Hundreds of high school students on Center Street at 4:30 p.m. Friday afternoon, just before violence broke out. Photo: Siciliana Trevino
Hundreds of high school students on Center Street at 4:30 p.m. Friday afternoon, just before violence broke out. Photo: Siciliana Trevino

Update, 10:50 p.m. According to Lt. Dave Frankel, Berkeley Police Department had planned a large police presence this afternoon, following two previous Fridays with what he described as “rambunctious” behavior. The police had received reports that some confrontations were expected between Berkeley High and B-Tech students.

Today’s confrontations, however, spiraled into a series of fights and other disruptive behavior by students.

Two Berkeley High students were arrested and released to their parents, one for punching someone, the other for resisting arrest and disturbing the peace. A student from an Oakland charter school was also arrested for battery via pepper spray, Frankel said. He said Berkeley High staff had been helping police.

There was no information of property damage.

“This turned into groups of people wanting to fight each other,” Frankel said. It wasn’t, he explained, a riot where property damage was an aim.

Frankel said the police had several uncooperative victims of pepper spray.

Berkeley police deployed 22 officers to handle the incidents this afternoon and evening. No pepper spray or batons were used by Berkeley police. Frankel said the cost of the police deployment was “sucking the city dry.”

Frankel said that police are encouraging parents of Berkeley high school students to “come home directly after school.” Even students that were spectators to the incidents contributed to the difficult atmosphere, he said.

Update, 7:20 p.m. Berkeley Police reported the presence of a group of 40-50 youth downtown, with a fight reported in the area of Shattuck Avenue and Blake Street. Police are responding. The incident is on-going.

Original post, 6:39 p.m. A series of fights and scuffles broke out in Berkeley’s downtown Friday afternoon between groups of teenagers. According to some eyewitness reports, the incidents were largely fights between students from Berkeley High School and Berkeley Technology Academy, also known as B-Tech.

“I saw extreme chaos,” said Erin Griffin, manager of NextSpace, a co-working facility on Center Street where Berkeleyside rents space. “There were hundreds of kids.”

A large contingent of Berkeley Police officers responded to the violence. Some people were pepper sprayed as police tried to quell the chaos. (Update, 10:50 p.m., The pepper spray was used by someone involved in the scuffles, not by the police.There was an arrest made for the use of pepper spray.) At least one juvenile was taken into custody and transported to the station, according to unconfirmed police scanner traffic.

“It was real mayhem,” said Siciliana Trevino, an advertising executive on Berkeleyside, who was downtown in the midst of the violence. “There were kids running, some with their shirts off. There was a girl crying. I overheard someone say there were chairs flying. It looked like some people were still looking for a fight.”

According to Trevino, Berkeley police were filming all the kids coming out of the downtown BART station. Some eyewitnesses said there had been fighting inside the station. Trevino and Griffin witnessed the chaos from around 4:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., when they said things seemed to have calmed down, at least temporarily.

Griffin used her iPhone to shoot a video of some of the disturbances on the corner of Shattuck and Kittredge:

A reader initially alerted Berkeleyside to the fracas just before 4 p.m.: “My 11th-grader told me that there was supposed to be a large fight between BHS kids and some kids from another high school,” he wrote via email. “Not sure if it happened, or if there was fallout.”

Police said at that time that no altercation had been found, though there had been a rumor that students from Berkeley High and B-Tech would fight. Authorities deployed a “heavy police presence” downtown to keep an eye on the situation.

About half an hour later, Trevino said she saw apparent problems brewing outside Berkeley High, where she watched police separate a girl from another group. Officers were also recording people in the area.

Police appeared to separate one girl from a group at Berkeley High School at around 4:30 p.m. Friday. Photo: Siciliana Trevino
Police were using cameras to record people crowded around Berkeley High School around 4:30 p.m. Friday. Photo: Siciliana Trevino
Some of the crowds had cleared the area of Berkeley High by about 4:40 p.m. Friday. Photo: Siciliana Trevino
Some of the fighting took place around the downtown Berkeley BART station. Photo: Siciliana Trevino
Police deployed many officers around downtown Berkeley on Friday after reports of crowds and violence. Photo: Siciliana Trevino Credit: Photo: Siciliana Trevino

Berkeleyside will update the story as more information becomes available. We have contacted the Berkeley police for details.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...