I'm going to step away from all of that for a moment and talk about the protests I've been documenting in Berkeley, CA the last couple of nights. I probably should have stated this from the beginning, but I'm speaking here from a position of immense privilege. Straight, white, cis, male. On the first night of the protests, I felt rather uncomfortable. The majority of people at the front of the pack of protesters was white, I'd occasionally hear people start chanting, "All Live Matter", too many white people with megaphones, and there were many, many white people putting their hands up saying, "Hands Up Don't Shoot." Are white people the ones being shot in the back while their hands are up? Are they being choked to death on camera? Do we call white people that riot and burn cars thugs? Does a significant portion of this country believe white people deserve to die for jaywalking? NO. So when I saw those things on the first nights of protests, I felt uncomfortable and rather annoyed, though conflicted because there is great power in numbers, and even if some of those numbers are saying stupid shit because they don't quite get it, they're still there in the name of the same cause, supporting people they care about, albeit in some ways they maybe shouldn't.
Moving right along (not to brush the previous issue under the rug as it's incredibly important and we should all critically examine the ways we occupy space during protests and realize this movement is about black lives, and black voices are the most important in these protests). I joined up at the start of the first protest at 5pm on December 6th. While I absolutely support what people are marching for, I was largely there to document, and film police when they became violent, and to provide water, food, and very basic first aid to protesters. I marched along with them on a winding path to the Berkeley Police Station. It was there that things began to change. There were two groups that decided to split up at that point because they had different goals. It's worth noting that this is exactly what police want -- they stop a group long enough for some people to get antsy, wait for them to split off, and then let the other group through to separate the numbers and make it easier to deal with the individual groups. Anyway, one group, the group I stuck with, wanted to march down University to the freeway. Right after the groups split, things got slightly ugly for a moment.
Among the protesters was a small minority of white anarchists who are there just because they want an excuse to antagonize they police. It was generally fairly easy to tell who they were, as many were wearing all black and sporting full face masks. They were typically the ones throwing bottles at the police. At one point shortly after the split, one threw a sand bag at an officer and the response was what I think was a foam round of some sort that was fired seemingly at random into the crowd. Then there were two rounds of smoke or tear gas fired into the crowd.