Thursday, November 5, 2015
Black Berkeley High Students march and rally against white supremacy at BH
About 2,000 Berkeley High School students walked out of class Thursday morning and took to the streets to protest a racist message left on a computer screen a day earlier.
The message, which school officials found at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, referred to the KKK, used derogatory language related to African Americans and threatened a “public lynching” on Dec. 9.
“This is a hate crime and messages such as this one will not stand in our community,” said Principal Sam Pasarow in an e-mail to the school community late Wednesday. “I assure you that we are giving this investigation the utmost attention, as well as involving the Berkeley Police Department.”
District officials estimated that about 2,000 of the school’s 3,000 students had left school grounds to participate in the march, which had moved to UC Berkeley late in the morning. Administrators and Berkeley Police officers were with the students, said district spokesman Marc Coplan.
“We really understand the students pain, their anguish and their fear and are doing everything we can to work with Berkeley police and other agencies to figure out what happened,” Coplan said. “Our students are hurting tremendously. They're weeping. They're crying.”
The students voiced their outrage over the offensive message that, according to district officials, appeared to be a modified screen shot of the school’s library web page, left on one computer in the library. It did not appear that the system had been hacked and the web site altered.
Chanting "we got that unity!" and "say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud!" hundreds of the student marched from the school to the UC Berkeley campus, where they gathered on the steps of the Sproul Hall administration building.
Marshatta Porter, a Berkeley High 11th grader, stood on the steps listening intently to fellow black student made calls for progress.
"I think it's really dehumanizing how they targeted one race," Porter said. "It's 2015. It's ridiculous."
Lauren Moore, another Berkeley high school student, marched down Telegraph Avenue with her friend, holding a brown Black Lives Matter sign she got from a Berkeley High School math teacher.
“It's important to me,” said Moore. "As an African American student I felt in danger."
Students from the school’s Black Student Union responded to the incident in a widely distributed statement, calling it an act of terrorism.
“The perpetrator sympathizes with the racist cause of the KKK and makes a clear threat to lynch Black students this December 9th. The terrorists call for the death of Black people in the message. ,” according to the statement. “The terrorists call for the death of Black people in the message.”
During the rally, broadcast live through various social media channels, students raised their fists and chanted, “Black lives matter!”
They called on the administration to take the threat seriously.
The threat was the third racist incident at the school in the last year.
In December, over winter break, a noose made from string was found hanging from a tree on the campus and then in the spring, the yearbook was altered just prior to printing, identifying an academy within the high school that serves primarily students of color as “trash collectors of tomorrow.”
Officials were requesting that other law enforcement agencies be brought in to investigate the most recent incident, Coplan said.