MOSCOW, December 10 (Sputnik) — Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Berkeley and Oakland for the fourth time to protest a grand jury decision not to press charges against white police officers in the two deaths of unarmed African-American men in St. Louis and New York, USA Today reports.
Protesters briefly blocked the westbound lanes of highway 24 and set some garbage cans on fire. The demonstration was mostly peaceful, until just before midnight when some began vandalizing stores.
The demonstration began at Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way near the UC Berkeley campus around 5 p.m. The protesters headed for City Hall and then marched through downtown Berkeley streets toward Oakland. They shouted slogans against racism and police brutality.
California Highway Patrol fired smoke grenades and beanbags into the crowd, and demonstrators chanted "Hands up, don’t shoot" and put their hands in the air.
Protesters initially planned to gather at the Berkeley City Council’s Tuesday evening meeting, but Mayor Tom Bates cancelled the event.
City councilman Kriss Worthington addressed the crowd, criticizing police for using tear gas during Saturday’s protest.
"I am embarrassed that Berkeley police would attack my constituents," he said as quoted by USA Today.
Nevertheless, protesters took to the streets and marched into Oakland.
"I want police to stop attacking innocent people for no reason," said Dre’an Cox, a student at Mt. Diablo Adult Education in Concord, California.
California Highway Patrol officers said they arrested 223 people in Monday night’s protests that blocked interstate 80. Many were charged with blocking the road, assaulting a law-enforcement officer and other offenses.
"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.
According to Berkeley police, they arrested nine people, but the protests were "relatively peaceful."
During Sunday night’s protests some people vandalized stores, smashed windows and set fires. Berkeley police arrested five protesters.
Protests sparked across the country after a grand jury declined to press charges against white police officer Darren Wilson in the death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. On December 3, a New York grand jury decided not to prosecute a police officer who killed Eric Garner in a chokehold. The two similar cases renewed debated over police brutality and unfair sentencing in the US.