Illustration by Grace O’Keefe
Three students and an administrator were arrested near the Berkeley High School (BHS) campus on Allston Way on Friday, October 20 at the end of BHS’s Unity week.
“Three students were arrested and our Dean of Attendance, Allen Boltz was arrested,” said BHS Principal Erin Schweng. “Everyone was released within a few hours.”
After school on Friday, a large group of students gathered in the main courtyard and engaged with each other, yelling and chanting. The crowd then moved to the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park across the street from BHS. A fight broke out on Allston Way and police arrived.
“Many things were happening at once, and the level of police response went suddenly from a few officers that we knew to multiple police cars and officers,” said Schweng in a letter to the BHS community.
A spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) said that “the three juveniles were arrested for battery. The adult who was arrested obstructed a police officer in the performance of his duties.”
When students dispersed from the park, a group moved towards UC Berkeley. Some jumped on cars. “[Students] blocked the roadway in violation of the CA Vehicle Code. Fights broke out in the crowd on Allston Way at Harold,” said the BPD spokesperson.
Given events regarding police brutality all over the United States as well as events such as the racist instagram page created by BHS students, many found the events of Red and Gold day particularly traumatic.
“Police officers and students engaged with each other in ways that were hard to witness, and left many students feeling upset and traumatized,” said Schweng. “Given the earlier events of this month at Berkeley High in which race and racism have been a huge source of pain for many students, I know this has added to already tense and raw feelings.”
Red and Gold day represents the culmination of a week of spirit-centered activities including games at lunch, dress-up days, and a canned food drive.
Overall, BHS saw a slight increase in drug and alcohol related suspensions from last year, although rates were significantly lower than past Rally days.
According to Kiernan Rok, Dean of Students, students found to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at school are removed from their classrooms, taken to the health center if necessary, and their parents are notified.
“Although for the first offense, we don’t usually do a suspension… for Red and Gold day we made it very clear that students would receive a suspension,” Rok said.
“We should be able to have a spirit week where kids dress up and have fun. I think that desire is fine,” said Schweng. “The way that it plays out at Berkeley High year after year is what we keep trying to work on changing. Based on what happened [on the 20th], it seems like we still haven’t gotten there yet. It hasn’t gotten to a point where it feels like it’s a safe day at the end of the day.”
Managing the energy of the student body in a way that is not destructive is the main problem the school faces after school. She explained that she specifically requested all week that students not throw things in the events after school. “I really feel like kids were making an effort not to throw things. I saw them telling each other that,” she said. “And then all it takes is one person to throw a water bottle and have it get thrown back,” she continued.
On and off campus, water bottles were being thrown between groups of different grades, causing multiple injuries, according to Schweng.
“I find it very hypocritical of the student body to be very supportive of all these different issues and have organized walkouts and protests, to be supportive of being the upstander and the ally for 364 days of the year,” said John Villacencio, the dean of student activities at BHS, “and then for whatever reason on this one day, they decide to just demean other students based on the year they were born.”