Occupy Berkeley's overnight clashes with police

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In an afternoon raid, the Berkeley Police Department cleared what was left of the Occupy Berkeley protest encampment. Here’s our account of protesters’ attempts to defend the camp last night and early this morning.

After being served an eviction notice the morning of December 21, protesters gathered at the Occupy Berkely camp, established several blocks away from the downtown Berkley BART station. About 100 protesters remained on site throughout the night, clashing a few times with police. But when the park officially opened at 6 a.m., an encampment of about 20 tents remained in Martin Luther King Junior Civic Center Park.

The Occupy Berkeley camp had been in place since October 10. In early December, it boasted more than 60 tents and several hundred protesters, but many packed up and left when the eviction notice was served. The notice stated, “this park is closed at 10:00 p.m. Starting December 21, 2011, this law will be enforced.”

It also noted that protesters were in violation of California Penal Code section 647 (e), which prohibits “public lodging.”

After the Occupy SF State camp was cleared December 20, Occupy Berkeley became the Bay Area Occupy movement’s last remaining tent city.

Around 11 p.m. Thursday, dozens of protesters milled around the camp. About 40 joined hands in a Winter Solstice ritual beside a large Christmas tree in the plaza, decorated by occupiers earlier that evening. Others had moved their tents and belongings to a nearby plaza outside of a Bank of America on Shattuck Avenue.

Two arrests were made around midnight. Some occupiers state that one of those arrested had been causing tension and fights in the camp, which has become notorious after several reports of crime. Yet when the arrests were made around midnight, thirty people followed and stood outside the police station, which is directly across the street from the camp.

Here’s a video from the scene posted by YouTube user akenower:

“I can’t say I like the guy, but I’m in solidarity with my fellow occupiers,” said one longtime OccupySF camper who has been spending time at Occupy Berkeley since the OccupySF eviction December 7.

Said the young man, who preferred to remain anonymous, “I’d rather continue the process of working this out within the camp than see him go to the police.”

At 12:30 a.m., a Berkeley Public Works truck pulled up to the park’s southeast corner, and workers loaded one or two tents and other possessions into the truck bed. About 70 protesters ran over to respond, led by a dozen “citizen journalists” wielding cameras. When one man using a computer to film the police approached a police car, an officer abruptly opened his door and struck the computer, and the man fell to the ground.

The officer then exited the vehicle and brandished his baton. Protesters responded by chanting “go home!” and advancing towards the officer; he retreated several feet into the street before returning to his car and driving away.

About 30 minutes later, protesters began to gather outside the police station on Martin Luther King Junior Way. The BPW truck, packed with their confiscated tents and other items, had pulled up in front of the station.

The truck’s driver initially surged forward. But as more protesters massed, and someone called out “you’re part of the 99 percent too,” the driver slowed to a stop and parked. Protesters, who cried out, “come get your stuff back!” climbed on to the truck and began redistributing items.
Soon, a dozen officers exited the police station with batons and lined up, surrounding the truck. Protesters refused to leave the intersection, chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!”

Holding their batons with both hands, several officers struck protesters, ordering them to get back. About ten “street medics” -- protesters tasked with tending to injured occupiers -- responded with assistance.

After police left the scene, the mood turned calm. Protesters exchanged stories and ideas for tactics, and donated coffee and food from supporters who stopped by trickled in.

The temperature was in the low 30s as the longest night of the year inched by. Unsure whether police would return, dozens of protesters stayed awake through the night.

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