Traffic, tran­sit disrupted in Berkeley protests

Hundreds of people marched their way into Oakland after walking through city streets in downtown Berkeley Tuesday night to protest decisions to not indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.

The protests started around 6:20 p.m. when police said about 100 people were marching through the University of California at Berkeley’s South Campus area. About an hour later, the group grew to a larger crowd at Center Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, near Civic Center Park, in Berkeley, police said.

They gathered at the front of City Hall where they heard remarks by City Councilmen Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin. The Berkeley City Council had a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. today but it was canceled this afternoon due to protesters who had planned to disrupt the meeting.

Mayor Tom Bates said in a statement:

“We have postponed tonight’s City Council meeting because the Council chambers, which hold about 125 people, could not accommodate the large turnout expected to attend. One estimate placed the number as high as 1,500 people.”

Shortly before 8 p.m., the protesters left City Hall and were marching south on Martin Luther King Jr. Way from Allston Way, police said. They then went south on Telegraph Avenue to Oakland. The Downtown Berkeley BART station was closed at about 7:10 p.m. due to the protests but reopened about an hour later, according to a BART dispatcher.

Trains were only be running through the station located at 2160 Shattuck Ave. during the closure, BART officials said. Shortly after 9 p.m., the MacArthur BART station at 555 40th St. was closed due to the protests but reopened as of 10:20 p.m., the dispatcher said.

California Highway Patrol officers in riot gear were seen blocking state Highway 24 ramps at Telegraph Avenue in Oakland around 8:45 p.m. At about 9:15 p.m., protesters were seen on Highway 24 near the MacArthur BART station blocking traffic in both directions, CHP officials said.

CHP officers were able to clear people from the freeway and lanes were reopened to traffic about 30 minutes later and have reopened the ramps. The transition from Highway 24 to Interstate Highway 980 was closed but reopened around 10:45 p.m., while officers continue to guard ramps from Highway 980 to downtown Oakland, CHP officials said.

The protesters made their way into downtown Oakland where they were gathered outside Oakland City Hall around 10:30 p.m. Amtrak train service has been suspended on the Capitol Corridor line between the Oakland Coliseum stop and Richmond due to the protests, transit officials said.

Trains serving the San Joaquin and Coast Starlight routes will also experience delays, Amtrak officials said. Alameda-Contra Costa Transit buses have been detoured from their regular routes due to the protests in Berkeley and may reroute other lines in the area if needed, AC Transit officials said.

Some protesters were heard yelling “Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail,” while others were seen playing drums and holding signs while in the crowd on Berkeley city streets.

On Nov. 24, a grand jury’s decision was announced to not indict then-Officer Darren White in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Last Wednesday, New York City police Officer Daniel Pantaleo was not charged in the chokehold death of 43-year-old Eric Garner in Staten Island.

Protesters took to downtown Berkeley on Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights that resulted in vandalized businesses and multiple arrests, police said. On Saturday, police tear gassed demonstrators, who also threw bottles and rocks at officers. Portions of the freeway were also closed on Sunday and Monday nights.