BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Hundreds of protesters blocked Interstate 80 in Berkeley Monday night in the latest demonstration over the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown during confrontations with police. Monday’s protest was the third in as many nights, following a march that turned violent Sunday night.
A group numbering in the hundreds began marching down Durant Avenue in Berkeley shortly after 5 p.m., causing the Downtown Berkeley BART station to be closed.
A service advisory was issued around 6:25 p.m. announcing the closure. Trains were not stopping at the station located at 2160 Shattuck Ave., a BART dispatcher said. The station reopened around 8:25 p.m., the dispatcher said.
Protesters walked onto the East and Westbound lanes of Interstate 80 at University Avenue just before 8 p.m., bringing traffic to a halt for several minutes. Protesters blocked an Amtrak train around 8:30 p.m. Around 8:45, the protesters again blocked Interstate 80.
Around 10:15 p.m., protesters were being cleared from both directions of the freeway but traffic was still backed up, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Like previous marches in recent weeks in the Bay Area and across the country, protesters are decrying controversial decisions handed down by grand juries in cases of alleged police brutality.
The protesters cite decisions where officers were not charged with any crime in two high-profile cases where unarmed black men were killed as the reason that has sparked their anger.
Monday’s march was organized in part by the group, By Any Means Necessary. Boisterous and growing crowds paused in front of dorms on UC’s campus as they called for students to join them and get out of the dorms and into the streets.
Some of the organizers said they planned to march through Cal’s campus, to downtown Oakland’s City Hall and to Berkeley police headquarters.
Meanwhile, Oakland’s police department said on Monday they will continue to support Berkeley police in responding to ongoing protests. Even though there are inherent dangers in doing so, the city says their neighboring community’s police force has done the same for them.
Oakland Police Spokeswoman Johnna Watson said it’s been a long-standing policy.
“The Oakland Police Department certainly has in the past requested assistance from our neighboring law enforcement agencies. When they reach out to us, we certainly want to reciprocate,” she said.
Oakland and Berkeley police officers subject themselves to possible injury and have had to deal with these types of issues with previous protests according to Watson.
“It’s also a fine balance because public safety is our number one priority. We have to be able to have the resources to be able to respond to the service needs of our community.” Watson said Oakland police are working overtime to respond to rioting whether it’s at home or at the city’s borderline.
Watson added that the department has had to make adjustments by cancelling days off and that they’ve worked through the holidays in order to ensure public safety.
“When our community calls for an officer, we provide that service.” she said.
Sunday night’s protest left businesses damaged, and ended with five people arrested.
One protester was hit in the face with a hammer as he tried to stop other protesters from looting a Radio Shack store on Shattuck Avenue.
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