Thousands of revelers took to the streets around Channing Way and Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley’s Southside neighborhood Saturday night in what many called “a riot” that ultimately resulted in property damage and at least three assaults, one of which sent a victim to the hospital.
Police believe the assaults may have been committed by the same three people, who were taken into custody around 1:10 a.m., after daylight saving time ended.
Police said early Sunday they did not know what sparked the activity. According to one report from a UC Berkeley student on Twitter, however, “There’s a riot in berkeley like a real one bc they shut down all our parties.” The Southside neighborhood where the crowds were reported has a large concentration of fraternities associated with the university.
According to a dispatcher, the watch commander was unavailable to provide information about the crowd situation as of 12:35 a.m. Sunday because she was “in the middle of trying to coordinate 5,000 people in a riot right now.”
Watch commander Lt. Alyson Hart reported, over the scanner at about 1:10 a.m., before daylight saving time ended, that the crowd had “thinned considerably” and “our Channing Circle issue is resolving.”
Berkeley Police Capt. Andrew Greenwood said police initially responded to a crowd of at least 1,000 people that reportedly ballooned to twice or three times that size, if not larger. Greenwood said, at about 1:20 a.m., he did not know how the incident began, and that officers were still in the midst of handling it.
Greenwood said there had been some reports of people throwing rocks or bottles, so officers withdrew from the immediate area but continued to monitor the situation and respond to life-safety issues. Greenwood said there had been no tear gas used, or any other force used by police in relation to the crowd.
Greenwood said officers were on patrol in the Southside area and were assisting the Berkeley Fire Department, as escorts during medical calls, to ensure scene safety.
At about 1:40 a.m., police and firefighters were dispatched to Piedmont and Channing for a report of a male who had been kicked in the head and was reported to be unresponsive. There were also numerous medical calls earlier in the night for students and others who had been drinking and needed assistance.
As of about 1:50 a.m., police estimated that there were still about 700 people on Telegraph and Durant avenues, mostly gathered outside bars and restaurants that were still open.
Wrote one woman on Twitter just before daylight saving time ended at 2 a.m.: “Tonight the corner my house is on turned into a riot zone. Haven’t felt this unsafe in a long time.”
Greewood said, at about 2:30 a.m. — post daylight saving time — that police had responded to at least three assaults that may have been committed by the same suspects.
“Those suspects were detained, identified and arrested,” he said. “At least one victim was hospitalized.”
They were identified as Carlos Chavez, 20, Jonathan Cortez, 22, and Adrian Hernandez, 22. According to Alameda County sheriff’s department records online, they were arrested on suspicion of two felonies: battery with serious bodily injury, and assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm. They are being held at Berkeley Jail on bail of $80,000 and are scheduled for arraignment Tuesday.
As of about 5 a.m. Sunday, according to online records from the Alameda County sheriff’s department, one person was taken into custody on Halloween for public intoxication, one person was arrested after misdemeanor battery with serious bodily injury, and one person was arrested following a DUI.
Berkeley Police spokeswoman confirmed at about 10:15 a.m. Sunday that at least one vehicle, at Channing and Piedmont, had been vandalized. She said the police department might receive additional calls about damage later in the day.
Coats said police were still piecing all the events together.
“It is unclear what may have started the disruptive behavior on the part of the crowd,” she said. “There was a larger than usual crowd in the South Campus area … due to the USC vs Cal football game, which draws a large attendance. Also, I think in part, due to Halloween there were a larger number of parties in the area. Several parties had let out in the area, with the attendees congregating near Piedmont and Channing.”
The Berkeley Fire Department responded to over 100 calls Saturday and early Sunday, but had not yet tallied up how many of those were fire alarm or alcohol related in the Southside neighborhood.
Berkeley Police Lt. Andrew Rateaver said, as of Sunday afternoon, there were “groups of young people in and about the affected area, armed with plastic bags and work gloves, picking up trash, broken glass and bottles and what not.”
Rateaver said approximately 33 Berkeley officers were committed to the incident.
“It is a drain on public safety resources, especially in times of limited resources,” he said, which can put other areas of the city at risk “because there may be a delay in getting resources elsewhere, if needed.”
