The Durant Riot: Initial Brief

by

Berkeley, CA – In Sproul Plaza of UC Berkeley, hundreds gathered for a dance party that began around 10pm on Thursday, February 25. At the peak of the party (around 12am) the 250 people dancing surrounded the loudspeakers as together they moved farther into campus. As we approached Durant Hall, a building currently being renovated, people began handing out communiques. We began to see a yellow light glow from inside the second story windows of the building, and then silhouettes of dozens of occupiers emerged. They rigged a few banners across the front of the building and descended to join the party.

The occupation continued for a little over an hour, as occupiers and outside support began barricading their surroundings. The building, Durant Hall had once been a haven for East Asian Language studies, but is now being remodeled into another administration building. The occupation had the intention to point out this gross contradiction in university spending as well as articulate the need to escalate for March 4th. The point made, the occupiers and the supporters joined together to move the dance party away from an assured arrest action as police numbers slowly increased, in order to reserve their energy for the coming week.

As the crowd reached Telegraph and Bancroft (one entrance to UCB), the disruption of business as usual continued, as a handful of masked individuals grabbed trash cans and newspaper dispensers and knocked them over. The dance party continued to move past Bancroft, down Telegraph as more people joined the march and joined the destruction of capital. Now the windows of fast food chains smashed, the party settled in the intersection of Durant and Telegraph. The Berkeley police soon arrived, wearing helmets, armor and brandishing batons. However, there were 12 police and between two to three hundred dancers. The crowd scattered for a moment, expecting imminent police arrests, but to their surprise, the massive force they represented stopped the police cold in their tracks, thus shattering their feeling of submission. Those that began to burn trash cans and those that continued to stay simply because they felt empowered to do so, showed the strength even a small crowd can have against the brutal forces they faced.

The crowd began to swell in the intersection. Some 500 people were present, a combination of observers and protesters. The dance party continued to rage on as more and more people took the intersection, by now at least three hundred. Then without a clear reason, the police began to descend on the people in the streets. Some ran to the sidewalks to observe from a distance, others stood their ground, refusing to move. The police pushed people with their batons, the protesters pushed back and some were caught in the middle. Then an officer grabbed a woman at random and smashed her head to the ground. The protesters pushing back against the police began to grab for the woman to rescue her from further abuse, while even the observers at this point were surrounding the police, aware of the brutality at hand. The crowd nearly encircled the police, shouting, “Fuck the police!” and “Police brutality!” The police began to remove themselves from the scene, and line up again between the protesters and the campus, some 30 feet away from the crowd.

The atmosphere had changed now, the police had directly assaulted a person and charged at a crowd, most of whom were only there dancing. The crowd started forming a line, dumpsters were set ablaze and in an instant a largely passive group became a group intensely aware of the police presence. They confronted them, standing together, approaching a line of police that had by now grown, yet still outnumbered greatly. Even the observers became more brazen as many of them joined the protesters to face the police line, with cameras and iphones ready to snap a shot of the next assault on the crowd.

What had started as a dance party and occupation quickly turned into a direct confrontation with the police, whom had been following the protesters through out the night. For the next few hours the crowd stood firm; the crowd and the police pushed back and forth. A police car approached the line of cops, stopped and waited; within a few moments the police randomly grabbed a protester, struck him and plowed him into the asphalt with three officers kneeling on top his back. Ten minutes later, another car pulled behind the line of cops, and this time the police grabbed a woman who was rightfully shouting at the police for bloodying her nose earlier. Throughout the course of these arrests, observers and press were pushed back by the police, the police stating that they had to move away. The crowd grew more enraged, as with each police abuse spurring retaliations from behind the line of protesters in the form of thrown empty bottles and empty plastic paint cans.

Eventually, as the crowd collectively realized the painfulness of each interaction with the police, they withdrew from the line and proceeded East down Durant, in the process leaving a trail of burning trash cans and dumpsters. By 3am, the BART police arrived and the marching crowd dissipated.

24 Responses to “The Durant Riot: Initial Brief”

  1. Late-Night Riot at Berkeley « Student Activism Says:

    […] update | Occupy CA has posted a detailed narrative account of the riot, and the site Reclaim UC has the communique issued by the organizers of the Durant Hall […]

  2. Carbolic Says:

    1. Gross contradiction in university spending? The East Asian Library moved out of Durant’s cramped quarters to a spacious and new, $46 million dollar building–that was financed entirely through private contributions (not tuition).

