Local and federal authorities investigated threats Monday targeting youth at a North Berkeley middle school by a group that demanded the termination of a teacher who protested against a neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento over the weekend.
The rally Sunday made national headlines due to violent clashes between the white supremacists who took out a permit to rally at the state capitol and the counter-protesters who showed up to confront them. According to some news reports, members of the counter-protest appear to have initiated the violence. The LA Times reported that seven people were stabbed and 10 hospitalized.
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One of the people who took responsibility for helping organize the counter-protest was Yvette Felarca, a teacher at North Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, at 1781 Rose St. Felarca is an organizer with the activist group By Any Means Necessary, which helped lead a series of Black Lives Matter protests in Berkeley in December 2014.
Parents of day campers were told Monday morning that one of the counter-protesters from Sacramento had been linked to the Berkeley school where the camps were located. The public outing had prompted an influx of emails to the principal demanding that the teacher be fired.
The Berkeley Unified School District confirmed, in a prepared statement at 5:40 p.m., it had been informed Monday morning that a King teacher had been involved with the protest in Sacramento.
“Since that incident, the school and principal have received calls and emails from parents and community members. One anonymous email in particular threatened that if certain actions were not taken against the teacher within the week, someone would come to King with the intent to harm students,” according to the statement. “The FBI has reviewed the email in question and has determined that by their criteria it should be considered a low level threat.”
The statement continued: “Meanwhile, the Berkeley PD has said that they are taking this threat seriously. They have increased their patrols around our schools and are assigning an officer to King. We have sent security staff to King, and we have moved two outside user groups who are renting space for summer programs to other locations. We do not have any BUSD programs at King at this time.”
BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans said, according to the statement, that the district would do “whatever is necessary” to protect students and staff, and “continue to work closely with law enforcement to monitor this situation.”
One parent told Berkeleyside he had been told by a camp leader that individuals tied to the right-wing group “involved in the brawl at the state capitol yesterday figured out that one of the counter protesters was a teacher at King. They then flooded the principal with e-mails demanding that the teacher be fired, and there was at least one credible threat of violence (a shooting) at the campus if the demand was not met. Police and security were on site at King, our camp had been offered indoor space at the school, and the district is looking for alternate sites.”
Another parent told Berkeleyside on Monday morning that “all the kids are to be moved inside because a King teacher was involved in yesterday’s protest in Sacramento and was subsequently threatened. Someone evidently claimed they were going to shoot up King because of the teacher’s participation in the Neo Nazi counter-protest.”
An unattended Berkeley Police cruiser was parked outside the school Monday afternoon. The Berkeley Police Department and school principal referred Berkeleyside to the Berkeley Unified School District for comment.
Some of the comments Felarca made to the media Sunday were posted online. (See one of those videos below.) It was unclear as of publication time exactly how she had been linked to the Berkeley middle school.
A protest leader talks about “militant tactics” & “self-defense” to shut down “Nazi recruitment rally” @ABC10 pic.twitter.com/fpIcIKrz1X
— Frances Wang (@ABC10Frances) June 26, 2016
Reached by phone Monday, Felarca said the threats were outrageous. But she said they were evidence of the true character of the individuals and groups making them.
“I am disgusted and condemn these attacks on myself and the children, the faculty and staff at my school,” she said. “I hold Donald Trump responsible for this. His politics of racist demagoguery and hate is inciting these vile threats of violence, even against children. It exposes why Trump and his racist, Nazi, and KKK supporters need to be defeated — and it shows us what Donald Trump’s vision for America really is.”
Teachers and students are now on summer break. The last day of the semester was Friday, June 17.
Petition to fire Berkeley teacher garners 500 signatures (07.14.16)
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