BERKELEY (KCBS) — Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said he wants the people who are causing widespread violence during protests in his city to “take off their masks and show us who you really are.”

Bates along with other Berkeley residents believe their right to peacefully demonstrate over the failure of a New York grand jury to indict a white police officer in the death of Eric Garner,an unarmed black man, has been hijacked by outsiders.

It’s nothing new. During the Occupy riots in Oakland in 2011, city officials argued—and there was evidence to prove it—that so-called anarchists were causing all the mayhem during otherwise peaceful protests.

Related: Berkeley Protests Turn Violent For Second Straight Night

The same argument was made in Ferguson, Mo., during the protests there last November.

But Mayor Bates said it’s enough.

“I challenge the protesters and the people actually committing violence to take off those masks, let us see who you are,” he said. “Stand up and be counted rather than be a coward and hide.”
It’s a sentiment shared by other Berkeley residents.

Nobody knows where they come from–the people in the black hoodies and white skull masks who readily appear at protests from Occupy to Ferguson causing riots.

“They want to protest and burn up stuff and break stuff, why don’t they do it where they live at—or wherever you come from—your nice neighborhood. Go tear up your neighborhood,” one resident who didn’t want to use his name told KCBS.

The difficultly for police lies in separating the violent protesters without using brute that could sweep up those who preach a message of non-violence.

Bates doesn’t believe they are all from out of town but he said his citizens are generally not a violent bunch.

“The message is this: We live in a free society, we should be able to express ourselves, we should be able to assemble and these people who come in and disrupt are nothing but in contrary,” he said.

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