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by ready for revolution
Wednesday Sep 27th, 2000 12:28 AM
a summary of the events at S26 solidarity action in berkeley! reclaim the streets!!
this is a summary of what i saw tonight participating in the reclaim the streets all-out party in berkeley tonight, in solidarity with the prague imf protests.

a large group of people assembled at the berkeley bart station around 6pm. there were a lot of people on bikes and a lot more ready to march. we marched through berkeley without much police activity at all... it was great! there were two soundsystems cranking hiphop and techno... people were dancing, laughing, and generally feeling liberated after a weekend of great protesting and in solidarity with those struggling in prague tonight.

everything about the march was perfectly peaceful. everyone made their way back to the bart station, where a street party was planned. a huge mass of people were dancing, singing, playing drums, and having a good time as a few police watched from the side. i saw some police laughing and talking with protesters... almost dancing even!

at some point, the idea to bust up some newspaper boxes came up... so a bunch of USA Today, Chronicle, etc newspaper boxes started to get smashed up. with all that extra newspaper floating around, we decided to start a little bonfire to help with the evening berkeley chill.

this was the cops\' excuse to start busting heads. a wall of officers shoved through the crowd, knocking people over and pushing against them with nightsticks. the fire department came in and sprayed the bonfire ... effectively spraying hot, burning embers all over a crowd of demonstrators and passers-by. this pissed nearly everyone off, since the supposed safety-conscious fire department seemed almost punitive in their attempt to spray the crowd with burning embers. many people in the crowd pointed this out to the cops and fire dept, but like they fucking cared.

then things got tense. we were having a nice peaceful (albeit illegal) party and the cops decided to push it into violence. so now there were cops planted with menacing looks (under riot helmets) and nightsticks in hand where we had been partying. a small group tried to start another fire, and the cops against responded with force, pushing and shoving people with nightsticks to assert their control.

as more police started to move in, the group decided that it would be better off on the move, so again we took to the streets, blocking traffic. what once was a peaceful protest had the potential to be a riot after the uncalled-for violence by police had reminded everyone what they were out there for.

the group moved through downtown berkeley, truly reclaiming the streets. phone booths everywhere were set on fire. trash cans were set on fire. the mcdonald\'s on shattuck & university was set on fire. citibank and other banks had their windows smashed out. fires of garbage and newspaper were started in the middle of the street. all the while, people were yelling, \"whose streets? our streets!\"

the cops were fucking clueless. they had no idea that their use of force would not send people fleeing home, but instead make us more resolved.

the group went all over berkeley\'s downtown, even as far south as near ashby on san pablo. the group started working its way back up to telegraph. not wanting the public eye on them or the protest, the cops decided to barricade telegraph, at which point, the group started to get closed in by police. of course, the cops started pushing people, shoving people and attacking them with nightsticks. a tense scene developed on a residential street, with protesters yelling about police brutality and the cops bustling around, shouting orders at people and, well, being generally brutal.

fearing an all-out arrest situation, and more violence, the protesters finally had to take the high road and began to disperse.

at this point, someone heard that the cops were running to the Gap on telegraph and bancroft, obviously fearful that the precious corporation-state institution might be vandalized. the cops proved that civil rights were to take a backseat to the corporate property rights that fuck everyone over everyday. so protesters started to move to the gap, mostly to make fun of cops who were there to protect it. one macho, moustached cop standing in front of the gap admitted that he felt like a dork defending the gap. i asked him if he and some of the other officers wanted to help us tear it apart, and he said the chances of that happening were \"zilch\".

i left around 11:15pm, at which time there were about 40 riot police blocking off the last block on telegraph where the gap is, about 10 riot police standing in front of the gap protecting it, and a bunch of auxilliary cops blocking off traffic. the protesters were still singing, dancing, and acting out skits of police brutality.

a group of UC-berkeley students who were coming out of their dorm building saw the police state conditions, and stayed around to watch.

at one point, a skateboarder outside the gap fell, and his skateboard went skidding into a wall of police. one cop grabbed the skateboard and \"confiscated\" it... which elicited huge boos and jeers from the protesters and the crowd of uc-berkeley students. some part of the crowd started chanting \"thief thief thief\" because the cop basically stole the guy\'s skateboard. eventually, the cop gave the skateboard back and there was a resounding cheer of victory from everywhere.

this was a fucking major action and for a few hours this evening, the streets were reclaimed and people were celebrating peacefully. this was one of the most inspiring protests of the NAB/Prague weekend... and hopefully there was plenty of picture-taking and video recording to document this event. SOLIDARITY!
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