    2. 10-15 police officers facing a rioting mob of several hundred people, throwing glass bottles and other things. Which group represents “brutal forces?”

    3. So it’s still a dance party when people are committing arson and smashing windows? And that’s entirely okay? I’m not sure you would feel the same way if it was your home getting attacked. And you fault the police for trying to prevent further crimes?

    • Dr. Smash Says:

      Yeah — the EALC move happened at the same time as they slashed classes and fired lecturers and then proposed a gutting of the dept. by %50, which was only stopped by protests. Berkeley cares about slick-looking pseudo-postmodern buildings, not courses. It’s nice that they found a place to keep all the books, but what about the people who want to learn the languages so that they can read them. . .

      • wtf? Says:

        The donation to build the EALC almost certainly came with restrictions that the money be used for that purpose. It’s not like UC could take the money and hire faculty. Would you rather they had turned the money down??

        Once the old building was vacated, it seems natural to perform major renovation work prior to new occupants moving in. Repairs are often put off until such events, since doing them while the building is occupied would be too disruptive. Major construction cannot stop on a dime — you contract with people years in advance to prepare for it; stopping the construction once the budget criss hit would likely have cost more than completing it.

        Dude, you totally “disrupted business as usual”…at Subway??

        To remedy the core problem, you need more public funding from the state of California. To get that, you have to rally broad public support and put pressure on legislators. Be realistic — most of the general public does not care as much about your cause as you do. Breaking shit and hailing that as “disrupting business as usual” just alienates you from the general public.

      • Cal-Grad-C/o-08 Says:

        They started building the new library back in the summer of ’05. I’m sure it probably took several months if not years for them to secure the funding (from private donations!) and plan out the location/plan/blue-print to start and get the project going. So once the financial struggle got going in Ca, and sadly budget cuts started coming to education, the project had years of being under way. What where they supposed to do at that point? Demolish the Library that had already been finished and sell it for parts? Brake the donors desire of what the money was going for? I’m sure Cal hated to have to cut classes and professors, but its NOT their fault. When you lose money you gotta cut something…. and the library plan had been going way before they would have guessed that Arnie was going to cut their funding.

  3. Patriot Says:

    Stop being targets for police brutality. You can purchase every piece of riot equipment the police have. Get yourself some helmets and some shields. Pick up a baton and some mace. You can even buy handcuffs and zip ties. 300 riotors should have easily subdued 25 cops. Just lock em up. Show them that 25 people WILL NOT be allowed to intimidate you by physical violence.

    You are going to have to rethink this whole operation, if you really want to be in control and change things….the DO IT.

  4. SF Bay Area Indymedia Says:

    Indybay.org serves between 100,000 and 150,000 page views every day and ranks well in search engines, including google news for example. If you want *your* story out there, and not just the corporate media version of it, tell it on Indybay.org education and student activism page and lots of people will see it.

  5. Brief occupation and riot in Berkeley « The New School Reoccupied Says:

    […] First brief from the riot: […]

  6. The Durant Riot: Initial Brief « Occupy Everything! Says:

    […] Click here to read more… […]

  7. Terrorists Disguised as Dancing Students Strike UC Berkeley! « UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP) Says:

    […] the rest of the Bay Area media, we would hate to go into specific details about why protestors (we mean terrorists) did what they did, but instead we would like to instead present you with a photo of the carnage they […]

  8. ed Says:

    hey this is linked from a story on the Huffington Post. Congrats.
    MARCH 4!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/26/berkeley-riot-fire-destru_n_477877.html

  9. east coast Says:

    dear west coast @,

    cool. it’s on.

    love,
    east coast @

  10. “as more people joined the march and joined the destruction of capital” | Uncivil Procedure: Says:

    […] Read more. Share/Save […]

  11. ed Says:

    LSU is in on March 4th:
    give them a link on your site:
    http://lsustrike.wordpress.com/

  12. anon Says:

    daily cal article: http://www.dailycal.org/article/108452/rioters_clash_with_police_in_streets_south_of_uc_b

    some highlights:

    The occupation evolved into a riot…

    Members of the crowd hurled glass bottles, plastic buckets, pizza and other objects at the police line.

