BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Two officers were injured as a California protest over police killings turned violent with protesters smashing windows and throwing rocks and bricks at police, who responded by firing tear gas, authorities said.
Several officers were struck, but there were just two reports of injury, Berkeley police spokeswoman Jenn Coats said. A Berkeley police officer received hospital treatment for a dislocated shoulder after being hit with a sandbag, while another sustained minor injuries.
Saturday night’s demonstration against police killings of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York began peacefully, the latest of several in the Bay Area in recent days. But Officer Coats said that some protesters later broke away and began throwing rocks, bottles and pipes at officers.
Scores of law officers from several surrounding agencies joined Berkeley Police Department in trying to quell unrest that went on for hours, into early Sunday morning.
Around 300 to 400 protesters took to the streets last night in Berkeley, California. The majority of the group were student protesters. The plan was to march from the University of California, Berkeley campus to Oakland’s Civic Center.
A small minority of the protesters, most of them masked, began smashing the windows of nearby businesses and pelting officers with rocks, bricks, and bottles. The rest of the protesters implored them to stop.
Several businesses and at least two police cars were vandalised. Two police officers suffered minor injuries, including a dislocated shoulder.
At one point, protesters faced a wall of more than 100 police officers in riot gear. Police warned the protesters to disperse, but it did little until police began to use more heavy-handed tactics.
Police deployed tear gas to break up the crowds.
Protesters weren’t the only ones to get hit by tear gas. Several concerts had just let out near the protest area and many concert-goers were affected by the gas.
Here, a protester recovers from tear gas exposure.
Coats said several businesses on University Avenue were vandalised, including Trader Joe’s, Radio Shack and a Wells Fargo Bank branch. Some squad cars were also damaged.
“A small splinter group from the original protests continues to march in Berkeley,” Coats said in a statement issued around 11 p.m. PST. “Unfortunately this group has become violent and continues to throw objects, including rocks and bricks at officers.”
She said officers attempting to get the crowd to depart used tear gas.
“Several dispersal orders have been given, and the crowd has ignored the orders. In response to the violence officers have utilized tear gas and smoke in an effort to disperse the crowd,” she said.
Some people were still protesting in the streets early Sunday morning, police said.
Authorities did not provide further details of any injuries or arrests.
“The total number of arrests and injuries is not known at this time,” Coats’ statement said.Local media reports said about 300 to 400 people participated in the relatively peaceful demonstration before splinter groups broke off.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that at one point, the marchers were face-to-face with a line of about 100 police in riot gear who turned the crowd back.
The paper said that it wasn’t just protesters who were hit by tear gas.
Several concerts had let out from downtown sites and concertgoers waiting to pay in a nearby garage were enveloped in a cloud of stinging gas, sending them running into elevators.
KCBS reported that police closed two Bay Area Rapid Transit commuter train stations along the protest route.
Protesters had planned to march from the University of California, Berkeley campus to Oakland’s Civic Center.
Thousands of demonstrators have protested peacefully in New York and elsewhere since the announcement Wednesday that a grand jury declined to indict a white officer in the death of Eric Garner, a black man who gasped “I can’t breathe!” while being placed in a chokehold as he was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. The decision closely followed a Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury’s choice not to indict a white officer in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old.
The scope of the demonstrations and the lack of violence were moving to Garner’s mother and widow, they said Saturday.
“It is just so awesome to see how the crowds are out there,” said Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, who added that she ended up stuck in her car after protests shut down traffic.
“I was just so proud of that crowd,” Carr said. “It just warmed my heart.”
Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, said she saw demonstrators from her apartment window and told her son, “Look at all the love that your father’s getting.”
Officers have said the outcry over the grand jury decision has left them feeling betrayed and demonized by everyone from the president and the mayor to throngs of protesters who scream at them on the street.
“Police officers feel like they are being thrown under the bus,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the police union.
Garner’s family members joined the Rev. Al Sharpton later Saturday as Sharpton laid a wreath at the site on Staten Island where Garner died July 17 in a confrontation that started when police tried to arrest him.
An amateur video seen by millions showed Garner gasping, “I can’t breathe” during the fatal encounter.
“All we’re concerned about is justice from the police,” said Garner’s stepfather, Benjamin Carr, who wore a T-shirt with the words, “Enough is enough.”
Protests continued in New York City for a fourth day with several dozen people lying down on the floor of Grand Central Terminal and marching into stores in Times Square. There were no reports of arrests.
Protests have also been held in Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami, Las Vegas and a number of other cities.
In Seattle, several hundred people marched downtown to police headquarters Saturday. Authorities said a group then split off from the main protest and tried to get onto a roadway. Police say some protesters threw rocks at officers who blocked them from entering it. Seven were arrested.
Sharpton announced plans this week for a march in Washington, D.C., next Saturday to protest the killings of Garner, Brown and others and to press for change at the federal level.
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