Over 100 High School Students Engage in Protest, Some Drawn In by Anti-War Group

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Marine Recruting Center Protest Debate

Listen to a debate at the anti-war and pro-military protests outside City Hall between Darnise Gray, mother of a Marine, and two Berkeley High School students, junior Julia Drummond and freshman Julian Taquechel. Reporting by Selina MacLaren.

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At least 150 Berkeley High School students became involved in yesterday's day-long protests against the Marine Corps recruiting center in Downtown Berkeley-including at least two students who were arrested.

Despite attempts to minimize the impact the protest had on students at the nearby high school, Berkeley Unified School District officials estimate at least 50 students cut class to join the protests.

Many students put on orange scarves and T-shirts given to them by organizers of The World Can't Wait, a group that aims to "drive out the Bush regime."

Some students became involved in verbal and physical confrontations between the two groups protesting, resulting in the arrest of a 13-year-old, a 15-year-old and an 18-year old.

School and police officials could not confirm whether the minors arrested were Berkeley High School students.

The two minors were arrested for allegedly challenging pro-military protestors to fight, said Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss. They were later released.

The 18-year-old was arrested when she allegedly slapped a police officer after he asked her to back away from the entrance of the police station. She was charged with resisting arrest and battery of a police officer.

Protestors surrounded the entrance of the station after police arrested the two minors, Kusmiss said. The protestors said the arrests were inappropriate.

The high school closed a gate on the north side of the campus in an attempt to keep students away from the protest, said district spokesperson Mark Coplan.

District officials said The World Can't Wait has a history of targeting high school students by asking them to walk out of school and participate in their protests.

"They came to the protest in order to get their message out, and they came to recruit ... students in order to do that," Coplan said. "They try to encourage high school kids to challenge the police and they push kids to be at the front."

But organizers for the group said the students were passionate about enacting political change.

"We asked (the students) if they wanted to stop the Bush administration and the war, and they were like, 'Yeah,'" said Lou Brown, a founding member of the group. "I think the high school kids have really played a key role in this protest."

Many students said they had not heard of the group until the protest.

"We heard there were a lot of people and we wanted to see what was going on," said freshman Nashla Acevedo, who was wearing an orange scarf that she said was given to her by an organizer. "But I do want to bring the troops back. I don't want more war."

One student said he thought many students joined in to avoid going to school.

"A lot of these kids just wanted to get out of class," said sophomore Nick Anicete. "But they really do care about stopping the war."


Jacqueline Johnston covers local schools. Contact her at [email protected]

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