    As the crowd moved, a white Dodge Charger turned onto the street and people ran alongside the car as it advanced, a practice commonly referred to as “ghost riding the whip.”

  13. INSURRECTIONIST Says:

    This is only the beginning. The riots are only going to get worse. A prepare for tea party conservatives to join the fun. A depression is well on it’s way. True unemployment figures are being covered up. The unemplyment rate in America is 22%. That accounts for those people that have been out of work and ran out of unemployment and no longer qualitfy and people only working part time. Wall St is taking a chunk not only out of US, California but Greece, Iceland, Spain, Portugal, Dubye, and most of Europe. We are all connected in a global economy and so if one goes down all the others will follow. Get ready for rioting on steroids starting by the end of 2010 and beyond 2012. Governments are predicted to collapse and mass unemployment and mass chaos.

  14. Ariana Doxis Says:

    Protests about fee hikes by breaking buildings are expressive and a kind of drunk fun, but counter-productive. And alienates voters.

    The source of fee hikes is the refusal of a minority of legislators in Sacramento to vote for increasing fees on oil revenues, businesses and the richest taxpayers.
    The top income tax for the richest used to be over 90%; now it is 38%. Prop 13
    protects homes and businesses against re-evaluation for tax purposes, and does not allow majority rule on taxing and spending in Sacramento. Change this!

    Attack the source of the problem, rather than fighting the disabled and the poor for state funding.

  15. Kris Says:

    Either we have to acknowledge more fully that this war is turning into (granted, a badly needed one) one against corporate capitalism instead of education, or we need to separate this from the education movement, at least in practice. The education movement is a venue for new more moderate participants to join. this will be destroyed by rioting, nor will rioting be helpful to the education cause.
    I’ll gladly join in a march against the corporate machine, against dehumanizing alienating modern capitalism, but NOT UNDER THE BANNER OF EDUCATION REFORM.

  16. the implied threat… « take the city Says:

    […] An occupation of Durant hall turned into a roving dance party which then turned into a riot. Read an account from Berkeley: What had started as a dance party and occupation quickly turned into a direct confrontation with […]

  17. what will you do about hate? Says:

    In light of the recent anti-black hate incidents at UCSD (noose hanging, “compton cookout”), and the homophobic vandalism of the LGBT center at UCD (as well a the swastika recently found carved on doors at that campus), I wonder what participants in the Durant-occupation-turned-Telegraph- riot are willing to DO about these acts of hate perpetrated at other UC campuses that transpired within days of the UCB incidents.

    Do participants in these Berkeley actions wish to identify with these “disruptive” events from other campuses, or to dis-identify?

    Whatever your intentions, it’s worth considering this interpretation from “Asian Guy,” who left a comment on an online news report about his experience on Telegraph last Thursday night:

    ” my experience:
    i was just chilling in the Asian Ghetto drinking boba when bunch of white people started shouting ‘whose street? Our street’
    I was like, “oh shit, I’ve never seen so many white ppl at once before” (I’m an international student)
    So i guess this is the real America? Hundreds of white people destroying private property?”

    Whose street? Indeed. Declare yourselves.

  18. Matt Says:

    Hundreds of white people destroying private property. It’s like the white version of Hurricane Katrina. This shit just de-legitimizes the peaceful protests that the students participate in. 150 Black students standing in silence, by Sather Gate, that’s a powerful message. “Dance Partyers” breaking the window of Subway is bullshit and only happened because it happened to be on that street. You want to change the world, run for office. Change it from the inside. Put some effort into it. It doesn’t take effort to take over a building. I hope the police don’t come to help you when someone comes to break your window and set your stuff on fire.

  19. “Dancing flashmob riot in Berkeley” (from History is made at night « Possible Worlds / Art, Community & Social Change Says:

    […] to Occupy California: ‘In Sproul Plaza of UC Berkeley, hundreds gathered for a dance party that began around 10pm […]

  20. All out to the courthouse to support our comrades! | THOSE WHO USE IT Says:

    […] two of our comrades who were targeted as prominent campus organizers and arbitrarily arrested at a so-called riot last February.  One of them was brutalized by the pigs — literally punched in the face […]

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