Protesters twice interrupt Antioch School Board special meeting on funding school resource officers

One of the six Antioch Police cars and the chalk messages on the outside of the Antioch Unified School District offices. Photos by Allen Payton.

Entered district headquarters building during public comments, police had to be called, pounded on doors; damaged building; almost knocked down oldest member of the board; board president injured – a felony against an elected official

Meeting postponed to Thursday night at 7:00 p.m.

Screenshot from YouTube video of protest outside the door to the lunchroom in the AUSD office building during the Antioch School Board meeting on Aug. 5, 2020.

By Allen Payton

Outside door to lunchroom inside the AUSD office building.

The Antioch School Board special meeting to vote on funding up to six school resource officers placing sworn Antioch Police officers on Antioch middle and high school campuses in the district, was interrupted twice by protesters. First, about 48 minutes into the meeting they were pounding on the walls and doors, then again, a short while later. (See meeting video on YouTube.) (See video of protest)

The protesters oppose the placing of police officers on Antioch school campuses and wrote in chalk on the sidewalk in front of the district office building “No SRO’s” and “Counselors”. The deadline for the City of Antioch to accept and receive the $750,000 three-year grant is this Sunday, August 9. (See related article) NOTE: None of the protesters were still on site when this reporter arrived.

Before the meeting, Trustee Mary Rocha said she was almost pushed to the ground as she walked into the building through the employee entrance on 6th Street, through the lunchroom. But someone grabbed her arm to keep her from falling. Board President Diane Gibson-Gray injured her arm on the door because the protesters wouldn’t let her in and she was moving quickly past a protester and district employee.

According to AUSD staff, the protesters held on to the door and wouldn’t allow it to be closed. An AUSD employee tried the close the door but some of the 30 to 40 protesters (according to district staff and police estimates) were holding it and forced their way in.

“They damaged the building,” Superintendent Stephanie Anello said. “They dumped everything out of the fridge” including all the trays full of ice cubes and district employees’ food.

Inside door to lobby of AUSD office building and board room.

The employee then had to sit in a chair in front of the door from the lunchroom into the lobby to block the protesters from entering the rest of the building and the board room where Gibson-Gray, Rocha, Anello and Trustee Gary Hack held the meeting.

Trustees Crystal Sawyer-White and Ellie Householder participated in the meeting from their homes.

“One of these kids almost knocked me down,” Rocha said after the meeting. “I’m 81 years old. I was trying to get into the meeting. There were piles. Shagoofa (Khan) was right there. We had to shove and shove. This little, short, chunky girl was in front of me. They surrounded us.”

Shagoofa Khan ran unsuccessfully for Antioch School Board in 2018 in a team effort with Householder and the backing of Antioch Councilman Lamar Thorpe. Khan has been participating in several of the protests in Antioch, in the past few months, including the one at City Hall and during the Juneteenth Celebration.

“They came in, they were inside,” Rocha continued after the meeting. “They’re vandalizing the building. They’re right outside the door. I can’t even go home. The police are outside.”

“I’ve been through messes before with teacher strikes, but this is ridiculous,” she exclaimed.

“They blocked my car and after waiting and waiting, officers were trying to persuade the main person,” Board President Diane Gibson-Gray said. “But that wasn’t working. I asked an officer to give me a ride home and I had to go back later to get my car.”

“I didn’t feel threatened, but they weren’t going to let me leave and go home,” she added. “I will be filing a report, tomorrow because I injured my arm when trying to get past them and out the door, which they were blocking. I  hit my arm on the door jam because three or four protesters were blocking the door. When I went through one of the protesters started yelling at an employee, so I looked back. That’s when I banged my arm on the door jam because there was another protester blocking the entry. I was trying to not touch him and get in the door at the same time. Once I got past him, because of the momentum, I hit my arm on the door. There’s a pretty big bruise. It’s their insurance, not mine. There’s always caution when someone is hurt.”

“It is a felony to assault an elected official,” Gibson-Gray added. “

Seven Antioch Police Officers in the scene confer after the protesters had left.

At least seven Antioch Police officers arrived on the scene in six police cars.

But Antioch Police Chief T Brooks, who was participating in the online meeting from home said, “We’re not going to get into a violent confrontation with people over noise at a public meeting. I wish the building was more secure.”

“We don’t want to give them a chance to say we’re harassing them (the protesters),” Rocha said. “We don’t want to touch them. That’s why the police are out there but not doing anything.”

However, officers did have to escort Rocha to her car so she could drive home, in addition to driving Gibson-Gray home.

Meeting Begins

At the beginning of the meeting Superintendent Stephanie Anello presented the agenda item. Then before public comments Trustee Ellie Householder said, “Stephanie referenced a table and I wanted to be clear what she referenced.”

Board President Diane Gibson-Gray responded by reading the details from the staff report about the School Resource Officers in neighboring school districts.

Public Comments

The comments by members of the public, which included current students, school staff, parents were split on whether the school board approve the funding of the COPS grant for the SRO’s. Anello read the submitted comments.

Victoria Adams, President of East County Branch of the NAACP wrote, “The responsibilities of SRO’s are the same as regular police officers. The racial/demographic make-up of the Antioch Police Department does not match the racial/demographic make-up of the students in the Antioch Unified School District. Many of our young people don’t identify with members of the Antioch Police Department.”

