Students And Activists Blockade A Major Portion Of Interstate 80 In Berkeley. 157 Eventually Kettled By Police In Emeryville Charged With Penal Code 647(C) And 370.
We the people of the United States believe that the executive branch of our government in the form of law enforcement, has overstepped its bounds and purpose and must be radically re-examined through a national referendum.
As far as the question of violence. Nonviolent direct action can clear the space for our temporary autonomous zone by impeding business as usual and providing an avenue of radical confrontation with the state.
As far as property destruction. Property destruction is not violence. Calling property destruction violence would be falsely equating the destruction of things with the destruction of actual human lives directly caused by US Government and corporate policies at home and abroad.
The blocking of freeways and roads is a spectacular action designed to temporarily liberate the the self, the group, the bystanders and all global witnesses through an albeit brief rattling of our collective mental chains.
We marched from downtown Berkeley down University Avenue towards the Bay. At the extended entry ramp to the Eastshore freeway from University Avenue we were met for at least the third night in a row by at least 100 Berkeley Police in full on stormtrooper riot gear. This night the march on University to block the freeway seemed closer to 3,000 which was more than any other night. Perhaps due to a critical mass of sheer numbers the people collectively figured out we should make a quick left on sixth street in front of the police blockade and then a quick right toward the footbridge at aquatic park that goes over the Eastshore Freeway.
I decided to scout ahead to the Bay side of the bike/footbridge and found the CHP there at about two dozen. The dozen or so CHP motorcycles soon headed straight in formation toward the bike/footbridge and so I raced in front of them to make it back to the mass of people still nearing aquatic park. People streamed up the footbridge on the other side only to meet a wall of CHP bikes over the eastbound traffic. I wondered all night how this must have appeared to people in their cars, the unknowing, the unassuming random people out there, this action was certainly for them as well. The CHP pushed the crowd back with their motorcycles until the fence holding people on the footbridge 60 feet above the pavement began to swell and sway, and for a moment appeared as if it were about to drop hundreds of people down onto the pavement. The CHP sensing catastrophe, stopped their assault. By this time people poured onto the access road directly between the body of water at aquatic park and the I-80 East.
The CHP riot police fought back initial attempts of kids to storm the freeway. We protested the first Gulf War and the Rodney King verdict with vigor when I was many of these kids age. You don't know how beautiful it is to see kids almost 25 years later acting with such purpose and courage, without fear.
As the CHP fought back the kids trying to get on the freeway under the footbridge, people just went further on down that road adjacent the lake thus expanding the frontline with the police blockade of the freeway to nearly a half mile and not just a few hundred feet that could easily be covered. About a quarter mile down from the footbridge the first breach took place when about 30 kids pulled down the fence and poured in front of eastbound traffic which had already been stopped some time ago when people first reached the shoulder of the highway.
It was total anarchy, it was beautiful, the freeway belonged to the people. Traffic was eventually stopped in both directions as hundreds poured onto the freeway. It must have been around 8pm or so. Word gradually spread back to the footbridge that the freeway had actually been breached and more and more poured in. The people held both lanes of traffic for at least an hour or more.
In my experience thus far this thing has been entirely spontaneous. I literally joined the march each evening on University avenue as I heard the march go by my house.
In fact one of the major organizing forces for the marches was that each night after people gathered at 5pm it was soon dark and the looming and extremely loud choppers would lead the way, literally with a spotlight, to where the real action was. Not no cinema, not no theatre, no soundtrack, this was the real deal, the real unmediated experience.
Hundreds of what looked mostly to me like high school and young college aged kids held the Eastshore freeway in Berkeley for more than an hour, stopping traffic on the Interstate 80 in both directions. A group of about 300 then decided to march to Oakland on the freeway. In my desire to witness what was certain to be some type of military action by the CHP Riot Police I rode my bike from aquatic park through Emeryville to Powell street to go under the bridge and out onto the Bayshore bike path. I rode back up toward Ashby to see the people advance and the CHP tactics to attempt containment. The people advanced quickly past Ashby and then Powell streets which was my last vantage point for the impending assault. You have to be extremely careful when you scout ahead and when you follow behind in an action like this because many times I found myself just the cops and me or somewhere between the people and the cops.
