The past few days have been some of the most exhausting I’ve experienced. As such, this is meant to be more of a general outline of my experiences this evening, with more coming later about the protest in general.
Tonight, on the third night of protests, I marched. After the senseless looting and destruction last night, it was important to me to go out and see things for myself. What I encountered was fantastic. At least a thousand people were marching in the streets, down from the UC Berkeley campus to the Berkeley Police Department, and then on to shut down the I-80 freeway for hours.
Lana, Miguel and I met up with the protest at the corner of People’s Park, a few blocks from Campus. Protesters marched in the street, the throngs of people swarming around stalled cars. Some sat in silence waiting for the mass of people to pass, while some showed their support from their cars. One man reached out his window to high-five protestors passing by. We chanted “Out of your house, into the streets” as people hung out of windows and filmed from rooftops, watching the crowd pass.
We made it down to the intersection of Channing and Shattuck, at which point a large portion of participants sat down, blocking traffic on Shattuck, which is a four-lane boulevard. Here, protest leaders spoke to the crowd through megaphones and the decision was made to continue to the Berkeley Police Station.
We arrived in front of the police station with hands raised, chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot.” It’s important to emphasize that this protest had been and continues to be (to my knowledge) entirely peaceful. As we were chanting with our hands up, police in riot gear came out from the building, blocking protesters from coming any closer. A man with a ski mask on began to chant “Fuck the police,” but instead of joining in, the entire crowd turned around and immediately shut him down. Visceral “NO!”s came from everyone around, and the crowd, twice as loud as previously, began to chant “Peaceful protest” with fingers raised in peace signs. It was incredibly powerful to see that the majority of protesters were not focused on destruction. In fact, it felt like the group of protesters out tonight were there to emphasize the message of peaceful civil disobedience.
Police told protesters again tonight that their congregation was unlawful assembly and issued an order for the crowd to disperse. There was some tension in the crowd—we weren’t sure if the police were going to make arrests after the first dispersal request, and the crowd began to chant “The whole world is watching,” which is true. After two requests, though, protesters willingly left and moved on towards University and Shattuck, and from there proceeded to the I-80 freeway.
The peace and willingness to cooperate tonight, both in terms of protesters with police and groups of protesters with each other, was really comforting. It makes me believe that we can make a powerful statement without violence. The Berkeley community is coming together to create change, and that is what makes this city one that I have fell head-over-heals in love with.
This is what democracy looks like.