Berkeley High School students protest police brutality

Karin Goh/Staff

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Berkeley High School students rallied to protest police brutality Thursday in the school’s main courtyard.

The rally, which lasted from about 3:45 p.m. to 4:10 p.m., was organized by the school’s Amnesty International and Black Student Union clubs. Participants gave speeches, chanted and held a moment of silence.

Approximately 30 people attended the rally, including students and staff from Berkeley High. Many held signs protesting police brutality, which the clubs handed out to attendees.

The rally comes the day after a protest at UC Berkeley against police brutality, which was a part of a nationwide anti-police brutality day. Organizers of the two events did not coordinate.

Berkeley High School senior Kadijah Means, president of the school’s Amnesty International club and lead organizer of the Black Student Union, said the clubs would have preferred their rally to occur on the nationwide anti-police brutality day. According to Means, however, many participate in internships Wednesdays, so there would have been fewer students occupying the courtyard after school ended. She wanted to ensure maximum attendance, hoping those in the courtyard after school would join the rally.

The courtyard was populated with hundreds of students before the start of the rally, but most left when Means asked those who did not wish to participate to leave the area.

Means kicked off the rally with an overview of civil rights pertaining to police interrogation and arrest.

“Rally day is coming up, and there’s lots of underage drinking there,” she said. “So if you get arrested, know that you don’t have to talk to them.”

Among the speakers was Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in UC Berkeley’s Near Eastern studies department. Bazian spoke about the prevalence of police brutality and racism across the nation and the prison industrial complex, stressing the need for students to maintain consciousness of these issues over the course of their life.

“You are made to do magnificent things for humanity,” he said in his speech. “Don’t aspire to a cubicle that locks up your consciousness.”

Ella Hass, a Berkeley High sophomore and member of the Amnesty International club, also gave a speech. She discussed her outrage at the alleged police brutality in Ferguson but stressed that police brutality exists locally as well.

Hass pointed to the Oakland Police Department’s history of police brutality, citing the $74 million the department has spent since 1990 settling police brutality lawsuits.

Means also led the attendees in a moment of silence for those affected by police brutality, whom she said was “everyone.”

“Because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said,” Means said.

According to Andrea Roth, an assistant professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law, anti-police brutality protests are very important, even if they don’t result in the indictment or disciplining of particular officers who might be guilty of brutality, as they pave the way for reform.

“It changes the terms of the debate,” she said. “It shifts the debate over from ‘Should we do something?’ to ‘What should we do?’ ”

Contact Sonja Hutson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson.