Berkeley Protests Over Eric Garner Turned Violent On Sunday — PHOTOS
In the fourth night of protests against the non-indictment of Daniel Pantaleo, and the nth night of protest against systemic racism and injustices in the American legal system, demonstrations for Eric Garner took a violent turn in Berkeley early Sunday morning, injuring at least two police officers and causing chaos in California's Bay Area. According to Berkeley Police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats, what began as a largely peaceful protest took an ugly turn as "splinter groups broke off and began hurling bricks, pipe, smoke grenades, and other missiles at officers." A number of businesses were vandalized, including a Trader Joe's, a Radio Shack and a Wells Fargo Bank, as were "numerous" police vehicles.
The Berkeley protest more closely resembles the demonstrations in Ferguson following the Mike Brown decision than the majority of Eric Garner protests, which have been largely peaceful. But when masked protestors took the streets late Saturday night, a different scene unfolded, as demonstrators began to throw rocks and other projectiles at law enforcement officials. One officer was struck by a large sandbag, dislocating his shoulder, and another was treated for minor injuries from rocks. According to reports, more than 100 officers were called as reinforcement to contain the mayhem, which lasted into the wee hours of the morning.
Police fired tear gas into the crowds in attempts to quell the violence, and some protestors urged their peers to march peacefully. One protestor told local news station KCBS, "This is not what I signed up for." Violent protestors smashed bottles, spray painted graffiti, took hammers to ATM machines, and upset garbage dumpsters, setting the trash on fire, creating what KCBS reporter Mark Seeling described as a "mob scene." Employees at Trader Joe's were so terrified that they locked themselves inside the stores, but some protestors continued to break windows and loot businesses. Despite the chaos, as of early Sunday morning, there have been no reported arrests.
Berkeley's protest served as the exception to the general trend of peaceful protests that have swept the nation in the aftermath of the Eric Garner decision, the second in just ten days by a grand jury not to indict a white police officer involved in the death of a black male. In New York City, two massive "die ins" were staged at various landmarks, including Grand Central Terminal and Union Square. Braving the rain in the City, protestors marched with their hands in the air or placing their hands around their neck, standing in solidarity with the Brown and Garner in their last moments. Protestors also took over in Times Square, where they crowded into a Forever 21, the Disney Store and Toys R Us.
In the last few weeks, thousands of demonstrators have come together to express their malcontent with the current justice system, joining to form a united front against police brutality and racial discrimination. Judi Flournoy, who was part of a protest in New York, told CNN, "What's happening in these cities in these last several days is incredibly important to show we have a unified voice." These protests have been incredibly moving for Garner's widow and mother, who have taken some solace in the outpouring of support both Garner and Brown have received in the days and weeks following the rulings.
Gwen Carr, Garner's mother, told the Associated Press, "It is just so awesome to see how the crowds are out there. I was just so proud of that crowd. It just warmed my heart." Garner's wife, Esaw Garner, told the AP that she was stunned by the view of the protests from her window, saying to her son, "Look at all the love that your father's getting."
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