Two arrested at Marines Office protest

February 22, 2008 9:06:35 PM PST
Two men were arrested early tonight during a protest of a controversial U.S. Marine recruiting office in Berkeley after a violent scuffle broke out between dozens of protestors and police.

Organizers with The World Can Wait received a permit this morning allowing them to hold the rally at 64 Shattuck Square, according to police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.

Soon after 4 p.m., the protestors began to march southbound on Shattuck Avenue and into the downtown area where many young people socialize, Kusmiss said.

"They took some large chains they brought with them in the morning and connected themselves together like a long chain gang," she said.

Despite conditions of the permit that prohibits the protestors from having amplified sound away from the permitted area, police said three participants were using bullhorns to chant and shout.

"Bicycle officers followed the marching group to ensure public safety and make certain they were complying," according to Kusmiss. "In front of Wells Fargo, one bicycle officer decided to detain one of the prime instigators with a megaphone. The young man refused to comply, pulling away from the officer."

The officer arrested 26-year-old Rafael Schiller for obstructing or interfering with a peace officer.

The situation escalated when a crowd of more than 25 protestors began to encircle the officer and his partner, shoving and kicking them, Kusmiss said.

The officers, who felt they were in physical danger, called for immediate backup, which came in the form of about 15 additional officers, said Kusmiss.

Police attempted to hold the crowd back, using their batons and hands to push with some force.

According to Kusmiss, one participant began to incite the crowd, urging them to get Schiller back from the police while he forced his way past officers. The man, estimated to be in his 20s, was also arrested for obstructing or interfering with a peace officer but refused to identify himself.

While there were no reported injuries to protestors, some officers sustained minor injuries, such as sprained fingers and bruises, Kusmiss said.

The incident took only four minutes or so and after the second arrest, the police cleared out and the protestors returned to 64 Shattuck Square, said Kusmiss.