. No way. No how. There were several marches. The first group that showed up to highway 80 via Aquatic Park might have been at least a thousand deep.
There was another group that went through South Berkeley and got local residents to join. What started out as a mostly Non Black student demonstration was soon mixed with Black and Brown folks and non students. This second group was even bigger then the first group. There were several hundred people on actually hoped the railing and went on the freeway but throngs of people were a few feet away along the walk way and jogging trail that runs alongside the freeway. Those folks would not be seen from the airel footage because its too dark.. But folks were there and in large numbers. It wasn’t just students out there. It was neighborhood folks, students, older and younger..
One mother who was on the freeway brought her two daughters and said it was important for them to witness this. Another older gentleman also on the freeway said he recalled when folks tried to shut down the freeway after Rodney King verdict in 92. He said back then the crowds were much smaller and everyone got arrested, but tonight he was proud to see folks came out for a problem that sadly still persists.
There was another sister with a bull horn walking up and down and in between cars demanding that folks call their congresspeople and demand they do something about police killing Black people. She was amped and kept shouting where’s Nancy Pelosi? Why aren’t our elected officials they out here with us? She gave out the phone numbers and websites of everyone from Barbara Lee to Pelosi and urged people to call their representatives and get them to do something about the police killing folks.
Some of the footage being shown is a third group of marches who attempted to shut down the Bay Bridge. They were eventually stopped and arrested after police got reinforcements in Emeryville. More than 150 were sent to Santa Rita last night for being on the freeway.
Another thing to note is that marchers had their own drones or aircraft that was set into flight and followed along. While on the freeway the peoples drone flew overhead with people talking about how they have their own technology to watch the police.
At every point students and marchers confronted the police and asked them to examine the roles that they are playing. One man refused to leave the freeway until one of the officers would step forward and promise to stand up to those who are mistreating people. He kept asking is there one officer or any officer who will stand up and speak out against wrongful deaths by police. He told the police they are making choices. Just doing your job is a weak excuse. Who will stand up to wrongful deaths at the hands of police? None of the officers standing alongside the freeway would answer.
I will post up all the audio from last night later today so folks can hear some of these powerful exchanges..
s/o Pendarvis Harshaw Bruce A. Dixon Nida Khan Rosa Clemente Tina Bell Wright Kuttin Kandi Kali Akuno Angela D. Shute-Woodson Bakari Kitwana Jasiri Xtra Paradise GrayDawn-Elissa Fischer Anita Johnson Laura Prives Laura Flanders Shamako Noble Harry Louis Williams Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou Nyota Bgyrl Forlife Uhura Thandisizwe Everytwentyeighthours Chimurenga Elon James White Jelani Cobb Noura Khouri Tarik Kazaleh Andrea Prichett Rob Biko Baker Tef Poe Jeff Chang Favianna Rodriguez Liz Derias
LUMPENPROLETARIAT—On Tuesday (14 APR 2015), Davey D, co-host of Hard Knock Radio (Pacifica Radio: KPFA, Berkeley, CA), provided live coverage of protest demonstrations on the UC Berkeley campus in response to police brutality, killings, and terrorism waged against the public, killing unarmed civilians with impunity.
Listen to Davey D speak with activists on free speech radio, including Carmen Perez (GatheringForJustice.org; #March2Justice; @NYJustice on Twitter), about the increasingly visible police terrorism across the USA. Carmen Perez discussed a march, which is currently underway to Washington, D.C. to carry a voice of resistance against police terrorism to Congress. The audio archive will be available for two weeks after broadcast, in this case, available until 28 APR 2015. (Protest coverage begins after the KPFA News Headlines.)
[last updated 0721 CDT 15 APR 2015 22:22 CDT]