Hundreds of protesters, demonstrating against grand jury decisions to not indict white police officers involved in the deaths of two unarmed black men, continued to march through Berkeley, California, for the third night in a row on Monday. The protesters, numbering in a few hundreds, according to some reports, blocked Interstate 80 -- one of the busiest freeways in the nation -- and also stopped a train.
In contrast to the previous night, the protests were largely peaceful late on Monday, USA Today reported. Many protesters reportedly chanted “Shut it down for Michael Brown” -- a reference to the teenager who was shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson in August.
The protest sites in downtown Berkeley bore signs of the previous two nights of protests, which had turned violent on Sunday. Late on Sunday, many protesters had clashed with police, vandalizing and looting a number of shops.
In an interview late Monday, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates condemned the violence and said that a “tiny fraction” of protesters were obscuring a wider message calling for police reforms.
“I am very unhappy with the violence. People in Berkeley are generally in favor of the issues involved and they are very sympathetic with the people in Ferguson and people in New York. But what has happened is that peaceful rallies have all turned into violent confrontations,” he reportedly said. “Unfortunately, there is a small element that uses violence at times to make their point.”
The American public’s anger over Michael Brown’s killing by Officer Darren Wilson was further stoked last week when a New York panel declined to charge Officer Daniel Pantaleo for choking Eric Garner to death during an attempted arrest. Nationwide rallies and riots, which began in November, intensified after the decision, and further protests are planned in Oakland and Berkeley later this week, according to media reports.