Berkeley High Students Walk Out to Protest Racist Messages on Library Computer

Berkeley High School students including Nancy Nguyen (left), Berenabas Lukas (middle) and Simone Ewell Szabo (right) stage a walkout demonstration at Sproul plaza over a racist post on the school website in Berkeley, Calif., on Thursday, November 5, 2015. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Berkeley High School students including Nancy Nguyen (left), Berenabas Lukas (middle) and Simone Ewell Szabo (right) stage a walkout demonstration at Sproul plaza over a racist post on the school website in Berkeley, Calif., on Thursday, November 5, 2015.

Student demonstrators at Sproul Plaza said they feel unsafe after racist and threatening messages toward African-Americans were left on a school library computer

Hundreds of Berkeley High School students walked out of class Thursday in protest of racist and threatening messages that showed up on one of the school’s library computers.

Throngs of students waving posters and bullhorns took to Milvia Street chanting “black lives matter” and “raise a fist if you’re not gonna take this” as they walked through Civic Center Park to Berkeley City Hall, demanding an investigation into the incident from school officials. 

The march ended on the steps of Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus, a site used for student demonstrations since the Free Speech Movement protests of 1964. “You’re the ones who showed us how, UC Berkeley join us now,” the students chanted during what Berkeley police described as a “peaceful and friendly” protest.

According to a letter sent out by Berkeley High School Principal Sam Pasarow, “the hateful and racist message” was discovered around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday and contained threatening language toward African-Americans.

The Berkeley High Black Student Union tweeted out a screenshot of the messages, which read, “KKK Forever Public Lynching December 9th 2015” and “I hung a n—– by his neck in my backyard,” among other racist taunts.

School officials announced late Thursday afternoon they had identified the student responsible for the messages. The student is facing serious consequences, including suspension and possible criminal charges, officials said.

The Black Student Union decried the messages, calling it a “blatant act of terrorism.”

“The safety of Black students has been explicitly threatened, and we as the Black Student Union demand that this is addressed immediately by the Berkeley High administration and Berkeley Police Department,” the union said in a statement.

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from ABC 7 News:

Principal: Berkeley High student confessed to racist rant left on computer

Early Thursday evening, Principal Sam Pasarow announced that the student had confessed.

“I think the student is really aware of what this caused on our campus today and hwo much fear it caused and how much chaos it caused on our campus,” he said.

Officials have not yet named the student nor given any personal information about them. They say the student was interrogated and admitted to doing this only after a technological forensic analysis was done on the computer.

A high school that prides itself on diversity was thrown into the struggle for rights and justice on Thursday. The protest was fueled by what was discovered there Wednesday on a computer in the library.An image on the screen that was a mock-up made to look like a web page,” said Mark Coplan with Berkeley Unified. “It was not an electronic document at all, it hadn’t been sent anywhere.”

A student took a screen shot of the page. On it were offensive messages towards African Americans, threatening to have a public lynching on Dec. 9.

Around 9 p.m., students and parents were notified via email.

“Yesterday I was submitting college applications at 8 at night and at 9:30 I started fearing for my life on Dec. 9, I’m afraid I’m not even going to make it to Dec. 10,” said student Carena Ridgeway.

During the protest, one student on a megaphone said, “You better start doing it so everybody feel the need to stand up.””Outraged, the Black Student Union at Berkeley High called for a rally, and on Thursday morning, close to 1,000 students this morning. First they marched around the school, then to city hall, and finally they took their voices to UC Berkeley, the cradle of the free speech movement.

“I just took it as a sign, like a message. Like, racism isn’t over,” said student Tarik Brooks. “People think like, Obama got elected. But racism is not over.”

“In a lot of ways it’s like a hate crime or a terrorist attack,” said student Elijah Davis.

Because it is considered a hate crime, the matter is being investigated by Berkeley police.

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