So I do not wear a mask. I am a citizen observer and writer and I have every right to see what the kids and the cops are doin’, especially right in my backyard. And I am here to say that, “The kids are all right.”
Not satisfied that I had witnessed all that the night and this action had to offer, I stood frozen still, staring toward downtown Oakland from Powell street, imagining the kids advancing on one of those elevated freeways toward Oakland, trapped on both sides by menacing stormtroopers. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a bike go between the stores, my fate was sealed, Now I remember, that's right there's loading and back exits and garbage for all these um garbage stores and all the garbage they carry. I headed on my bike back between the stores with what can only be seen now as reckless abandon. It was literally like an alleyway. I don't know why it felt like a safe place to go. I was blinded by my desire to see what I dreaded might happen to the kids, that they would be viciously trapped and attacked by riot cops. Within a couple minutes it was clear that the freeway action was dissipating from a solid line of riot police shooting rubber bullets and flash grenades at this point.
People came in mass over the freeway fence as the 60 or so CHP stormtroopers swept the highway at 15 feet apart firing rubber bullets into the crowd. But that was not it. They were after bodies and some type of head count for the statistics, some kind of head count for the books. All the good white liberal people with power and influence were extremely dismayed at the actions of the people on the previous nights and outraged at the lack of people arrested by police.
I know some and I listened to them, “Well if those kids can't behave we'll just have to lock them up,” and things like “Well we live in a peaceful society and if people want to disturb the peace well we'll just have to get rid of them,” and other such nonsense. We headed running from the bullets and grenades around the corner and boom, right there, 30 stormtroopers running at as with busses and vans full of more right behind them. One last chance was the wrought iron fence toward the Marriot parking lot. We squeezed between the fence and bushes and highway and soon the front people were yelling “Go back!! Go Back!!!”
We were surrounded on all sides not by uniform cops but by full on stormtroopers in what can only be described as some incredible fuckin’ gear. Damn, that is one sinking feeling to be, as the term I learned from the kids there, kettled. We were in a human kettle between Ross and the Powell Street exit to Emeryville, we were probably seated on a shellmound, or former shellmound. We did have a window of a few minutes when only a few dozen cops stood between us and freedom until it became several hundred police surrounding us, the overkill being quite intimidating in and of itself. I thought they were gonna attack us from all sides in a flurry of assault as their numbers kept building. We could have rushed the line at first but clearly people would have gotten hurt and it was not a solid number of people who actually desired to break through the police line. That's it, we were trapped.
A modest group of 150 young women and men, students and activists versus a group of frustrated bloated overfed ex football players itchin’ to crack someone’s skull. Well let’s just say the point of confrontation is to win. Blood I did not want to see at this point.
It was a successful nonviolent action that stressed and confounded the authorities we meant to confront. It was tactically beautiful which can only last for so long in a spontaneous action. The CHP eventually outmanuvered us. Good for them. It was time to sit down for the night.
And that we did, on the cold pavement for almost three hours, wrists bound tightly behind our backs in plastic zip ties. And then in the caged Alameda County Sheriff’s blue bus with the midnight bus to Santa Rita blues. And then through the night in bullpen after bullpen at Santa Rita County Jail. Somewhere around 4 in the morning we were brought across the main yard of the jail to cell block 32 West. It was somehow oddly satisfying that they used an entire cell block to house us. And an entire cell block to house the women who were in the majority of the 157 or so people arrested. They stripped the cell block all the way down to just metal bunks and toilet paper. It was oddly satisfying.
Yes it was oddly satisfying in the same way I was happy sitting on the ground in those twist ties for hours in some form of torture yoga. The satisfaction came from the certainty in my mind that this scenario could only be extremely temporary, and would have to change soon. A feeling not to dissimilar to the feelings I have been having lately about our society in general.
We will be in Oakland Municipal Court at 661 Washington Street, Oakland, CA at 9 am in Department #107 on Tuesday January 6, 2015 facing charges of trespassing and obstruction. Any support from the people is welcome.