Farmacy on the morning of June 1
Berkeley dispensary Farmacy, boarded up after vandalization on both Saturday and Sunday. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

For hours on Sunday night into early Monday morning, police in Berkeley responded to numerous commercial break-ins around town as looters in vehicle caravans roved through the city, authorities report.

The looting followed protests that have gripped the nation over the past week in response to the death of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis police on May 25. Murder charges have been filed in that case.

In response to Floyd’s killing and other incidents, many thousands of demonstrators have taken to local streets in recent days to decry police brutality. Looting and destruction took place during Friday’s large protest in Oakland after officers used tear gas on large crowds. On Saturday, the mayhem hit Emeryville, with extensive looting at the shops along Bay Street. On Sunday, San Leandro saw extensive looting activity, authorities have said.

On Sunday night, Alameda County put out an alert advising all residents “to stay home due to the civil unrest” throughout the East Bay: “Unless personal travel is necessary, we are recommending residents stay home due to the high number of police actions. Currently there are multiple reports of large, mobile groups of rioters and looters traveling throughout the East Bay Area. Travel on highways and freeways may be difficult or restricted as multiple road and freeway exit closures are expected.”

Those groups began arriving in Berkeley around 9:30 or 9:45 p.m., said Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood.

“What we’re seeing are opportunistic looters who strike in unison,” he said. “We’ve been fairly successful in making arrests on most of the cases.”

Berkeleyside will share arrest information when it becomes available.

Many of the vehicles in the caravans have no license plates or cover the plates up, Greenwood said. When officers attempt to stop them, drivers flee.

Greenwood said there had been looting at Walgreens on Adeline Street and a pharmacy on Telegraph Avenue. There was also a burglary and multiple burglary attempts at Cannabis Buyers Club Berkeley (CBCB) on Shattuck Avenue.

Farmacy Berkeley — another cannabis dispensary — was hit by looters both Saturday and Sunday, Greenwood said. On Saturday, 5-10 vehicles descended on the Sacramento Street dispensary at the same time as people jumped out of the cars, broke the window and went inside.

Looters also hit Target on University Avenue twice on Saturday. The corporation has announced it will close a number of stores around the nation in response to safety concerns. (Berkeley is not currently on the list.)

Police recovered guns during two separate car stops over the weekend, the chief said.

Nearly all of Berkeley’s available officers have been working since Friday night, including some who have been assisting police in Oakland, Greenwood said.

Shifts in Berkeley will be beefed up again Monday night, and officers will be keeping a close eye on businesses that might be targeted, said Greenwood: “We’re going to be prepared.”

Shortly after 1 a.m. Monday, Albany police reported a caravan of “25 cars rolling south on San Pablo.” Berkeley police saw the same group speeding through the area near Gilman minutes later.

Officers asked Public Works staff and a police evidence technician to respond to damage at multiple Berkeley businesses. It would be awhile, the dispatcher told the requesting officer over the radio. The list was five deep.

Around 1:30 a.m., according to radio traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside, one officer described three- and four-sedan caravans that were “continuously coming into” Berkeley near San Pablo Avenue and Gilman Street.

Officers were chasing them out of the area, he said, before correcting himself: Police were “lovingly escorting them out of the city.”

Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...