100s march as California protests continue

2014-12-10 14:53
File: AFP

File: AFP

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Berkeley - Hundreds of protesters angered at the killing of unarmed black men by white police officers marched through downtown Berkeley streets on Tuesday night as protests continued in Northern California.

Protesters stopped at City Hall, where a city councilman addressed the crowd and said he will ask for an investigation into police response to the protests over the weekend, when the latest wave of protests started.

Bay Area Rapid Transit officials said the station in downtown Berkeley was closed as a precaution. A City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday night was cancelled after threats to disrupt it, said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.

Amtrak passenger train service was suspended between the Oakland Coliseum station stop and Richmond because of the protest, officials said.

223 people arrested

A California Highway Patrol official said 80% of its available staff would be deployed to monitor the protest in Berkeley after a crowd of about 1 500 blocked all lanes of Interstate 80 and blocked an Amtrak train on Monday night.

The agency arrested 223 people on Monday on suspicion of resisting arrest, obstructing police and other charges, said Ernie Sanchez, assistant chief of the CHP's Golden Gate Division. Berkeley police arrested another nine people.

Sanchez told the San Francisco Chronicle the agency will also ask the Alameda County district attorney's office to increase bails and charges.

Those arrested face bails of up to $50 000, and many remain in custody, he added.

A large group of demonstrators destroyed highway perimeter fencing, flooded lanes, and threw rocks and other objects at officers. It took about an hour and a half to clear the interstate, and no major injuries were reported, the CHP said.

More demonstrations

A woman stuck in traffic went into labour during the protest, but fire crews were able to get her to a hospital, KPIX-TV reported.

"The CHP respects the public's right to gather and demonstrate, but it needs to be done in a safe manner," Sanchez said. "At this point, they've made their statement and we respect that. Now, we're asking them to stop."

Although many activists in other parts of the country have gone home, protests in Berkeley and Oakland are still active, reflecting the area's long history of protest dating to the 1960s.

The protests started after a grand jury on 24 November declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. A New York grand jury on 3 December declined to prosecute a police officer captured on video applying a fatal chokehold on Eric Garner. That decision set off more demonstrations nationwide.

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