Illustration by Siena Laws
On the morning of Thursday, September 27, a fight broke out between a group of girls in Civic Center Park across the street from Berkeley High School (BHS). The clash sent one girl to the hospital with stab wounds, while two other girls were arrested.
Details related to the attack are still under investigation; however, witnesses and the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) suggest that the fight broke out among three girls, one a Berkeley Technology Academy student, while the other two girls are a part of the Berkeley Independent Studies program.
BHS history teacher Robin Van der Vegt, witnessed the attack together with one of her junior classes as they were walking on Allston St.
“I stopped talking to let the sirens pass, but more and more kept coming,” Van der Vegt said.
Andrew Frey, a student in Van der Vegt’s class described seeing a group of girls that seemed to be fighting. “It looked like it was three on one, and one was trying to protect herself from an onslaught of fists. I never saw the knife,” Frey said. “[Then] we saw a scuffle between a few cops and a single female, who then proceeded to hit one of the cops. She was taken down and handcuffed soon after,” he added.
Another student in Van der Vegt’s class, Bianca Dal Bó, remembers seeing a girl slumped under a tree, with a policeman talking to her. “Then there were some other girls yelling at the policemen,” she said, “one of them started trying to hit the police officers and they all grabbed her and then fell to the ground.”
Dal Bó only learned later that there had been a stabbing. “It’s kind of crazy that someone had a weapon and that someone was hurt, but I think my mind isn’t totally wrapped around it yet,” she said. Because of this, Dal Bó said she wasn’t feeling threatened or scared by the incident. “I’m having trouble connecting what I witnessed with what I read about later.”
She added that her entire class seemed confused about what they had witnessed. “I think that since we didn’t see the actual injuring of the victim or blood or anything like that, it just seems a little surreal,” said Dal Bó.
The two arrests made were of a 16-year-old girl on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, as well as another 16-year-old, who may have tried to stop the police from arresting the assailant. Speculations about the cause of the fight include that it may have been about a boy that the girls wanted to date.
After the fight, controversy ensued about the force used by police officers. Some witnesses claim to have seen a police officer punching a girl. BPD spokesman Officer Byron White explained that the officer had warned the girl to stay away.
Along with BPD, BHS administrators and safety staff responded to the incident, according to Erin Schweng, BHS principal. She added that although there was a large response from police, the event was “limited to just a handful of students.”
Schweng commended BHS students for their response to the situation. While most students were in class during the incident, “even students walking by did a good job of staying across the street and out of the way of emergency personnel, which is really important in an emergency like that,” she said.
At this time, the police investigation into the incident is still ongoing as they gather more information. The girl who was hospitalized was released not long after the incident occurred, late in the afternoon on the day of the attack.
According to the BPD, one of the arrested girls was released to a parent after she was taken to the police station. However, she could still face disciplinary action. The other girl was taken to Juvenile Hall in San Leandro.