Principal marched with them, Pittsburg Superintendent downplays, Antioch Police Chief wants answers
By Lieutenant Tony Morefield #3320, Antioch Police Watch Commander Patrol Division and Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando
On Thursday, November 10, 2016, at approximately 10:04 AM, the Antioch Police Department received word from the Pittsburg Police Department of a large (Anti-Trump) protest of approximately 200 to 400 Pittsburg High School Students along with their Principal headed into the City of Antioch. These protestors headed through Century Plaza in Pittsburg and into Antioch on Auto Center Way and Sycamore Drive, causing significant hazard and traffic delays in the area.
They then made their way to the Antioch High School campus in an apparent effort to involve students there. Antioch High was placed on lockdown, but this did not stop the protestors from damaging school property (knocking down fences and kicking over trash cans) before leaving that campus and heading toward Antioch Middle School. Antioch Middle was also placed on lockdown as was Live Oak High School and nearby Fremont Elementary School due to the protest, though the protestors never made it that far.
These Pittsburg High protestors continued to cause havoc on Antioch campuses and in the surrounding neighborhoods for over two hours and 15 Antioch Police Officers were tied up dealing with this protest causing a significant strain on resources. Evening shifts to be called in early. This resulted in numerous priority calls for service in the city having to wait for officers to respond.
Three male juveniles, ages 13, 15 and 17, all Pittsburg residents, were arrested during the protest: one for throwing a dangerous object at a police car, trespassing on school grounds and being a disruptive presence at school, one for inciting a fight with an area resident, trespassing on school grounds and resisting a police officer, and one for assaulting a police officer.
There is no estimate on any damage caused to Antioch High or Antioch Middle School at this time. It appears that very few Antioch students were involved in this incident. Most of the Pittsburg High Students eventually walked back to Century Plaza in Pittsburg and a few were rounded up onto school buses and taken back to their campus.
Chief Cantando Responds, Shares Pittsburg Superintendent’s Message
“In a post on the Antioch Police Department’s Facebook page at about 3:30 p.m., Chief Allan Cantando wrote the following:
“Many of you have inundated our department with inquiry regarding the incident on Century Blvd., Sycamore Dr., and in front of Antioch High School regarding student protestors in our city. Your observations were correct. Today, at approximately 10:00 AM students from Pittsburg High School and Black Diamond High School (in Pittsburg) marched to the City of Antioch and blocked traffic, knocked over garbage cans, assaulted one of our police officers, and trespassed at Antioch High School trying to incite Antioch High School students who were in class. As a result, three Pittsburg students were arrested.
The actions of these students caused the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) to respond by locking down Antioch High School, Antioch Middle School, Live Oak High School, and Fremont Elementary School. During this incident, these students were accompanied by Pittsburg High School Principal, Todd Whitmire. We are still confirming, but there is some indication that this incident began as a rally at Pittsburg High School.
This incident tied up 15 Antioch Police Officers for approximately 2 hours.
During this incident I was in direct contact with AUSD Superintendent, Stephanie Anello, who immediately took a leadership role in assisting our department. During my conversation with Anello, I requested she contact Pittsburg Unified School District (PUSD) Superintendent Schulze to send an automated message to the Pittsburg students’ parents indicating that their children were off campus, out of the city of Pittsburg, and involved in a protest in Antioch. Approximately two hours later, the following statement was issued by Pittsburg Unified School District Superintendent, Janet Schulze:
‘This Presidential election has been especially emotional. In dealing with differences and moving forward, we have to respect feelings and work in community. Today some of our high school students, like many across the Bay Area and country, organized, via social media, a peaceful protest and walk-out to protest the Presidential election.
The District always prefers to have all students in class, however, we do understand some students are passionate about the recent election.
Our staff and Pittsburg Police Department followed procedures to insure their safety, which is always a top priority. Some of the students returned to the high school and a group of approximately 200 students headed towards Antioch High School. The District informed Antioch High School and sent busses to pick up students outside Antioch High School.
