Stephen Lam / Reuters

Protests against police violence flare again in Berkeley

Bay Area protesters set fires, block traffic; fifth night of nationwide action over police killings of black men

Demonstrations against police violence continued nationwide for a fifth night with protestors in Berkeley turning unruly again on Sunday.

On Saturday, protesters in the Bay Area city clashed with police, hurling objects and smashing store windows. 

Berkeley police Officer Jennifer Coats said Sunday evening's protest began peacefully. Then someone smashed the window of a Radio Shack. She said when a protester tried to stop the vandalism he was struck with a hammer.

Some of the marchers made their way to a freeway on ramp in Oakland and blocked traffic. There are no immediate reports of arrests or injuries but the California Highway Patrol (CHP) tweeted that rocks and bottles were thrown at officers. Stressing that the violence was committed by a small group of people, the CHP added that protesters attempted to set one patrol vehilce on fire, and smashed the windows of two others.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that CHP officers in riot gear released tear gas and began herding protesters off a freeway about 9 p.m. CHP arrested people but there was no total as of early Monday morning.

In Philadelphia about 200 people staged a silent "die in." They lay in the street for four minutes and 30 seconds to symbolize the 4 hours and 30 minutes that the body of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri lay on the street after he was shot by a white police officer.

A Missouri grand jury chose not to indict indict Officer Darren Wilson sparked violence akin to that after he killed Brown in August. That decision, coupled with a New York grand jury's decision to bring no charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, a New York City police officer, in the July chokehold death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, has spurred protests nationwide since Wednesday.

The killings and subsequent decisions by grand juries have rekindled a national debate over race relations in the United States.

Earlier on Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told ABC there has to be "an honest conversation" about the history of racism in the U.S. to help bring together police and the community. He has spoken openly about his concerns for his teenage son. The mayor's wife is black.

De Blasio declined to answer specifically when pressed about whether he respected the grand jury's decision last week.

New York City's police commissioner said an internal investigation into Garner's death could take "upwards of three to four months." William Bratton told CBS that interviews of officers had already started.

Activist Al Sharpton announced plans on Sunday for a march in Washington, D.C., next Saturday to protest the killings of Garner, Brown and others and to press for change at the federal level.

Protests continued in New York on Sunday. Rain had tempered Saturday actions after mourners held a funeral for an unarmed black man shot dead by a white police officer in the stairwell of a Brooklyn apartment building.

The shooting of Akai Gurley, 28, at a public housing project last month was the latest in a series of incidents fueling outrage over what protesters say is a pattern of excessive force being used by law enforcement against African-Americans.

The district attorney in the New York City borough of Brooklyn said on Friday a grand jury would consider charges against Peter Liang, the officer who shot Gurley. Police said Liang might have accidentally discharged his gun.

In Brooklyn, mourners gathered on Saturday morning at a Baptist church to remember Gurley, the father of a 2-year-old girl. Afterwards, about 75 people gathered for a vigil and brief march in his memory.

Clinton Jordan, a 40-year-old security administrator at John F. Kennedy International Airport, was born and raised in the Louis H. Pink housing project where Gurley was shot. He said residents felt a mixture of anger and resignation.

"You know in this neighborhood you've seen a lot of police brutality to the point where we're just fed up," he said.

Elsewhere in New York, demonstrations on Saturday were even more restrained than on Friday, when arrests numbered only 20.

A protesters lay down again on the floor in New York’s Grand Central Terminal Saturday in one of the now-familiar "die-ins" featured in the wave of protests this week. Tourists and commuters snapped pictures of the silent protest.

A Saturday protest in Berkeley that began peacefully turned violent when some demonstrators smashed store windows and hurled objects at police. Officers responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, video footage on local news showed.

One man smashed a grocery store window with a skateboard as others proceeded to loot the store, the KTVU-TV video showed.  The San Francisco Chronicle reported that at one point, the marchers were face-to-face with a line of about 100 police in riot gear who turned the crowd back.

Coats, of the Berkeley police department, said police were pelted by objects from a splinter group of protesters and confirmed that smoke and tear gas had been fired.

One officer hit by a sandbag suffered a dislocated shoulder, while police vehicles and private cars were vandalized, Coats said. Six people were arrested, she added.

The disturbance forced the closure of the local Bay Area Rapid Transit station.

In Seattle, 13 people were arrested overnight in angry demonstrations that began Saturday. Protesters threw rocks and attacked police who blocked them from marching onto State Route 99, resulting in seven arrests for assault and other charges, said Seattle Detective Patrick Michaud.

On Saturday, hundreds of people in Hartford, Connecticut, marched for nearly two miles in the rain to a rally at a city park.

“I’m angry and I’m scared,” said Rev. Henry Brown, founder of Mothers United Against Violence, which helped organized the rally. “This new wave of police brutality must stop today.”

Demonstrations were scheduled on Sunday for Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis and dozens of other cities.

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