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First The Protest, Then The Storm: Bay Area's 5 Straight Nights Of Clashes


Protesters have been marching for five nights, now, through Berkeley, California, and nearby Oakland. They are among the more intense protests after grand juries failed to indict police for the deaths of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City. Some nights of protests in Oakland included window breaking, vandalism and clashes with police. NPR's Richard Gonzales reports that last night was different.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: The actions this week in Berkeley and Oakland follow a pattern. A mainly young and multiracial group of perhaps more than a thousand people, some of them students, march and yell now-familiar chants.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Chanting) Eric Garner. Michael Brown.

CROWD: (Chanting) Shut it down, shut it down.

GONZALES: Eventually some protesters break off from the main group and smash windows. But last night, far fewer took to the streets. Perhaps it was because scores of protesters have been arrested this week, or maybe it was reports of the impending storm due to hit the West Coast. Still, slightly more subdued than in past nights, but the protesters' sentiments were the same. Alex Bonte, a volunteer medic, summed it up.

ALEX BONTE: Eric Garner and Michael Brown are manifestation of, like, systemic racism and, like, institutional injustice that has been happening for centuries.

GONZALES: But that message got muddled last night. As the protesters marched first through the UC Berkeley campus, they learned that high-tech billionaire Peter Thiel was speaking about his new book in a nearby hall. Thiel, the protesters said, is linked to the national security apparatus.

CROWD: (Chanting) Push on through. Push on through.

GONZALES: About 100 protesters barged into the auditorium where Thiel was talking to a packed house of students. He fled the podium as the anti-police protesters took command of the stage.

CROWD: (Chanting) No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace.

GONZALES: But the students who wanted to hear more from Thiel responded with their own chant.

AUDIENCE: Go home. Go home. Go home. Go home.

GONZALES: The disruption left many in the audience stunned, frustrated and angry. Sam Leggett is a junior studying computer science.

SAM LEGGETT: In terms of the Ferguson case, I do agree with some of the issues that they're supporting. But I don't understand how this is in any way productive to the cause.

GONZALES: In a matter of minutes, the event was declared over, and the anti-police protesters departed. The marchers then wound their way through Berkeley streets and on into neighboring Oakland, where they stopped traffic at several intersections and prompted the temporary closure of two transit stations. Richard Gonzales, NPR News, Oakland, California. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.
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