Protests continued for a fourth night in a row on Tuesday in Berkeley, California, after a city council meeting was cancelled where demonstrators intended to voice their anger over grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers involved in the deaths of two black men. Over 200 people were arrested by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) on suspicion of resisting arrest and other charges related to Monday's protests, while reports emerged of the use of pepper spray on a journalist and the threat of tear gas.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates reportedly said Tuesday’s council meeting was cancelled over concerns that there would not be enough room to accommodate the protesters. The council chambers reportedly has a capacity to hold 125 people but many more were anticipated to attend. Bates also reportedly said that he supported the police department and its handling of the ongoing protests. Reports emerged late on Tuesday claiming that a Reuters journalist had been pepper-sprayed by police, and his camera was stolen.
"I believe Berkeley has a great police department," Bates said Tuesday, according a local news report. "I can't imagine they would step over the line. They had rocks, bottles and ice picks thrown at them." He also added that at least 20 officers were injured in clashes with protesters, while two were hospitalized.
The CHP said that it will deploy nearly 80 percent of its available staff to oversee protests that are being planned for Tuesday night in Berkeley, The Associated Press reported, citing the San Francisco Chronicle. Authorities reportedly said that more than 200 protesters were marching through downtown to the Berkeley police station.
Some protesters reportedly confronted police near Highway 24 Tuesday night and police reportedly used flash grenades in an attempt to clear the highway in Oakland, California. CHP officers said that 223 people were arrested for blocking Interstate 80 -- one of the busiest freeways in the nation -- on Monday night and reportedly face bail of up to $50,000. The Bay Area Rapid Transit station, which was reportedly closed due to protests, was reopened Tuesday.
"The crowds have become larger, more hostile and more aggressive, and the public can expect that we will use whatever force necessary to clear the roadway and keep people safe,” Highway Patrol assistant division chief Ernie Sanchez told SFGate.com.
Protests over the use of excessive force by police that led to the deaths of two black men intensified after a Ferguson grand jury decided last month not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown on Aug. 9. Public anger was further fueled after a Staten Island grand jury decided last week not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.