Berkeley High School students organize walkout, march peacefully to UC Berkeley

Ariel Hayat/Senior Staff

Berkeley High School students peacefully marched to the Campanile in protest of police brutality and in solidarity with Ferguson protesters Wednesday afternoon.

Students filed off the Berkeley High campus about 2:30 p.m., congregating in front of Old City Hall to rally support before marching into traffic. Hundreds of Berkeley High students held signs and chanted phrases such as “black lives matter,” marching the streets of Southside before entering the UC Berkeley campus from Telegraph Avenue.

Demonstrators marched in solidarity with victims of police force, including Michael Brown, an unarmed black man who was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The walkout followed four nights of protests in Berkeley.

Kadijah Means, organizer of Wednesday’s walkout and lead organizer at Berkeley High’s Black Student Union, or BSU, spoke to the crowd of protesters when they reached the UC Berkeley campus.

“Berkeley is a very progressive place, and we’re going to tell the nation it’s time,” Means said.

Unlike the protests of the last four nights, the Berkeley High walkout did not involve any vandalism or police confrontation. The walkout lasted a little more than an hour.

Approaching campus, demonstrators first stopped in front of Sproul Hall to encourage UC Berkeley students watching from the sidelines to join their walkout.  After encouraging students to encircle the Campanile, Berkeley High’s BSU leaders initiated a four and a half minute “die-in” in front of the Campanile in honor of Brown, whose body was reportedly left in the street for four and a half hours after he was shot.

Madeleine Pauker, former Daily Californian reporter and current Berkeley High student, said the walkout was set up about a week ago. She said some teachers have been supportive of the walkout by rescheduling tests and assignments.

According to a released statement from Berkeley High principal Kristin Glenchur, Berkeley High administration was aware of the walkout and would not allow students who left school for the walkout to make up missed work.

“Standing idle as humans are murdered is inexcusable,” Means said in a released written statement before Wednesday’s walkout. “When racial bias and profiling are the motivation behind those murders, they become even more despicable. It’s 2014 — time for tangible change.”

Contact Lydia Tuan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @tuanlydia.

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  • Anon

    I don’t agree that BAMN should encourage middle school and high school students to ditch class. Why? Because even tho some of them might have protested for the right reasons there are some that just wanted to get out of school for the day.

  • I_h8_disqus

    Telling the police that black lives matter is something. However, when will the community start showing those growing up in Oakland and Berkeley that black lives matter and that those lives should not be wasted living lives that place them in danger. If our youth since MLK were living lives like MLK, there wouldn’t be any problems.

  • Ayodele Kinchen

    With my two oldest in tote, I took a short cut to to the bead store, and ended up stumbling upon several hundred Berkeley High schoolers rallying up on their school steps after a walkout, and preparing to march in protest against police brutality and in solidarity with the Ferguson protestors around the globe. As I approached the red street light directly across the rally, I saw an open parking space rt next to me, and knew instantly this was an opportunity I could not pass up. We were joining this protest! At least that was my idea. But my kids, my son who is 8, particularly, was furious, and refused to get out the car. My daughter who is 5, was hesitant following her brother’s reaction. I was a little taken back because I was pumped, and I wanted my kids to be pumped too. So I’m trying to convince him to get out the car, and sharing why it was important for us to participate, Why black lives matter, why his life mattered, and why we have to stand up for our rights, all which we’ve discussed and I thought he understood before. So my preaching submitted to bribery. But even ice cream couldn’t get him out the car. It was an emphatic “No Mom.”

    So then he finally shed some light and said…. “No, mom, it’s because when MLK marched and protested, they sprayed all the people down with hoses, and beat them, and I don’t want to get beat! And the helicopters are here, that’s the Police.” Me: drops mic…..I was like Wo! My heart dropped and I felt his fear that had surfaced through. I then understood and assured him he would be safe. And that his Mama would never let anything happen to him. That I would protect him and his sister with all of my might. With a few more coercively assuring words of love, he finally took my hand as tears continued down his face.

    As the march began, I held onto his hand tight. I wanted him to see and feel that I had his back and I would not let him go or allow him to get swallowed up in the sea of people. We continued walking and without warning, my chest started to boil, I began to feel overwhelmed with the experience as I looked down at my kids and thought of them as possible victims I could be seeing face down on the pavement. Tears started to swell in my eyes as I felt an enormous wave of grief for the Mamas and their pain of losing their child. Thinking about my promise to my children that I would protect them, knowing some day I won’t be here to hold their hand. It took all of me to hold back as I didn’t want to channel any further fear in my kids minds.

    The bullhorn, the shouting, the liberating chants were exciting and shifted me. But my kids were still a little startled. My son kept pulling on my hands down every time I mirrored chants with fist pumps, and scolded me with his eyes. My daughter was cool, walked steady, but was quiet. As we walked more towards UC Berkeley, I began to see the change in my son’s demeanor. His grip was loosening up, he got a pep in his step, and even broke into smile. A few minutes later, he turns to me and says “I’m starting to like this!” At that moment, I felt proud and relieved. But it also revealed to me how important it was to not only speak and discuss these matters with my kids, but have them engaged in grassroot real life experiences and movements like this. I needed him to not fear fighting for his rights, especially in a peaceful manner.

