Berkeley High students walk out, form human chain in support of DACA

Braelyn Wekwerth/Courtesy

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On Friday morning, hundreds of Berkeley High School students walked out of class to link arms around the school in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, in light of new federal threats to the program.

The walkout was organized by the Berkeley High School Chicano Latino United Voices student group, or CLUV, which coordinated the event with the principal. According to Amanda Moreno, a teacher of Chicano Latino literature and supervisor of the club, the demonstration intended to make all students feel comfortable and safe at the school.

Students formed a human chain, held signs and chanted “no ban, no wall, education for all.”

“The message was, ‘We support our undocumented people in this country.’ They should have a voice and we appreciate their contributions,” Moreno said. “There should be a path to citizenship.”

Marielena Rodas, a senior and returning president of CLUV, was one of the organizers of the walkout. According to Rodas, club treasurer Jennifer Raymundo devised the idea to form a human chain to symbolically show unity in supporting DACA students.

Rodas decided to coordinate with the administration as a result of a previously unsuccessful walkout organized a week earlier by other students. With the administration’s help, CLUV advertised with fliers, on the morning announcements and at the Welcome Back Assembly, where administrators voiced their support.

After three years in CLUV, Rodas said she considers the club a “family,” and she described it as a space where students can feel comfortable to vocalize their opinions — especially for students who are not fluent English speakers and feel uncomfortable talking in class.

“I saw students of all ages, races, religions, showing that they all care for (undocumented students). I think we should be very proud of Berkeley High as a school,” Rodas said.

Rodas estimated that about 80 percent of the approximately 3,000 Berkeley High students and the vast majority of teachers participated in the planned event.

According to an emailed statement from BUSD, the protest was peaceful, and students who attended will not be disciplined.

“BHS staff do absolutely recognize the pain and fear felt by our students, caused by the DACA decision and many other political pronouncements, and we stand with our students and families and against statements which are based in prejudice and hate,” BUSD said in the statement.

The district maintains that students who are DACA recipients, irrespective of their immigration statuses, will be allowed to continue attending BUSD even if the program is not renewed.

“I want to be able to support the Latinx student body. It’s my background and something I’m passionate about,” Moreno said.

Rodas was inspired to start protesting at her school out of a desire to speak out against what she perceived as national political intolerance of the Latinx population.

“We need to show the world that we are here. We are a force to be reckoned with,” Rodas said. “We (Latinos) will not be considered second-class citizens.”

Contact Jack Austin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @JackAustinDC.