According to scanner recordings reviewed by Berkeleyside, the Berkeley Fire Department began shutting down large Southside parties shortly after 10 p.m. One caller, from the 2400 block of Piedmont, called to ask for help and told a dispatcher “they’re trying to not have a party, [but] people are trying to get in.”
An officer reported that Durant and Piedmont avenues were “pretty thick” with pedestrians, and advised fellow first responders to keep an eye on the area.
At about 11:20 p.m., an officer made another report about heavy pedestrian traffic, and said emergency vehicles would have to use lights and sirens if they needed to get through the area, which was “chock full of people” around Piedmont, Durant and Warring.
A short time later, an officer called for emergency assistance to deal with a large fight on Channing east of the circle. As officers headed to the area, according to the scanner traffic, some people were throwing things, including bottles. Officers considered going in to pull out the people hurling projectiles, but the fight broke up on its own. Officers decided to leave the area to regroup, for safety, when there appeared to be no victims.
The police department advised the fire department that officer escorts should be used when responding to medical calls in the area.
Dispatch then reported “getting multiple calls about the same large group saying they’re destroying cars at this point.” Officers said they would wait until later to deal with property crimes and made it clear they were aiming to keep some distance from the crowd except for emergency situations.
Officers were advised to return to the station to “gear up,” with helmets and other equipment, as large crowds remained in the area. Units from other agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, Alameda County sheriff’s department and the University of California Police Department were also in the area to assist.
One of the earliest reports online about large crowds came out on Twitter at 11:37 p.m. Saturday, posted by a UC Berkeley senior: “There’s a riot in berkeley like a real one bc they shut down all our parties.”
An officer reported over the scanner that the crowd was easily in the thousands, but said he didn’t see any criminal activity happening.
“Channing is completely packed with people,” he said. “There’s no movement for cars. Pedestrians have occupied the whole street, and Channing Circle.”
Said Atreyue Ryken on Twitter as of about midnight, “Legitimate riots at Channing Circle tonight, cars broken into and jumped on by hundreds if not 1,000.”
Ryken said by email, as “I was leaving a friend’s house and heading down Channing, my group saw Police cars lined all the way down channing with hundreds of students on each corner on every block down from Piedmont up Warring, some police were in riot gear but most were starting to leave.”
Ryken continued, “A man in a Jesus Christ costume stood in front of the last police car and quickly had a crowd growing around him jumping and clapping, shortly after the police car left rioters started jumping on cars parked on Warring and the crowd grew rapidly. As I was leaving part of the crowd quickly dispersed with chatter of tear gas but I couldn’t see or smell any personally, and it appeared that all police units left the scene while the riot continued.”
Said one visiting USC student on Twitter, at 12:25 a.m. Sunday: “knew Berkeley was known for protests but a riot for Halloween seems a little unnecessary.” (Cal’s Golden Bears played the USC Trojans earlier in the day Saturday, and lost.)
Police received a report at about 12:35 a.m. that someone in the crowd had a gun, but it was not confirmed by authorities.
At 12:54 a.m., there was an unconfirmed report of someone running around with what appeared to be a hunting knife in the 2300 block of Piedmont Avenue.
According to another report, shortly before 1 a.m., “there is a legit organized riot down frat row… only in berkeley would they fight for their right to party.”
Several readers also reported what sounded like gunshots earlier on Saturday around 10:30 p.m. One reader said she heard two shots, possibly from Gilman Street, and another heard them in the area of North Berkeley BART. Police said on the scanner that the sound was believed to have been fireworks.
Another reader reported, at about 12:20 a.m. Sunday, a car had crashed into a light pole at Shattuck Avenue near Berkeley Bowl. She said first responders were not yet on scene when she was in the area, but she “saw people gathered on the sidewalk away from car.”
Berkeleyside has requested information from the Berkeley Police Department and will update this post if more information is provided.
This story was updated after publication due to the developing nature of the incident.
Get the latest Berkeley news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing. And make sure to bookmark Berkeleyside’s pages on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t need an account on those sites to view important information.