STOCKTON — While hundreds of students from numerous Stockton high schools walked out of class Friday to peacefully protest gun violence, others were arrested after allegedly committing vandalism that prompted authorities to shut down several streets.
The mass walk-out involved students enrolled at Chavez, Edison, Lincoln and Stagg high schools that began just before 10:30 a.m.
SUSD spokeswoman Dianne Barth said 250 Edison High students walked out of class to gather near Taggart Gym before moving to the track.
They carried signs that read “No More Gun Violence,” and chanted to end school shootings. Barth said those students never left campus on Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and returned to class within the hour.
At 10:15 a.m., 300 Stagg High students walked out of class to the school quad with plans to stage a 15-minute protest, Barth said.
Stagg High Principal Andre Phillips reported the rally was mostly peaceful until a group of students left, jumped over the fence in front of campus on Brookside Road, and ran out into the street.
“Most of the students went back to class, knowing this was not what they wanted and that there would be repercussions,” Phillips said.
Between 75 to 100 Stagg High students left campus, walked down Rose Marie Lane and headed to March Lane before circling back, Barth said. Once the students reached residential neighborhoods, law enforcement became involved. Stockton police closed off streets around Stagg High, snarling lunch-time traffic as they escorted students back to school.
While many of the students were demonstrating peacefully, several students took the opportunity to commit acts of violence against community members and officers, authorities said.
Students were alleged to have thrown rocks that caused damage to uninvolved vehicles and patrol cars. A woman told police that a rock was thrown through her car window while she was driving along Rose Marie and Precissi Lane that hit her in the shoulder but did not cause any injuries.
Police said an officer saw Stagg High students leaving campus by jumping a fence, and when the officer confronted them, they fought with the officer and took his baton.
Two male and two female juveniles ranging in age from 14 to 17 were arrested on suspicion of battery on an officer and for resisting arrest before being released to their parents. Eighteen-year-old Verania Cervantes was arrested on the same counts.
Tell me again why I should listen to the Tide Pod generation on gun control. https://t.co/yME2J8g6LV
— Sister Toldjah ツ (@sistertoldjah) February 27, 2018
“We do support the freedom to protest peacefully and freedom of speech,” police spokesman Officer Joe Silva said in a statement. “While the majority of the students were peaceful today, we don’t condone the violence which was committed by a small handful of students. It’s unacceptable to batter a police officer and especially to take an officer’s baton.”
I've never seen any @NRA members arrested for throwing rocks and damaging vehicles at an Annual Meeting. In fact, crime usually drops around the convention center/downtown areas when we show up. https://t.co/LcXF44bzhS
— Cam Edwards (@CamEdwards) February 27, 2018
All but a few Stagg High students were back in class by about 11:35 a.m., Phillips said. Those who left campus and were involved in vandalism have been identified and will receive appropriate punishment.
“Peaceful protests are powerful and I recognize that it is awesome to be part of a movement,” Phillips said. “But some individuals who were not really there for the protest made this something else.”
Friday’s walk out came two days after 300 Franklin High and 50 Health Career Academy students participated in a walk-out in response to a nationwide call to protest gun violence at schools.
Those students were said to have not left campus, but congregated peacefully and marched.
The rallies have been in response to a mass shooting last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A 19-year-old allegedly man opened fire using an AR-15 rifle, killing 17 people and injuring 14 more.
Lincoln High student Lorenzo Auer said he and about 100 classmates stood outside campus on Alexandria Place that began with chanting before deciding to walk towards Village Oaks School about one mile south on West Swain Road.
“As far as I know, the group I was with, there was no vandalism, no jumping on cars — other schools were doing that,” Auer, 16, said. Eventually, the group continued to walk to the Target parking lot on March Lane, where Auer said Stockton police allowed them to protest on the sidewalks.
Auer called the protest successful.
“I think so, for one all you need is awareness of the issue,” he said, adding that getting news coverage and attention from social media and passing motorists helped spread their cause.
“As long as they hear our message, we did good.”
In an email message to Lincoln High parents, Principal Terry Asplund said administration is supportive of the students’ right to demonstrate and congregate in peaceful and constructive ways.
“Student and staff safety continues to be our number one priority. Today our students were constructive in getting their message out. I’m hopeful that you can take some time to discuss with your student appropriate ways to demonstrate and to help them make sure they remain safe while having their views heard,” said Asplund.
As for SUSD, Barth said district principals met with interim Superintendent Dan Wright late Friday for a debriefing on the week’s protests and to discuss ways to address future walkouts, such as a national protest scheduled for mid-March.
“Stockton Unified is proud of the peaceful, well organized protests carried out by students on its high school campuses this week,” a statement from the district read. “We regret that on Friday some students from one of the high schools left a peaceful protest, walked off campus and created a disruption in the neighborhood.
“Such activity is not reflective of the values of the overwhelming majority of SUSD students and will not be tolerated.”
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