Protesters in Berkeley close I-80 for hours

ByLaura Anthony and Alan Wang KGO logo
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Protesters in Berkeley close I-80 for hours
Traffic came to a standstill Monday evening after hundreds of protesters marched onto Interstate 80 near University Avenue in Berkeley.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Traffic came to a standstill for hours Monday evening after hundreds of protesters began marching onto Interstate 80 near University Avenue in Berkeley around 8 p.m. The Downtown Berkeley BART station was also closed for hours as well.

Protesters gathered on Monday at 5 p.m. at Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way in Berkeley before marching through the streets of Berkeley and to I-80, shutting it down.

The crowd was one of the largest yet with over 1,000 people marching and up to 1,500 people gathered at its height. Police lost control of them after they splintered into groups around 8 p.m. at the University Avenue on-ramp in Berkeley. They rushed onto I-80 with some protesters marching all the way down both directions of the freeway toward Oakland.

The protesters started walking in between the rows of paralyzed cars on the freeway as the traffic was backed up for miles.

RAW VIDEO: Protesters in Berkeley shut down I-80

There was another confrontation on the pedestrian bridge over I-80 in Berkeley, early on in the night. CHP motorcycle cops tried to head off a group that was trying to cross over the pedestrian bridge.

Sometime after 9 p.m. police received a call that a woman was stuck in traffic and going into labor on West Frontage Road in Berkeley. Emergency crews were able to find her, transport her and got her to a hospital in time.

Around 11 p.m. over 50 protesters were detained by police behind the Ross store off Shellmound Street in Emeryville.

There were no reports of property damage as of 11 p.m. last night, but Berkeley police say things were thrown at them.

This is the third night Berkeley has joined in on the national protests following the two recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the separate cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City.

Earlier on Monday, business owners in the East Bay were still trying to recover from the previous nights of violent protests and were told to close early.

Mayor Tom Bates told ABC7 News he is proud of his city's rich history of demonstrations and peaceful protests. What he's seen the past two nights is unacceptable.

Business owners still recovering from violent protests

It was a destructive weekend in Berkeley after two nights of demonstrations left more than a dozen businesses with damage, mostly broken windows.

"It was really disturbing," Bates said. "It turned violent and it turned violent in a way that we haven't seen here for a long, long time. Over the weekend, over 16 various stores were trashed, not just major businesses, but small businesses."

Bates does acknowledge that his police force may have overreacted, especially on the first night when tear gas was deployed into the crowd, so he promised a review of those actions.

On Sunday night, police seemed to take a different approach by staying well back, but there was yet more vandalism in the downtown area.

"People are angry and they have the right to be angry," BAM spokesperson Benjamin Lynch said.

Lynch was among the demonstrators out on Berkeley streets the past two nights.

"What happened in Berkeley was there was a bunch of peaceful protesters and the Berkeley police were out of control. They attacked people with batons. They knocked people to the ground," Lynch said.

Demonstrators plan to try to shut down the Berkeley City Council meeting Tuesday night.