Recently, there have been protests in response to cases such as Ferguson, Mike Brown, Eric Garner and etc. regarding excessive police brutality and violence against minorities communities. There was one such protest last night in Berkeley.
My roommate and I arrived at the protest after 9pm. When we reached Telegraph and Durant, there was definitely tension between the police and the protesters. A group of police, who were fully masked and in riot gear, occupied the intersection splitting the group protestors and a crowd had gathered mainly to watch and observe what was happening.
It seemed as though each side was waiting for the other to do something, almost as though both sides were waiting to hear a pin drop. From the crowds people called "Hands up don't shoot" and "This was a peaceful protest". Shortly after, there was a loud bang from around the block which sounds as though a bomb had been dropped or shot. At that point my roommate and I left to go see what was happening around the block. Tear gas had been fired at the crowds and the officers were advancing towards the protestors pushing them back. We tried to catch up and join the main group to see what was going on, but when we would round the block we would see the police advancing towards the protestors.
From my understanding, the police came after rioters who destroyed windows and tagged buildings. There were quite a few police officers there (my guess is over 100) and they themselves were quite tense. Someone in the crowd mentioned that you could look into their eyes and see the ill intention in their eyes. It was almost like their eyes were cold and you could sense that they were not there to protect you. It seemed very militaristic. That being said the actions of the officers and their demeanor were off putting and quite unsettling; I can understand why the people in that moment were against the police. Plus, the riot gear and tear gas did not help much (tear gas sucks... it is a combination of cutting onions and inhaling red peppers just a thousand times worse than that though). The officers kept pushing the protest around and blocking off streets, which was quite inconvenient for individuals trying to get home. Many people lived in the areas that were blocked off and the police would not let them get to their homes.
From what I saw, it seemed like a fairly peaceful protest and few if any people were actually causing destruction. Out of the hundreds of individuals there, I only saw three individuals in ski masks causing destruction and in this case tagging the Bank of America with the phrase FTP. Another individual and myself questions them, asking them what the hell they were doing.
Their justification was ridiculous. They said it was their right and "form of protest." Which to me seems completely stupid since if you are fighting a system of injustice, what gives you the right to do injustice. Sure, Bank of America may not be a good or even moral corporation, but that does not justify damaging their property. Seeing these individuals and their absolute disregard made me more sympathetic to the police.
Given, what I saw and experience tonight. I would say our job is to stand up for justice both the little things and bigger things. It made me realize that people do not really care about the little injustices and that is worrisome, because when you ignore the little injustices it sets the precedence for more injustice. It is just as important to condemn the rioters and looters and bring them to justice as well as to stand with the protestors. After seeing the police in action it sheds light on what is going on and why these protests started it the first place. The police are being militarized and have forgotten what it means "to serve and protect."
This is obviously an issue that needs to be addressed and is in no way just. But we should also looks for any other ways to stand up for justice like protecting business from rioters during the protest. Many businesses closed early and had their windows boarded to avoid damage. What message does that send. After seeing those individuals tag that building and then asking them why, you realize that people do not really care about the little injustices and that is something that should not be neglected. Their justification was that Bank of America is horrible and ergo it is fine to do this. I beg to differ. They may very well be horrible, but it does not justify what you are doing. Injustice does not justify injustice. As a side note there were many instances when traffic was stopped and stalled by protestors, it would have be nice to have a system set that would allow people to continue about their business would have been helpful. It feel like letting people know what routes to avoid and helping people go on their way is the right thing to do and builds good will (it just seems like the neighborly thing to do).
I would say we should go show our support for the cause, but work to keep the peace and help out where ever possible.
Like I said before, support the cause and help prevent the little injustices. Also, there was quite a bit of damage and destruction so helping fix that. The streets are more dirty than usual so maybe helping to clean the streets. And trying to see if there is a way to help businesses that have been damaged, it would be cool if we could help cover the cost of repairs for them.
A bit long, thanks for reading. Those are just my two cents. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts below
Interesting related reads: