Evil clowns have not made their way to Berkeley but fear of them has

Dani Sundell/Senior Staff

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While creepy clowns are no laughing matter, there have been no confirmed sightings in the Berkeley area.

UCPD has not received any reports of clown sightings, according to UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Sabrina Reich, despite concerns from parents in the Berkeley Unified School District stemming from threatening clown-related photos posted on Instagram last week.

According to Charles Burress, Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson, an unnamed Instagram account — with a screen name including “clowns” and with a photo of a clown as its icon — posted photographs of Berkeley High School and Longfellow Middle School, along with the phrase “Don’t Run — Going After Berkeley High, Longfellow middle school, King (Middle School).”

“We haven’t seen any evidence that this would pose an imminent or serious threat to the schools,” Burress said. “Our view of that seems to be reinforced by the pranks around the country. We nevertheless did report it to the Berkeley Police Department. … Naturally we take any threat seriously and act appropriately.”

Reich said that on Saturday, a concerned parent called UCPD to ask for advice after her son had read an article about evil clown sightings.

“I would ask folks that see articles and things posted on social media to make sure they are contacting their local law enforcement,” Reich said. “Err on the side of caution.”

As malevolent clown sightings have spread across the nation and over social media, UCPD will remain wary of such reports ahead of Halloween later this month. Reich said UCPD does not want to limit the free speech of people trying to get “in the holiday spirit” by dressing as clowns.

“Our officers have a lot of discretion in terms of response to calls,” Reich said. “Depending on the totality of the circumstances involved … we take all of those factors into consideration.”

On Saturday night, Iris Ananthset, a campus senior, made a post entitled “Clown Spotting” in the popular Free and For Sale Facebook group within UC Berkeley. The post gained traction quickly, with 604 people reacting to the post and 270 comments as of press time.

Ananthset said in a Facebook message that she and her roommate were walking home at 11 p.m. when they saw a man in a black coat and a white hockey mask “limping” toward them on the sidewalk.

“I would assume he was trying to scare people,” Ananthset said in the message. “I honestly would not have (thought) much of it if the article about the clown coming to Berkeley (wasn’t) all over Facebook.”

According to Sara Moore, director of the San Francisco-based Clown Conservatory and an experienced clown, wearing a mask does not sufficiently qualify someone as a clown.

“These individuals are either clearly deranged, as is the case with anyone scaring or harming children, or they are copycat pranksters,” Moore said.

Contact Aleah Jennings-Newhouse at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ajn_dc.