She supported police officers at school sporting events and dances, but not on campuses.

Amber McKayla, a senior at Antioch High School wrote, “I’m part Hispanic and partially white, so I haven’t experienced discrimination. The only time police should be on Antioch campuses is in case of emergencies.”

Kyle Montgomery, who has worked for the school district for 13 years opposed police on campus who would be “negatively disproportionately affecting POC (people of color).”

Michelle Pareia, a resident of Antioch for 20 years and former student of AUSD schools opposed police officers on campus.

Kimberly Soriano, a counselor also opposed having the SRO’s on campus.

“Studies have shown the presence of SRO’s actually harms students…leads to declines in graduation rates,” wrote another member of the public.

Nick Culcasi wrote supporting the approval of accepting the grant.

Brandon Risoto wrote, “Will you listen to your community of students or Mayor Sean Wright and Lori Ogorchock who spoke non-stop of their privileged experience from decades ago?” He said 48 hours of training by the SRO’s was inadequate.

Jafar Kalani Bey wrote “SRO’s will be detrimental to the quality of education on campus.”

Mike Moses, a police officer who attended Antioch schools and an AUSD parent wrote, “it was the presence of police on campus that set me on the career path of a police officer. Get SRO’s back in the schools. SRO’s have changed many lives.”

“It would be nice to have more security

Jenny Dunlap, a teacher at Antioch High wrote, “With these SRO’s we can get rid of the private security contract. I support the approval of this measure.”

A parent of two students in Antioch schools wrote in support of SRO’s. “How can we use resource officers to bridge the gap of trust of some of those in the community.”

A recent graduate of an Antioch high school wrote in favor of SRO’s.

Lisa Borelli, whose son is a quarterback at Antioch High wrote “he’s scared to death to walk on campus” and mentioned “constant threats.”

Protesters Break into District Offices Interrupt Meeting

Damage to base of wall inside the lunchroom of the AUSD office building.

Gibson-Gray then said there would be a recess of the meeting.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Householder asked. “Hello?”

“Hello?” TSawyer-White said.

Gibson-Gray then said, “we’ve had a breach to our building. We have protesters in our building and we have to call police. Please stand by.”

When she returned to the meeting, Gibson-Gray said, “Thank you all for your patience.”

“Wait. This is trustee Householder. I just wanted to see if you could give me a recap,” Householder said.

“The recap is they breached the building,” Gibson-Gray responded. “I don’t know who they are. They were in T-shirts. I didn’t read their T-shirts. They were protesters. I don’t know who they are.”

Public Comments Resume

Victoria Williams wrote, “I’m a recent Deer Valley High School Graduate. I’m urging the board vote no on the SRO’s. SRO’s have historically contributed to the school to prison pipeline of students of color. Antioch youth and residents are speaking up in large numbers…you should listen.”

Courtney Wright wrote in support of the SRO’s. “Just a few months ago…there was a meeting…on safety at our schools,” she wrote. “I’m thankful for the grant the AUSD has received for counselors. We need to take action. Please vote yes for our community and our schools.”

DeAnna Gordon wrote, “Studies across the country have shown SRO’s don’t make schools safer. Students do not need to be policed at school.”

Emily Woodall wrote in opposition to school resource officers. “It’s my distinct opinion…SRO’s will criminalize students of color. Studies have shown those schools with SRO’s have three-and-a-half times more arrests than those schools without them.”

Michael Sagehorn wrote, it’s “an opportunity to increase safety on school campuses. We need more supportive adults on campus, not less.”

Antioch High School Site Safety Coordinator wrote, “I know it’s time to ask for more help. I’m in favor of an SRO in our schools.

Protesters Pound on District Building Doors Interrupt Meeting, Again

The cover was broken off of what appears is a thermostat in the lunchroom of the AUSD office building.

Householder then said, “I’m hearing a lot of noise and it’s getting pretty difficult to follow along.”

“The protesters are banging on the building,” Gibson-Gray said then asked Sawyer-White if she was able to hear.

“It sounds like someone’s breathing. They’re banging on the window?” Sawyer-White asked.

“Actually, they’re pounding on the door,” Gibson-Gray said.

Householder then reiterated she was having difficulty hearing. In response, Gibson-Gray then called for a 30-minute recess.

Gibson-Gray returned before 30 minutes and the sound of pounding on the doors could still be heard.

“I’m still hearing a lot of the same noise, though,” said Householder during the roll call of board members.

“I’d like to continue the meeting until tomorrow, if we have a quorum,” Gibson-Gray said. She then asked, “Trustee Sawyer-White, can you make noon?”

“I work,” responded Sawyer-White.

“Can you make 7 p.m.?” Gibson-Gray then asked.

“Yes,” Sawyer-White responded.

Gibson-Gray then asked the rest of the board members if they could also attend the 7:00 p.m. meeting, and they all confirmed.

“The protesters are in our lunchroom. They’re pounding on the door,” she said.

The meeting was adjourned to Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. when the remaining public comments will be read, and the board will deliberate and vote on the matter. It can be viewed on the district’s YouTube channel.


the attachments to this post:

Video screenshot of AUSD Board mtg protest 08-05-20

Damage to AUSD HQ thermostat

Damage to AUSD HQ wall

APD Officers confer

Inside door to lobby of AUSD HQ

Outside door to AUSD HQ lunchroom

APD car outside & chalk messages AUSD HQ

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