December 8, 2014 / 6:33 PM / 3 years ago

California police, protesters clash again after 'chokehold' death

BERKELEY, Calif./NEW YORK (Reuters) - Angry crowds hurled objects at police who responded with tear gas in a second night of clashes in northern California following a grand jury decision not to indict a white New York police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man.

Police in Berkeley, California, fired tear gas after being targeted by what they called explosives. They moved in to clear roadways as protesters swarmed freeway overpasses at two locations in the city, a Reuters reporter saw.

Berkeley police on Monday morning said they made five arrests among the demonstrators. Well over 500 people demonstrated and a number of stores in Berkeley were looted. One protester who tried to prevent the looting was assaulted, police said.

Reuters could not immediately obtain further information from police, who some demonstrators said on Twitter had fired rubber bullets.

Protesters have demonstrated daily in several U.S. cities since a grand jury’s decision on Wednesday not to bring criminal charges against the white police officer whose chokehold contributed to Eric Garner’s death in New York City in July.

The killings of Garner and of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, have highlighted the strained relations between police and the black community and rekindled a national debate over U.S. race relations.

New York was quieter over the weekend, but West Coast cities had braced for trouble after clashes in Berkeley and Seattle on Saturday.

MOSTLY PEACEFUL ELSEWHERE

On Sunday, police in Berkeley fired tear gas after some demonstrators began hurling objects, the California Highway Patrol’s Golden Gate division said.

Patrol vehicles were vandalized, the division said on Twitter. It also displayed photos of rocks it said were thrown.

Authorities closed the local Bay Area Rapid Transit station for a second night due to the unrest. On Saturday evening, what had begun as a peaceful march in Berkeley ended in an extended confrontation between police and demonstrators, with six people arrested and one police officer injured. The two nights of looting and rock-throwing on the West Coast contrasted with mostly peaceful demonstrations elsewhere.

The decision by a grand jury not to return an indictment in Brown’s killing ignited two nights of arson and rioting in the St. Louis suburb.

In Seattle about 200 people gathered on Sunday evening, a day after a demonstration drew more than 1,000 protesters, with some throwing rocks and attacking police in clashes that resulted in seven arrests. There was one arrest on Sunday.

New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Sunday the department’s internal investigation into Garner’s death could take four months. He said he would review the results to decide if officers involved in Garner’s arrest had violated department policy. The Justice Department is doing its own investigation.

In Chicago, church-affiliated protesters marched through the city, carrying signs and chanting, “I can’t breathe” and “Hands up, don’t shoot,” television news footage showed.

Protesters in Miami blocked a portion of the Interstate 195 highway on Sunday afternoon, clogging traffic to a large international art show in Miami Beach, CBS-TV Miami reported.

The outcry over the recent killings spread to NFL stadiums as well. Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush was among several players donning pre-game practice jerseys reading “I can’t breathe,” Garner’s dying words.

Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York, Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans, Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle; Writing by Frank McGurty and Chris Michaud; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, John Stonestreet and Eric Beech

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