Berkeley Protests: At The Front Lines
As a student studying Film and Interdisciplinary Field Studies at Cal, inspiring social change through video is my calling. I decided I needed to action this desire and I joined the throngs of people out in Berkeley protesting – I give you first hand exactly what I saw unfold right before my eyes on Monday December 8th from 9pm to approximately 2am
This weekend I was visiting Gualala, CA with my co-ed film fraternity when we heard about the peaceful-protests-gone-violent back home in Berkeley. The notion of people getting physically injured and endangered on the very streets I use everyday to get to class sounded absurd.
We’re in America! I thought.
On my return, I decided to skip a friends party and go capture the protests. My heart deeply wants to use film as a means towards social change, it’s what makes everything I do matter and have meaning. There was no way I could have spent the night doing anything else other than being a part of something crucial and valid to our culture. My upbringing living in India, Kuwait, and the United States exposed me to the various forms of discrimination and biases our culture holds towards anything and everything that isn’t a white male. So, yes, this had meaning and I had to go. Because #blacklivesmatter. Because all lives matter. Because people should be held accountable for their wrong doings. Because our voice is stronger when we stand together. Because our decisions today can change what happens tomorrow.
This was the timeline of my night:
- We got to the freeway and trekked down the middle of I-580, cars stopped on both sides. We walked at least a few miles before getting to the front of the police barricade.
- I interviewed a few people on motorcycles and cars around me; there were mixed responses. A few people were jamming to music and making the most of it, some had lot’s of questions about what was happening, but most people were annoyed and just wanted to get home or to work.
- Later I bumped into a woman who’s car tire had deflated because she drove over sharp objects on Saturday when protests had gotten violent. She talked to me about the fundamental problem when peaceful protest get violent. I agreed.
The way media works and information get’s circulated can be misleading and create a negative image for a movement that is much needed in light of recent events.
IMPORTANT: To my knowledge, the protests on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday have been peaceful.
- Later that night, we ended up at the Berkeley Amtrack where trucks and people had blocked the Amtrak trains. The crowd gradually moved towards Powell street where a group of twenty-something protestors had been kettled in by a vast majority of police. A few of my friends were amongst the zip-tied protestors, and I was concerned for their safety.
As we walked the streets, there was lot’s of chanting and a feeling of unity.
- A few protestors seemed to be turning their faces away from the camera from media folks. I found this extremely odd, considering that new-media can help movements like these by getting voices heard and seen by a larger audience. Although no one said anything to me personally, probably in-part because I was dressed like a student and half my head is shaved, there were instances where I sensed tension towards other photographers. I spoke to one guy who confirmed the protestors are afraid of facial recognition softwares.
- Throughout the night, there were police on every corner, in vast amounts, armed with more weapons than I could count on my two hands. Imagine that along with police car sirens and helicopters passing by every few minutes.
It was a bittersweet experience to be a part of something inspiring and unifying while feeling threatened by the very government that exists to protect and serve it’s people.
When I finally got home at 2:33 AM, there was one thing I was certain of. To quote Bob Dylan, ” ‘the times, they are a-changin’ ”.