Unfortunately, a small number of the students were unresponsive to directives to return to school and get on the bus. Another group of students decided to walk back to the high school. Those situations will be managed on an individual basis and students will receive appropriate consequences for their behaviors.
At this time, students have returned to school. We appreciate the professionalism and cooperation of the Antioch High School staff and the Antioch Police Department in working with us and the Pittsburg Police Department to insure all students remain safe.’
Although I appreciate the comments made by PUSD Superintendent Schulze, the statement is extremely brief and does not adequately portray the incident. This incident raises serious concerns as it impacted the police services to our Antioch citizens as well as to the Pittsburg Citizens. Because of the impact to the City of Antioch, I will be attending the next PUSD board meeting to ask several questions including:
- Was there a school or district sanctioned Anti-Trump rally?
- Did school or district staff encourage the protest?
- Was school staff aware the students planned on leaving the campus?
- Were parents aware that their students would be participating in the rally?
- When students left the campus, were they supervised? If so, by whom?
- What is the district policy regarding student to staff supervision ratios during off-campus activities?
- When the students left the campus, when and how were parents informed?
- If the students were supervised, will the district take disciplinary action against the students who committed criminal acts?
- What was the schools plan or policy to deal with a child who may be injured during an off campus protest should it occur?
Lastly, I am extremely proud of our officers, AUSD staff, AUSD students, Pittsburg Police Department, and the citizens who patiently waited for us to respond to their calls for service.”
Antioch School District Message to Parents
Anello shared the message sent out to parents, Thursday afternoon, through the auto-dialer from Associate Superintendent for Educational Services, Dr. Adam Clark regarding the incident yesterday.
This morning a large number of students from Pittsburg High School walked out of school to protest. These students traveled on foot to Antioch High School and attempted to convince other students to join their protest. Police from Antioch and Pittsburg were there to ensure that all students remained safe. As a precautionary measure, Antioch High, Antioch Middle, Fremont, and Live Oak all locked down for approximately one half hour. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have further questions or concerns.
Antioch High Principal’s Message
In an email message to school district staff, Antioch High School Principal Louie Rocha thanked his school’s staff and students for how they responded to the situation and reported that some Pittsburg High students made it onto the Antioch campus.
I want to commend our school staff for their collective effort in securing our campus during the School Lockdown. Thanks to the team work of our site safety security, front office staff, teachers, school administrators and students we were able to prevent our students from being in harm’s way of a large number of Pittsburg High School students who walked out of school this morning and attempted to enter our campus.
There was a small group of Pittsburg students who were able to gain access via the Don Richardson Gym entrance. The non-students ran through the PE area and exited out of campus on to 18th Street. The Antioch and Pittsburg Police Departments arrived on site to prevent the non-students from disrupting our school day. We had a small number of AHS students who exited the main entrance gate to join the unruly crowd. However once I informed them that I was going to lock down the school preventing them from re-entering they decided to return to campus without incident. The Pittsburg High School students continued down 18th and G Streets.
The lockdown continued because the non-students returned back to 18th Street in front of our main entrance and were escorted by the Antioch and Police Departments back to L Street in the direction of the city of Pittsburg. At that point, classes were released to their regular school schedule to their 5th period classes or first lunch.
I am proud of the team work demonstrated today and our students conduct when faced with unruly students from another high school. I am looking forward to the Veteran’s Day Holiday, and wish all of you an enjoyable weekend with your family and friends.
Principal of Antioch High School
Simultaneous Protest in Concord
At approximately 9:00 a.m. a witness reported a seeing a group of protesters walking on the Olivera Road overpass, above Route 242 in Concord, blocking traffic. They appeared to be of high school age, and possible students from Mt. Diablo High School, nearby. A short time later, a police officer said the overpass was cleared, as the protesters had reached the other side, near Glenbrook Middle School.
Allen Payton contributed to this report.