Berkeley High School, in a city often regarded as a bastion of liberalism and progressive student activism, has become the site of a hate crime, as a student posted a racist KKK message, prompting a massive student walkout.
As many as 2,000 out of 3,000 students from the high school marched through the California city to express their outrage over a racist message left on a campus computer last month which threatened a lynching. As the Los Angeles Times reported, the students were joined by their principal as they walked out of classes at 9 a.m. on Thursday and marched to the University of California at Berkeley campus.
“They are really afraid because they have been threatened by this message,” said Mark Coplan, a spokesman for the Berkeley Unified School District. “They are calling on everyone to come up with solutions to end this kind of madness.”
The message, which was made to resemble a website, was uploaded Wednesday afternoon to a computer in the school library. The Black Student Union tweeted a screenshot of the message, which read, “KKK Forever Public Lynching December 9th 2015” with a photo of students sitting in front of a computer in a library.
The Black Student Union responded to the message, saying “This happened at our school! When … will we as black students feel safe?”
Meanwhile, in an email to students and parents, Principal Sam Pasarow called the message a hate crime, adding that “messages such as this one will not stand in our community.”
“We are working hard to create a positive and inclusive school culture and we recognize the deep pain and rage that hate crimes such as this one bring to our students of color as well as the damaging effects on our entire community,” he said in his statement.
A student admitted to posting the message, but school officials did not release his name, as SFGate.com reported.
“We’ve had success with the investigation,” Coplan said. “They have identified the individual student involved. We really understand the students’ pain, their anguish and their fear and are doing everything we can to work with Berkeley police and other agencies to figure out what happened. Our students are hurting tremendously. They’re weeping. They’re crying.”
District officials had been investigating the matter and had called on the FBI to assist. The multitude of students arrived at the steps of the Sproul Hall administration building at UC Berkeley, chanting slogans such as, “We got that unity!” and “Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud!” Some students held signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” “Black is beautiful” and “Stand up!”.
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“The perpetrator sympathizes with the racist cause of the KKK and makes a clear threat to lynch Black students this Dec. 9. The terrorists call for the death of Black people in the message,” according to a statement from the Black Student Union.
“Our school is where were supposed to feel safe,” said senior Kaylynn McCoy, 17, to the San Jose Mercury News. “On the streets, blacks already don’t feel safe because of police brutality so… it feels like they attacked the whole community.”
“I think it’s really dehumanizing how they targeted one race,” said Marshatta Porter to the Los Angeles Times. “It’s 2015. It’s ridiculous.”
“It’s important to me,” said Lauren Moore, another student, holding a Black Lives Matter sign given to her by her math teacher. “As an African American student, I felt in danger.”
This latest hate crime marks the third incident at the school in a year, according to the Times. In fall 2014, a noose was found on the high school campus, and last spring, a hacker allegedly targeted students of color by breaking into a digital yearbook file and inserted the title “future trash collectors” in a section that describes students’ futures. Such crimes run counter to the notion that millennials are colorblind and less racist than previous generations.
Earlier this week, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a Yale University fraternity came under fire for barring Black students from attending a party, allegedly telling them, “No, we’re only looking for white girls.” Meanwhile, the husband of an Oklahoma mayor expressed regret after he and several other men dressed in Klan robes and hoods and burned a cross as a so-called “Halloween prank.” This comes as an Anonymous group called #OpKKK released what they characterized as a list of 1,000 members of the Klan.