    As my son became self-encouraged to join willingly, and begin to shout the fiery chants, I knew his perspective moving forward would be different. The vibrations of the bullhorn, the footsteps against the concrete, and the energy of the crowd no longer scared them, it inspired them. We were no separate energies, but one in the same. When he said his feet were starting to hurt, I said we will walk for all the people 6 feet under…we will walk for them. I then had my daughter on my shoulders, and countered the pain of her weight with the pain of the struggle. It was hard, but it felt right, and far easier than what our people have endured for hundreds of years. I was like Whatever with her boots knocking me in my face.

    Walking in her brother’s footsteps, my daughter was changing proud, and my son was anxious to get to the front, so we rolled on. We got to the steps of the UC Berkeley clock tower, and concluded the forward march with a moment of silence. Students layed or sat down for a 4 1/2 minute “die-in,” 1 minute for every hour Mike Brown layed in the street in his pool of blood. Ashe. They called out the names of others lives lost, Ashe. As I layed on between my children’s shoulders, someone snapped our photo. Another snapped my kids sitting over the banister that was then featured in the article attached. How amazing for this experience and journey with them. My phone died, so I couldn’t document like I wanted, so these pics are awesome.

    As we marched back to the high school, the crowd grew incredibly to about a thousand or more as students from UC Berkeley joined in. We shut down Shattuck all the way back to a final rally. The wind began to pick up, and all of our twists were waving back and forth in the air. The clouds were getting dark and my son said it’s getting cold. I told him the storm was coming. Then I corrected myself and said ” Actually, the Storm is Here.”
    ….They got that ice cream by the way…It was well deserved.


  • Guest

    I feel sorry for these youth. Their future will be mired with violence from the police state.
    Search Youtube for “RISE OF THE POLICE STATE! The transformation of our Public Police Forces”

    These BRAVE intelligent UC Berkeley students were not protesting about the police per se. They chanted ‘Who do you protect?” They want the police to protect and serve like they used to do. They were protesting about the POLICE STATE. They were chanting “THE POLICE STATE WILL FALL.” Then the police fired tear gas on them.

    Search Youtube for “POLICE BRUTALITY @ UC Berkeley Student March 12/6/14”

    The Police State was set up by the government. This is why when the police kill unarmed civilians, they can get away with it. They are protected by the laws, court and government. The government has given them a lot of power, military-grade equipment so they can freely exert power over the people.

    Unless you want someone brutalized or dead, don’t call a cop. Because that person brutalized or dead could be you. If you disobey a cop or irritate them, they will be on to you like rabid dogs or a pack of wolves. They will not care if you have health issues or is dying once they assault you.

    The police state can come to your door anytime and harass you without using the court to do this properly. They can come to the wrong house and start terrorizing people, then get away with it.

    Search Youtube for “Police Raid Cops Shoot Towards Children Killing Dog Police State wrong house”

    The Police State is HERE. WE ARE ALL SCREWED regardless of color.

    So, if you ever meet a GOOD cop, make sure to thank and praise that cop.

    • I’d much rather have the cops around than have BAMN trying to break down my windows and loot what they can

  • Merissa Gerson

    These students are amazing. This is the future. This is strong. This is beautiful. This is good. I hope the country is listening as you speak your voices. I, for one, am.

    • Anon comment

      They skipped school for this. The high school didn’t allow it. Half the school was absent for 6th period and this is a HUGE waste of taxpayer money.

      • Nicolas Theunissen

        Actually, the school only gets payed when students show up, so this did not waste any money. Additionally, I find it ridiculous that you are worried about money when people are protesting for justice in our country, this is an issue that is much more important that money, and even if it was wasting taxpayer money, its nothing compared to the money wasted by the army.

      • Finn Collom

        I’m a Berkeley High student who participated, and I understand your
        reservations regarding the timing and cost of our protest, but sometimes
        democratic movements for social justice require a little disruption of
        the status quo in order for people to recognize the necessity for
        change. I hope we have your support as we continue to fight for the
        demilitarization of the BPD police force in the near future.

        • BUSD Mom of 3

          Please explain demilitarization. What changes would you like to see?

    • Joseph Watkins

      What is “the country”, and even if it hears our voices, it truly has selective hearing for selective interests. This will continue, and the rest of the world will join in another way soon enough. They already are.

    • I_h8_disqus

      What would be amazing is if the students put this effort into their education, so they could escape the situations that endanger them. Berkeley High students still perform far too poorly when compared to other high schools in the Bay Area and California.

    • Brave? These students are just blowing around with whatever is the popular political flavor of the day