Thousands of students from East Bay high schools walked out of class and flooded the UC Berkeley campus Wednesday morning to protest Donald Trump’s presidential victory Tuesday night.
Hoping to unify behind a common cause of inclusivity after a polarizing election, more than 2,000 students from Berkeley High School, Albany High School and El Cerrito High School marched through the streets of Berkeley clad in black clothes and holding signs that read “Not my president.” In addition, RISE at Berkeley — a student services organization for immigrant students — also held a sit-in at Sproul Plaza, with more than 500 students participating.
Students from Richmond High School and Kennedy High School also walked out of class and marched to Richmond City Hall, according to Marcus Walton, West Contra Costa Unified School District spokesperson.
“We needed to have a safe space for students of color, the LGBTQ community … (and) for everyone who has been oppressed from Donald Trump’s win and presidency,” said Ariana Cruz, a Berkeley High senior who helped organize the school’s walkout. “We were just trying to figure out what would be best for our student body.”
After it was announced that Trump would win the presidency, a group of Berkeley High seniors began messaging each other in a group chat Tuesday night, staying up until midnight to plan a protest. The organizers then texted details to friends, posting them on Facebook, Snapchat and other social media outlets.
About 7:45 a.m., the organizers arrived at Berkeley High to make posters and set up a table for students to join them before a rally started about an hour later. Berkeley High teachers and counselors also came to speak and promote a safe space for the students.
“The leaders of this protest … wanted to make it clear that this is not a protest against Trump but a sign of solidarity for immigrants and their family members,” said Berkeley High senior and organizer Camila Rice-Aguilar.
Berkeley High student organizations, such as the Chicano/Latino Club, the Crew for Chicano/Latino United Voices, the Muslim Student Association and the Gay Straight Alliance, all joined in to help lead the protest.
“I’m here because (Trump) discriminates against many, many minorities, but if we can unite together, then we’ll make a majority against him, which is what we need to do to survive this,” said Gigi Mancuso-Jackson, a Berkeley High freshman at the protest.
The protesters moved to the UC Berkeley campus about 10 a.m., marching from Sproul Plaza to the Campanile. About an hour later, the group of students from Berkeley High and UC Berkeley had swelled at the base of the Campanile chanting, “Trump loves hate” and “Here to stay,” while a news helicopter circled overhead. About one-third of Berkeley High School’s staff, or 40 people, also attended the protest, according to Berkeley High School Restorative Justice Coordinator Eddie Estrada.
The outraged reaction to the announcement of Trump’s victory comes after the chaotic scene earlier Wednesday morning, when a crowd of about 200 people — composed largely of UC Berkeley students — marched from campus down Telegraph Avenue toward Oakland City Hall after jumping onto Highway 24.
As hundreds of students vocalized their loathing of the election results, Trump supporters on campus celebrated his victory and remain optimistic that he can be a unifying leader for the United States.
“People are hopefully going to see, as I have, that his comments were certainly not meant to be inflammatory toward them or discriminatory or hateful,” said Berkeley College Republicans member and freshman Chase Aplin on Tuesday night. “They were intended to be realistic toward a new goal for America’s future.”
Eric Prince, a Harvard University archaeology student who is working on his dissertation at UC Berkeley, visited the protest Wednesday to provide a different perspective on the election results.
“A lot of people are angry about what happened in the country,” Prince said. “His government will leave more liberty to the people than Clinton’s government would.”
About noon, UC Berkeley students began a peaceful sit-in at Sproul Plaza, with about 100 Berkeley High students joining in. The focus of the protest shifted from disappointment about the elections to rallying behind undocumented students.
“We’re trying to start a movement for everybody against everything that Trump represents: racism, sexism, xenophobia,” said campus junior Adrian Hernandez who attended the Sproul Plaza sit-in.
At the same time, hundreds of Albany High School students dressed in black began walking out of class, marching down Shattuck Avenue toward campus, chanting “Fuck Donald Trump.” About 200 students later gathered at the base of the Campanile for a sit-in, with one protester asking the crowd, “What’s the America you believe in?”
“We didn’t do this mostly to hate on Trump, we did this to bring people together to see that minorities and women … can all stand together and that this election is not the end of everything,” said Albany High junior Sophia Tichenor, adding that the students had organized mostly through group messaging rather than social media posts.
Meghann Curry, an English teacher at Albany High School, said that on Wednesday morning, it was clear to the community that the day “wasn’t going to be business as usual.” Curry, whose first class in the morning was for English language learners, said many of her students expressed fear about the ramifications of the election results.
“They were immediately asking me questions about, ‘What’s going to happen to my family? I’m Muslim. If I leave the country, am I going to be able to come back?’ ” Curry said. “They presented this (walkout) to me as … both in protest of the elections but also to show solidarity that they’re here for each other, and I wanted to be here for them as well.”
About 12:30 p.m., Berkeley High administrators sent an email to families encouraging parents to tell students to return to the high school campus. Wednesday classes were offered to those who wished to attend, but the school administration expressed support for the student protest.
“We prefer that our students are in the classroom during the school day,” said Berkeley school district spokesperson Charles Burress. “However, we recognize there are extraordinary circumstances in which students are moved by strong political beliefs, (and) we respect their right to engage in free speech.”
By about 1:50 p.m., protests on campus had dissipated, with some students returning to school but many gathering in smaller groups to continue marching and chanting in the streets.
Activist group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, announced that an “Emergency Response Protest” would be held later Wednesday evening to continue rallying efforts.
“I am very proud of what Berkeley High is doing,” said former Berkeley High student and current UC Santa Cruz freshman Louisa Ou. “They’re taking a stand and sharing their voice when most of them aren’t old enough to vote.”