Farmacy Berkeley was looted on Saturday night. Vandals broke windows and the dispensary’s front door and stole stock. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

On Saturday night, about five to 10 cars pulled up near Farmacy Berkeley on Sacramento Street and Alcatraz Avenue. About 30 to 40 people got out and, within minutes, they had broken the cannabis dispensary’s front door, rushed inside, smashed a number of glass display cases, and made off with edibles, tinctures and salves.

The destruction and looting were an affront to Sue Taylor, the founder of Farmacy Berkeley and an African American woman who has made it her mission to try and heal her community. She said the people who broke in — and who returned twice on Sunday night to break windows in another attempt to get inside — were not expressing outrage over the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis a week ago. They were just “lowlifes just using an opportunity to take advantage.”

“It’s so disheartening,” said Taylor by phone. As she spoke to Berkeleyside, a plate glass repair company drove up to 3243 Sacramento St. to begin replacing the front door and two plate glass windows. “It does take away from the real reason everybody all over the world is protesting — to save lives.”

Throughout the weekend, thousands of people demonstrated in Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and in many cities across the country to demand justice for all the police killings of black Americans. While most protests were peaceful, a number of demonstrators broke windows in stores, looted their contents and set some on fire. Locally, looting happened in Emeryville, San Leandro and Walnut Creek. Oakland has been particularly hard hit. Many small businesses in Chinatown and the Fruitvale district suffered extreme damage.

Some of those vandals came to Berkeley Saturday and Sunday nights and targeted cannabis dispensaries,  pharmacies, and other stories, according to Berkeley police. On Sunday, vehicle caravans with as many as 10 cars bunched together started to arrive around 9:30 p.m., police said. A short time later, Alameda County sent out a Nixle alert telling residents to stay at home because of “large, mobile groups of rioters and looters.” By 6:20 this morning, there had been 17 incidents and Berkeley police had arrested 10 people, said Byron White, the public information officer for the police.

This wasn’t related to any protest,” he said. “There weren’t any signs related to any cause. They were folks looking to vandalize or steal.”

Grafiti scrawled along the outside of the Walgreens at Adeline and Oregon streets. The store was looted overnight on Sunday. Photo: Pete Rosos
The Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley boarded up its windows Sunday to deter vandals. It didn’t work: people tried to break in three times early Monday morning. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

In addition to attacking Farmacy Berkeley, the vandals tried to break into the Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley (CBCB) at 3033 Shattuck Ave. They hit Target at 1414 University Ave. twice, breaking windows the first time, and stealing some items the second time, said White. Vandals also burglarized two Walgreen’s, one on Telegraph Avenue and one on Adeline Avenue, as well as US Liquors at 2997 Sacramento St,, according to police.

On Monday, the Walgreens at 2810 Adeline St. was closed. A large plate glass window lay on the floor of the store.

Police made arrests of people carrying guns, driving a stolen car, and for the looting and vandalism but have not provided details. Taylor said police had arrested three people they suspect of breaking into Farmacy Berkeley. She praised the police, saying they had arrived Saturday within six minutes of getting a distress call.

The vandals tried to break into CBCB three times this morning, at 1:30 a.m., 3:30 a.m., and 4:45 a.m., said Jess Grotenstein, the dispensary’s general manager.

“They pried back the plywood and started pushing with bars to break the window,” he said. “The guard started honking and calling the police. They ran off but came back for a second round.”

The dispensary had covered its windows Sunday morning in preparation, said Grotenstein. The dispensary had spray-painted “Black Lives Matter,” and “Choose Love,” on the plywood coverings, but those words did not serve as a deterrent.

After Saturday’s looting, Farmacy Berkeley moved most of its inventory into a vault, said Taylor. She estimated that the looters got about 5% on the dispensary’s goods. The dispensary will be boarding up every window as the dispensary seems to be a magnet for the vandals. Taylor said Magnolia Dispensary in Berkeley, run by Debby Goldsberry, was hit hard over the weekend. Harborside was also targeted, she said. Farmacy Berkeley is closed today.

“I am sorry it had to go to this level,” said Taylor. “First we get the pandemic. All of us are cooped up. This is like a release for these people. They are getting out. They are like loose cannons.”

This story was updated after publication to include information from the Berkeley Police Department. The article was changed to say there were as many as 10 cars in a caravan rather than 25.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...