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National

Protests Over Officer-Involved Deaths Continue Nationwide

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We're fighting to demand justice for Michael Brown.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Protests like what we're hearing there in Berkeley, California, last night are still happening across the country, prompted after the lack of indictments in two cases where unarmed black men died at the hands of police. The demonstrations, from the beginning, quickly moved outside of New York City and the St. Louis area - Phoenix, Cleveland, Miami, Denver - the list goes on. Now in a few minutes, we're going to ask a protest leader what he wants out of all of this and whether he is being heard. But we begin with more sounds and voices from last night's demonstrations in two cities, going back to Berkeley where Youth Radio's Olivia Cueva was.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Who do they protect? Who do they serve? How are you protecting us if you’re killing us?

OLIVIA CUEVA: For the last three nights, there have been thousands of protesters taking to the streets of Berkeley. Last night, the demonstrations looked highly-organized with protesters handing out water bottles and leaflets listing legal advice. A crowd of hundreds gathers at the edge of the UC Berkeley campus.

Thanh Bercher crouches on the street with a stack of paper masks.

THANH BERCHER: These paper masks are being doused in vinegar so that they can neutralize the acid of the tear gas. And we're going to pass them out to protesters. Hopefully they don't have to use them.

CUEVA: Police arrested at least 216 protesters last night, including some who were blocking traffic on a major interstate. Others blocked Amtrak by laying down in front of a train. Yvette Felarca is an organizer with the group By Any Means Necessary. She says she's not concerned about the damage and looting that have happened here the last few nights.

YVETTE FELARCA: You know what I'm concerned about? I'm concerned about the violence of the police that have been killing black people and Latino people with impunity for years. And how are we going to change that and stop that?

CUEVA: For Berkeley freshman Rigel Robinson, he says the way to do it is political pressure.

RIGEL ROBINSON: Protests are really good for raising awareness and riling people up, but what we really want to see is cultural and legislative change.

CUEVA: He says he plans to take the momentum from the streets to the state house. For NPR News in Berkeley, I'm Olivia Cueva.

MATT OZUG, BYLINE: And I'm Matt Ozug in Washington, D.C., where dozens of protesters gathered in the high-traffic area of downtown called Dupont Circle.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What do we want?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: When do we want it?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Now.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If we don't get it?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Shut it down.

OZUG: If we don't get it, shut it down. In this case, it was shutting down the road. The protesters then staged a die-in - lying down in the middle of the intersection. For commuters like Drew Mamarke (ph), it made a long day even longer. He and his wife and two kids pulled up to the traffic light just before the demonstration.

Oh, there's a green light, but you're not moving.

DREW MAMARKE: Yeah. We're not moving right now because obviously some demonstrators are out there - protesters trying to get their point across. Oh, now we got people laying down in the middle of the street. And we're on our way to a Christmas party. Geez.

OZUG: The protesters stayed on the ground for about four minutes to symbolize the four hours Mike Brown's body was in a Ferguson, Missouri, Street. After they stood, still blocking cars, their chants turned to Eric Garner, the New York man who died after police put him in a chokehold.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: You can't breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If I can't breathe...

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: You can't breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I want you all to know these chants. Because you all are out here and you decided to come out here, you all are leaders. It's not just me. We are all leaders.

OZUG: More demonstrations are expected in D.C. later this week. And a large protest is being called by the Reverend Al Sharpton this Saturday on the National Mall. Matt Ozug, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.