Berkeley High School students demand change as Black Lives Matter protests continue

BLM Protest
Maia Alviar/Staff

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Hundreds of protesters took to the streets Tuesday to chant and dance as Black Lives Matter protests continued in Berkeley.

The protest was organized by Berkeley High School, or BHS, juniors Shayla Avery, Hadassah Zenor-Davis and Ultraviolet Schneider-Dwyer, who led the march from San Pablo Park to the front of BHS to demand change from BHS administration and the Berkeley Unified School District. When the marchers arrived, they were joined by roughly 200 other protesters who had participated in the Kids Bike 4 Racial Justice protest from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. 

“We are opening the door for conversations in Berkeley because it was too quiet before,” Zenor-Davis said at the event.

At its peak, the BHS march brought about 850 people into the streets, waving signs and chanting slogans including, “Ain’t no power like the power of the youth because the power of the youth don’t stop” and “If we don’t get no justice, they don’t get no peace.”

Protesters marched behind a large painting of George Floyd, a drum line of roughly 40 people and a truck decorated with posters and signs, including one that read, “Solidarity from the Bay 2 Minneapolis.”

“This isn’t a movement yet. It’s a moment,” Schneider-Dwyer said at the protest. “But, we’re going to make it a movement.”

After arriving at BHS, the drummers formed a circle and people danced in the middle, followed by eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence to honor Floyd.

The BHS march organizers then read out a list of seven demands, including mandatory racism and prejudice education for all teachers, staff and students, the creation of a “law enforcement citizen’s academy” so students can learn what police officers are allowed to do and the instruction of the “real stories” of students’ ancestors in history classes.

They also demanded for more Black teachers to be hired, more funding for the BHS African American Studies department and better support for Black staff and students.

“The fact that we even need one of those is a problem,” Zenor-Davis said at the event. “We should be learning everything we need in our regular classes.”

Other demands included immediate action, education or punishment for acts of racism, and police brutality “teach-ins” from a historical perspective.

The last demand was the establishment of a mural project to “make a permanent mark in history” of the community’s commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement. Schneider-Dwyer added that the mural project already has BHS administration’s support, but needs the district’s approval.

“This is not the end. This is just the beginning,” said community member Ny’Aja Roberson at the protest. “We are strong. We are powerful. We have a voice, and we need to use it.”

Maia Alviar also contributed to this report. 

Maria Young is a deputy news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maria_myoung.

A previous version of this article misspelled Hadassah Zenor-Davis’ name.